Review: The Hunger Games Is "Gripping, Breathtaking and Poignant"

Credit: Lionsgate

In Theaters: March 23

Us Rating: ***1/2

Believe the hype! The highly ­anticipated epic has arrived -- and it's gripping, breathtaking and poignant. ­Jennifer Lawrence is wonderfully steely as Katniss Everdeen, the reluctant heroine in a fight-to-the-death Survivor-like competition that's broadcast on television. She appears in -- and carries -- nearly every scene with aplomb, from the violent, bloody fights to tender moments with her fellow "tribute" Peeta (a charming Josh Hutcherson).

Largely faithful to the first book in ­Suzanne ­Collins' smash trilogy, The Hunger Games brings the pages to vibrant life: The outfits of Capitol residents are even more garish than you'd imagine and Katniss' magnificent "girl on fire" gown is a flaming spectacle.

One cool element not in the book: watching oily host Seneca (Wes Bentley) ­reinvent the arena as the Games unfold! Though the climactic battle and its aftermath feels somewhat rushed for a 142-minute film, the movie still leaves you, well, hungry for the next ­installment.

For much more on the movie, including 125 gorgeous photos and exclusive interviews, pick up Us Weekly's Hunger Games special -- available on newsstands now. Order it today!