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It's been awhile since I've been genuinely excited to see a film. Along with many others I was eager to see the cause of all the hype, and "The Hunger Games" did not disappoint. There wasn't a scene that I found dull. The film is action-packed and intelligent.

As anyone familiar with pop culture probably knows by now, "The Hunger Games" is based on the novel written by Suzanne Collins, who co-wrote the movie script and once again captures audiences with her skilled storytelling.

The story takes place in the future in what was once North America. The tyrannical Capitol of Panem rules 12 districts that provide the city with food and supplies. In return, the Capitol selects a boy and a girl from each district every year, sticks them in a dome and sets them on each other in a televised fight to the death. This ritual is known as the Hunger Games.

The heroine of the film is 16 year-old Katniss Everdeen, a girl from the last and poorest district. The opposite of a Capitol citizen, she is solemn and real. When her delicate younger sister Prim (Willow Shields) is reaped for the Hunger Games, Katniss steps forward to replace her.

Jennifer Lawrence plays Katniss well. She captures Katniss' cold survivalist attitude but also her disguised vulnerability. Lawrence's portrayal of Katniss is a little softer compared to the novel, but this makes her more likable and relatable.

The second tribute from her district is Peeta Mellark (played by Josh Hutcherson). His humor, warmth and empathy appear just as prominently as in the novel. His infatuation with Katniss is moving but not overwhelming. The only thing that would have improved the character was a little more of Peeta's original sarcasm and irony.

Woody Harrelson is simultaneously humorous and heartbreaking as Haymitch, a former victor and Katniss and Peeta's drunken mentor. After watching tribute after tribute from his district die, he writes Peeta and Katniss off. After they convince him to reconsider, he becomes a competent teacher. His relationship with Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), the perky event coordinator, is particularly amusing because of their polar personalities.

As far as faithfulness to the novel, this movie delivers. Any changes made were minor and benefited the film. Director Gary Ross did fans justice by staying so close to the novel, and probably guaranteed a built-in fan base for any future films.

The movie also highlights the contradiction between the rich Panem citizens and the district people: small Capitol children pretend to skewer each other with swords, lightheartedly re-enacting the atrocities in the arena; the ridiculous Capitol get-ups compared to the districts' drab clothing; the shallowness of the city dwellers compared to the suffering the district children experience. The movie does not insult the viewers' intelligence by providing an action film without meaning.

As a longtime lover of the novel, I find myself surprisingly thinking "The Hunger Games" movie is an improvement on the original. It includes all the good parts of the book, the action scenes, the Capitol costumes and the politics between the Capitol and the districts. The novel often sacrificed character development for suspense, while the movie allows you to imagine the tributes' thoughts and feelings.

"The Hunger Games" is intense, intelligent, fast-paced and leaves you wanting more.

Emily Coleman is a junior at Frontier High School.

***

"The Hunger Games

Rated PG-13

4 stars (out of 4)