This weekend I re-watched the Hunger Games films in preparation for the next installment of the movie saga, Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, opening in theaters on Friday, Nov 21. When I first watched the first two films, lead actress Jennifer Lawrence was a beloved ingenue. Now, she is one of the most bankable movie stars in the world. She’s an Oscar winner who doesn’t take herself too seriously (or seriously at all); the approachable starlet; the actress you could have a beer with; the down-to-earth millionaire it-girl.
And that’s kind of the problem.
Watching her again in Hunger Games, it was difficult to separate Katniss Everdeen’s character from the many gifs, memes and clips of Jennifer Lawrence displaying her now-signature spunky personality.
Whenever I watched Katniss fearing for her life on-screen, for example, all my mind could picture was this.
When I saw an agile Katniss running through the jungle, skillfully taking down opponents, I couldn’t help but think about this.
And whenever she would muster up the courage to lead a revolution, well, I just kept seeing this.
Jennifer Lawrence is a phenomenal actress, and her portrayal of Katniss Everdeen never once ventures into mockery. But I would argue that her beloved real-life persona has taken a life of its own, and it can sometimes ruin the suspension of disbelief that movies require. During some of Hunger Games‘ most intense scenes, I kept imagining Lawrence giggling to herself and thinking, “holy crap, I’m riding in a chariot and wearing a fire dress… cool!”
This is not to say that superheroes can’t be funny, quirky or even ditzy. The problem is that Jennifer Lawrence was not cast to play Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Her two most notable action hero roles are the complex, multi-faceted Mystique in the X-Men film franchise and the ever-stoic Katniss Everdeen, a woman who can’t land a joke to save her life. They are both very serious roles (as far as blockbusters go) for an actress who seems to have been born for physical comedy.
Lawrence’s larger-than-life personality has become a defining aspect of her brand as a movie star. And it will keep showing up, each time reminding us why you would only trust her with a bow and arrow if she were playing dress up.