‘Hunger Games’ mania takes hold

If you hadn’t heard of “The Hunger Games” before this week, chances are, you now not only know the name Katniss Everdeen, but can instantaneously conjure up an image of actress Jennifer Lawrence and her ubiquitous bow and arrow.

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Celebritology blogger and columnist Jen Chaney predicted the “Hunger Games” pandemonium that has swept across the pop-culture sphere:

...a dizzying year of hype, chatter began as soon as Collins’s books were optioned but ratcheted up more once actress Jennifer Lawrence won the role of bow-and-arrow-wielding protagonist Katniss Everdeen. Every subsequent casting decision — right down to the one involving Donald Sutherland — was announced and dissected online by fans of the series, who also analyzed the first widely shared photo of Lawrence in her Katniss garb and faithfully tweeted every trailer, interview anecdote and promotional tidbit that followed. But the devotees aren’t the only ones who pay attention to the blitz; independent Web sites and traditional media outlets are itchy to share this material with their readers, too. And that means the past year has yielded what has felt , at a conservative estimate, like 5,000 blogosphere mentions of “The Hunger Games” per day.

Film critic Ann Hornaday’s review of the movie anticipates the die-hard fans of Suzanne Collins’s book series will not be disappointed:

Like “Winter’s Bone” before it, “The Hunger Games” goes to torturous, even off-putting extremes to prove its heroine’s mettle. (The movie isn’t likely to win over anyone who isn’t already enthralled by the book.) But Lawrence is never less than grounded and believable as a young woman forced by circumstance to assume wisdom far beyond her years. As Katniss — a tough loner who perfectly embodies the anxieties, obsessions and self-sustaining narratives of the young women who idolize her — Lawrence seems to slip effortlessly into the same persona that made her a star.

Style reporter Monica Hesse, notes that while Katniss Everdeen may not be a new type of heroine, she could have what it takes to rise above “Twilight’s” Bella Swan to create a lasting cultural impact:

Katniss’s well-intentioned defenders seem intent on their heroine stamping out all memories of this swoony, moony vampire groupie. Right now, she must take her bow and arrow and shoot Bella straight through her simpering heart.

The real question, though, isn’t whether Katniss could crush Bella in hand-to-hand combat, in bestseller rankings, in box office receipts. There’s room for both of them, filling different roles, triggering different pleasure centers. The real question is which one of them will be on the bookshelves of the future. Not who wins. Who is remembered.

Celebritology reports that fame and hype are still new to actress Jennifer Lawrence, the movie’s star:

At the center of the chaos is Jennifer Lawrence, who plays heroine Katniss Everdeen. The Oscar nominated actress told Access Hollywood her first thought after getting out of the car at the premiere was, “Why is there so much screaming? I thought Tom Cruise or Oprah was there.”

Other cast members of the seemed more in tune with the “Hunger Games” phenomenon:

Isabelle Fuhrman counts herself among the many devotees to the series. The 15-year-old actress told Entertainment Tonight she’d “be across the street ... screaming [her] head off” if she wasn’t in the movie.

Associated Press reports that other “Hunger Games” stars, including Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Banks both “jumped at the chance to take supporting roles” with similar enthusiasm:

Why? They were moved by Suzanne Collins’ book series and the script that the author helped co-write for the movie, opening in theaters Friday.

“We all agree the book is such a page turner and it’s just the storytelling,” Banks said in a recent interview.

Celebritology’s Jen Chaney asks: Will non-fans of Suzanne Collins’s book be persuaded to see the movie?

But the real measure of the potential in the “Hunger Games” franchise may be measured by how many non-readers — the Katniss Everdeen novices — decide to buy tickets.

The Buzz Blog reports reception in the District for the midnight showing of the movie was mixed. Sold out tickets at AMC Loews Georgetown and long lines outside Uptown Theater in Cleveland Park contrasted with the Mazza Gallerie theater in Friendship Heights, “where theater staff let ticket holders in early, there was no line. No excitement. No impatience.”

The crowd looked a bit older than the books’ target audience, young teenagers.

“I think the fact that it’s a school night had something to do with it,” American University student Holly Longstreth said from her theater seat.

And as for the general lack of costumed moviegoers, “It’s not ‘Twilight,’” she said.

Need to catch up on all the backstory without reading all three books? Flip through this handy guide. Or read Celebritology’s gchat analysis. Then, check out the Going Out Guide for a full list of showtimes for the standard movie or the IMAX version.

And if you’ve already read all three books and seen the movie, the only thing left may be to begin your own odyssey to the Capitol, otherwise know as Charlotte, North Carolina.

Fans of “The Hunger Games” are already turning up in North Carolina, seeking out places where the movie was shot, from old-growth forests to an abandoned mill town.

And the tourism industry is prepared to cash in on them, with everything from hotel packages and zip lines tours, to re-enactments of scenes from the film and lessons in survival skills.

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Which valiant teen archer are you more likely to see?

 
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