The Hunger Games – 3.5/5 stars

After the phenomenal success of Twilight, it seems only logical that the world is treated to another teenage book to film adaptation.

The Hunger Games is an event held in a post-apocalyptic America, where twelve teenage men and women are randomly chosen (as ‘Tributes’) to fight to the death until one has survived.  The event is set as a punishment of a rebellion of the Capitol, where a surrounding district was destroyed.   When her younger sister is  unexpectedly selected from District 12, Katniss Everdeen volunteers herself to take her place.  Together with Peeta, the male ‘tribute’ selected from their District, Katniss finds herself fighting for survival.

Many critics have called this a crossover of Twilight (love triangle, main female protagonist) and cult classic Battle Royale – a cellular comparison from one extreme to another.  One film delves into the soppy (and practically pointless) whereas the other focuses on an almost primal instinct in man; the survival of the fittest.

What The Hunger Games does is filter certain qualities of both films and blended them into a balanced feature.  You have the impressive action sequences, romance that doesn’t make you want to hurl and the emotional conflict you expect from a hormonal teenage story.   Jennifer Lawrence is engaging as Katniss; indifferent to the circumstances and determined to survive, you end up admiring her spunk and defiance to The Man.  Her character represents a strong female role model for teenage girls, whose main concern does not involve what’s in her wardrobe or who likes her in more-than-friends way.

Love interest Josh Hutcherson, who plays baker’s son Peeta, struggles to make an impression.  He looks forlorn in his unrequited crush on Katniss, almost making him look like a sap.  You almost wish that he did have a lot more to do because being upstaged by a girl is a bit embarrassing, but there is undoubtedly more to come in the upcoming films in this trilogy so we can expect more from Mr. Hutcherson.  Best friend Liam Hemsworth cannot really compete with Ms. Lawrence either – all he has to do in the film is pull off his best Taylor Lautner impression and brood.  Problem is that we know what’s going to happen: there’s a highly-probable-love-triangle between the enigmatic female, the best friend and the (maybe so, maybe no) true love.  Supporting characters, ranging from the inspirational Lenny Kravitz and the garish Wes Bentley all play a significant role in the game.  Woody Harrelson hams up his mentor role as Haysmith, which echoes his past performance of a washed-up bowler in Kingpin.  However, he ends up being the reality check that you need in this twisted tale so you can excuse his occasional slurriness.

Director Gary Ross brings in a very toned down sense of direction to the film. The action sequences in the arena and the outline of the surrounding Districts are quite stripped down and very unglamourous, making the Capitol incredibly garish in comparison.  The idea that there is a society who champions the notion of several teenagers killing each other for sport is somewhat unsettling to say the least but with its quick camerawork and flashes from one scene to another, you can hardly stop to think about it for one minute.

After all the years of family-friendly childrens’ books-to-films, it is almost a comfort to see a film that transcends different age ranges.  The brutality and lack of compassion from other Tributes (especially Orphan‘s Isabelle Fuhrman – damn, she’s crazy!) reinforces that The Hunger Games is not just a kid’s film – it is something more.  And it’s welcome to stay as The franchise to watch.

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