Well it’s official; Jennifer Lawrence catches fire in her latest career move. The Hunger Games franchise, which debuted Catching Fire, the second of four planned films in the series, on Friday, is a critical and financial success. The film, based on the trilogy of books by author Suzanne Collins, dominated the box-office competition with a record-setting estimated $161.2 million domestically, beating the debut of the first installment of the series by about $10 million. That doesn’t even count the millions earned from the international box-office, and in August of 2012, online seller Amazon declared The Hunger Games books it’s all-time top-seller, topping the record held by the Harry Potter book series.
Even more striking than the bottom-line numbers, which bode extremely well for producer/distributor Lionsgate, is the cultural significance of the films, and their unquestioned star, Oscar and Golden Globe-winner Jennifer Lawrence in the role of Katniss Everdeen.
Katniss is an archetypal heroine, a character whose courage and physical abilities defy the traditional stereotypes of women in Hollywood blockbusters. Not only does Katniss not wait around to be rescued, she is much more likely to rescue her male counterparts. Bow in hand, Jennifer Lawrence is a modern-day Artemis, moving with a distinctly feminine grace, strength and beauty through the dystopian landscape of Panem, the fictional nation built on the ashes of North America after a catastrophic war. More than just an action figure, Katniss is the catalytic seed for the coming revolution against the corrupt elites of Panem, who are embodied by the sinister President Snow, played by veteran actor Donald Sutherland (that’s Keifer’s dad for those that don’t know.)
The core of Katniss’ heroic actions is the stuff of myth and legend; she is the primary provider for her destitute family, hunting game to fend off starvation. When her younger sister, Prim, is selected as her district’s “tribute” to fight in the bloodsport that serves as the central government’s means of controlling the 13 districts of Panem, Katniss volunteers in her stead. Despite the odds, Katniss goes on to be the victor of the hyper-violent games, even forcing the powers that be to allow the other tribute from her district, the somewhat sheepish Peeta, played by Josh Hutcherson, to be crowned co-victor.
The character is significant because she smashes the idea that women can’t be top-grossing action heroes, while simultaneously serving as a subversive revolutionary figure in a class struggle that bears an eerie resemblance to the 1% vs. the masses socioeconomic struggle currently playing itself out in America and worldwide. In a genre previously dominated by swaggering men like Bruce Willis’ John McClain character from the Die Hard franchise and the various incarnations of James Bond, most lately Daniel Craig, the alluring-yet-vulnerable Jennifer Lawrence portrays a heroine with depth of character and determination of purpose, a role-model of intelligence and athleticism that leaves most of the men in the film literally flat-footed and open-mouthed, without sacrificing an ounce of her femininity.
This young actress is a force to be reckoned with, and we are blessed to have been able to watch her career take flight to unimaginable levels. With two more films planned, I for one can’t wait to see what Katniss will accomplish next.
By Mark Clarke