Perhaps we can now officially ditch the long-held notion that it's tough to make a great movie out of a great book.
In recent years, we've had A&E's "Pride and Prejudice" - plus the stellar Keira Knightley version. Add to that "Holes," "Lord of the Rings," both versions of "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and the Harry Potter films.
And now: "Hunger Games" - a tough, tense, beautifully acted realization of the first book in Suzanne Collins' hugely popular trilogy.
In this image released by Lionsgate, Jennifer Lawrence portrays Katniss Everdeen in a scene from “The Hunger Games.”
In fact, I'll risk literary blasphemy by admitting that in some respects I liked the movie even better than the book.
For readers who've been living on another planet these past two weeks, "HG" posits a future America in which a wealthy central city rules 12 outlying districts with an iron fist, insisting that each send a boy and girl to compete in the titular contest once a year.
Broadcast everywhere, the lengthy, brutal outdoor game is eagerly watched by the entire nation - and it's a fight to the death, with only one victor out of 24 so-called "tributes."
Jennifer Lawrence plays Katniss, who volunteers to take her younger sister's place in the arena and winds up paired with Peeta, a boy from her district who happens to be in love with her.
Lawrence is stunning. She brings such vitality, such depth, such nuance to the character that many shots of Katniss really are worth a thousand words.
Of course, that's what you need when adapting a 400-page book for the screen: actors who replace pages of narrative and characterization with a few key gestures and pitch-perfect delivery.
"HG" has this in virtually every role.
Josh Hutcherson gives Peeta a seamless blend of fear, brawn, courage and vulnerability; Woody Harrelson, as a former tribute, is fittingly cynical and often drunk - but with an authentic undertone of concern for the contestants.
As the calm but heartless President Snow, Donald Sutherland has scarcely a single threatening line; yet the veteran actor imbues Snow with unforgettable menace.
The movie also benefits in being unshackled from the book's first-person narration: We get to watch Snow's machinations as well as the brewing rebellion that will "catch fire" in Part 2.
(Yes, much of the cast has signed for both sequels.)
Similarly, the film succeeds in dispensing with Katniss's hair-pulling anguish over whether or not Peeta really loves her. Every reader knows he does, and in the book, this artificial plot device generated tension for no one but Katniss.
Here, the briefer and more visual storyline achieves a "show-don't-tell" effect that's far more natural; the tale moves elegantly forward without Katniss explaining or second-guessing every development.
This change does make her final line a bit mysterious; the film doesn't have quite enough closure.
But it has practically everything else: drama, suspense, romance, humor, surprise, great art design and implicit reflections on sacrifice, war, exploitation and, in particular, reality TV.