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Weighty 'Hunger Games' Hits Mark

Jennifer Lawrence stars as Katniss Everdeen in "The Hunger Games."

In the futuristic drama, The Hunger Games, based on Suzanne Collins' best-selling young adult novels, filmmaker Gary Ross offers up an exciting, fast-paced movie without sacrificing the weightier aspects of the story.

The story revolves around the Hunger Games, an annual event where contestants fight to the death, in the ruins of what was once North America. The capitol of the nation of Panem forces each of its 12 districts to send a teenage boy and girl, called tributes, to compete in the nationally-televised event.

It’s rare that people sacrifice for one another, but Katniss Everdeen adores her little sister, who she has cared for her since their father died in the coal mines. When her sister is selected for the games, Katniss volunteers to go in her place.

Her chances of survival are slim but she's a fighter who has spent all her life hunting to feed her family.

After the grim ceremony to select the tributes, Katniss and Peeta, the boy selected from her district, are taken to the capitol to prepare for the blood sport.

Actress Jennifer Lawrence, who portrays Katniss, says the film - like the Suzanne Collins’ novels that inspired it - taps into the idea of political control through the media.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen in the future," Lawrence says, "but when you look at what’s on reality television and just how history repeats itself, it’s actually incredibly relevant.”

Whether it’s the political message, the heart-pounding scenes or the romance, the movie has already sold out in 2,000 theaters nationwide and many of those lucky enough to get tickets have traveled quite a ways to catch the premiere. Kristine Adler was one of them.

Her mom described the ordeal involved in getting tickets. “I headed out of Chester [Virginia] at about one in the morning and got to the Barnes and Noble [bookstore] a little bit after three, and waited there until they opened at nine and was the first one in line and got the tickets for them and they have been very excited ever since.”

The Motion Picture Association has defended its decision to give The Hunger Games a PG 13 rating, which suggests parental guidance for children under 13. It says the film does not linger on violence, but does caution that the movie can be tough on small children.

One mother who brought her young children wasn't overly concerned. "I grew up with horror movies and my kids have, too. So, we love the blood and guts in our family.”

Most who attended an early screening in the Washington area were older. They expect The Hunger Games to be the next Harry Potter.

“I think it will fill Harry Potter’s shoes," said one teenager, "because now that that’s over, I think a new teen book needs to step up."

Jennifer Lawrence, with her nuanced performance as Katniss, proves she's up to the challenge - holding viewers spellbound for two-and-a-half hours.

This is great weekend entertainment - for those who can snag a ticket.