The Hunger Games

Year: 2012
Studio: Lionsgate
Director: Gary Ross
Writer: Gary Ross/Suzanne Collins/Billy Ray
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Wes Bentley, Stanley Tucci, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks

By now the comparison to the Japanese cult classics is common knowledge all over popular culture, but before I'd heard anyone realise it ages ago I said to myself 'hold on, isn't this just Battle Royale for Twilight fans?'

It is indeed, proving that the plot of a group of kids killing each other off in an organised contest is still a big winner, and that pitching it tinged with a whiff of Twilight's flavour is a recipe for box office barnstorming.

Nothing about the film stands out enough to make it really succeed on its own merits, further proving the theory that the huge, tribal fanbase just wants to see how beloved characters and sequences would look in real life (the same sort of anticipation that drove Twilight to such heights). Nothing about the effects, thrills, acting, story or script is the best you've seen this year.

It's some sort of meta-future world that seems to be Earth a few centuries hence when the world (or at least America) is divided into districts under the oversight of a 1984-esque government that exists for the sake of its own power.

In a poor mining district, smart and tough Katniss (Lawrence, in the midst of a Fassbender-like rocket to fame) takes care of her fractured family but is horrified when she's selected to take part in the titular contest. It's never really made clear why they pit two kids from each of the 12 districts against each other in a fight to the death, other than that it seems to be their version of the Olympics.

Taken out of the mire of poverty she's trained and treated like a queen in the huge, glitzy capital she's only ever dreamed about, but it doesn't last and soon she's in battle.

Alliances and warring factions form among the kids, and the most surprising thing about the actual fight is how low stakes it all feels – for a story about 24 children between 12 and 18 trying to kill each other it's pretty tame. That sounds like a criticism, but it's actually clever about entertaining the target audience without resorting to the excessive bloodshed the premise would seem to call for.

The only real letdown is the ending. I know there are other books and by the time the first weekend of release was over more films were a given, but I expected some grand Smash The State gesture of defiance by Katniss – the whole subtext of the film is that the government doesn't own us.

Instead, she lets them display her like a side of sirloin in the whole spectacle, the evil President (Sutherland) of the land turning and striding up the stairs, seemingly upset at something as the film ends. Even a To Be Continued would have said something.

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