In "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2," due out Friday, teenager Katniss Everdeen carries the weight of saving Panem upon her deceivingly slim shoulders, fortified by her bow-shooting exploits and a powerful inner resolve.
But the character, in the fourth and final installment of "The Hunger Games" movie series, faces a perhaps even bigger (if more subjective) challenge: fighting for her place as filmdom's greatest woman action hero.
The competition is high in quality, if not numbers, thanks to Hollywood's slow pace in giving women meaningful roles in a genre that's exploded over recent decades.
For some, thoughts of favorites could race to the butt-kicking likes of Angelia Jolie's Lara Croft from the "Tomb Raider" movies, Lucy Liu's Oh-Ren-Ishii from "Kill Bill" and Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow from the "Avengers" series. The old-school among us might turn to Linda Hamilton's version of Sarah Connor from the "Terminator" flicks or the proto (and comeback-bound) action-movie feminist, Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) of "Star Wars" fame.
But better arguments could be made for some characters more down to earth than their fantastical settings. Lawrence's Katniss has earned a place in elite company with Sigourney Weaver's Ripley of the "Alien" movies and Emma Watson's Hermione Granger of the "Harry Potter" series.
Space traveling Ripley and multi-gifted muggle-born Hermione proved the most human of movie heroes – cautious but brave, not always sure of themselves but certain of right from wrong, with their brains a more potent weapon than their very different brands of brawn. They became breakout stars of franchises whose strength rests not as much in the action sequences as much as in the stakes that propel them.
Katniss both fits and expands the mold – going from a frightened teen who sacrifices herself for her younger sister in a game where children killing one another is Reality TV sport, to becoming the unwilling face of a revolution.
The evolution of Katniss over the last three years from the relatively weak first film to the increasingly compelling second and third installments has offered the opportunity to watch 25-year-old Lawrence grow into a rare superstar whose talent matches her accolades (including an Oscar for "Silver Linings Playbook") and box office prowess.
Thanks in great part of Lawrence's acting ability, we care about Katniss, who desperately cares about saving those closest to her – and the rest of humanity, to boot.
Jere Hester is Director of News Products and Projects at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.