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|Film Review: The Hunger Games|
|Written by Jo Bromilow|
|Wednesday, 21 March 2012 10:17|
Director: Gary Ross
It's been called 'the next Twilight', but to draw a comparison between the two does a disservice to this superior teen offering. Set in a post-apocolyptic America (Panem) divided into twelve Districts, Collins introduces us to a futuristic tale of Theseus and the Minotaur - or, as has been the catcall of critics, a Westernised Battle Royale.
As punishment for a past rebellion against the ruling Capitol, one boy and girl from each district are offered annually as tributes to a televised gladiatorial bloodbath known as The Hunger Games. Kind of like Big Brother, except with more violence (intriguingly, 7 seconds were cut from the film to earn it that lucrative 12A certificate).
Thankfully, unlike Big Brother, this year's crop are an easy bunch to root for - namely our heroine, Katniss (Lawrence), a feisty, fiery teen who happens to be a dab hand with a bow. Lawrence has the weight of a massive fandom on her shoulders, and they hold steady as she confidently steps into the role. Josh Hutcherson displays a similar subtle confidence as her unwitting arena partner, Peeta, a mellow yet affable boy who happens to be a dab hand at making people love him.
While Katniss is a natural huntress, Peeta is a natural crowd-pleaser, and in this game of appearance and public affection, it's a tough job picking a winner. But the teens have help with the creation of that public image: Elizabeth Banks is almost unrecognisable behind the theatrical, Burton-like escort Effie Trinket; Woody Harrelson is on fine form as former Hunger Games victor Haymitch, full-time drunk part-time spin doctor; and the ever-excellent Stanley Tucci has tonnes of fun in a blue wig as the flamboyant Master of Ceremonies, Caeser Flickerman.
It's a testament to the younger cast that they hold their own alongside such power players - the sinister 'Career' Tributes from the richer districts, who spend their lives in training to win the Games, are particularly memorable, as is Katniss' gentle ally, Rue (Amanda Stenberg). But equally impressive is the production design and behind-the-scenes work. While the book tells the story solely from Katniss' viewpoint, director Gary Ross and the screenwriters add glimpses of the political structure the Games are trying to protect - a riot in one district following the death of its tribute is both heart-breaking and thrilling.
As a slice of social commentary reflecting our desensitisation to violence and our need to present a cultivated public image, this film is right on the money. As a tale of a volatile nation ruled by violence, yet always inches away from harnessing it to destruct their oppressors, it's electrifying.
Like Katniss, The Hunger Games finds its mark every time. Tense, taught and polished - as a tribute, it scores 12 out of 12.