By Becky Hoose
Based on the hugely successful novel by Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games is set in a dystopian post-apocalyptic future. Aimed at young adults, this is perhaps the first teen fiction hit since J.K Rowling's global phenomenon. But don't let the target audience put you off, because, as with the Harry Potter series - and, come to think of it, Meyer's Twilight novels - this film appeals to all ages.
The Hunger Games is set in Panem, the nation that was once North America, which comprises 12 impoverished districts surrounding the Capitol. Every year, two teenagers from each district - one boy, one girl - are selected to take part in the annual Hunger Games. This event, which is a punishment for a previous rebellion against the government, sees these 'tributes' take part in a televised battle to the death until just one remains - reality TV in all its gory glory. Heroine Katniss Everdeen volunteers as a tribute in place of her younger sister. Alongside District 12's male tribute Peeta, Katniss leaves for the Capitol to prepare for the Games. Intense preparations and the development of a confused relationship between Katniss and Peeta follow, before the Games begin. Exciting stuff.
Because it's such a fantastic story that is rich in present-day issues like poverty, oppression, self-preservation and war, alongside that all-important (if slightly contrived) touch of romance, it was inevitable that it would be adapted for the big screen. All that was needed was someone bold enough to take it on. Enter Gary Ross. Although this is only his third credit as a director, Ross does a good job, toning down the violence (earning the film its 12A certificate and therefore pulling in younger audiences), as well as subtly capturing the complex web of themes set forth by Collins. The talented cast is lead by Jennifer Lawrence, and if you're left wondering where you might have seen her face before, the answer is you probably haven't. Having mostly done American television and a few Indie films, this is probably her first hit, but after a performance like that, it'll be the first of many.
A tad on the lengthy side, the film seemed to try to fit in all the intricacies of the novel, perhaps because Collins herself co-wrote screenplay. It's a shame, really; all the other big literary adaptations, such as Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, bravely omitted huge plot details and didn't suffer. As someone who firmly believes in film adaptations being works in their own right, I feel that there's no need to compare it to the original.
However, the film has also been criticised for its similarities to Japanese action-thriller Battle Royale, based on the 1999 novel by Koushan Takami, where a class of middle school students are placed on an isolated island and forced to kill each other until only one participant remains. Ok, I can see the resemblance. But then, there is no such thing as an original idea and of course The Hunger Games has plenty of its own themes, unique settings and original characters.
So, whether you've read the book or not, this film is worth a watch. It is well-acted, brutal and utterly gripping. If action and drama are your cup of tea, go and see it. And may the odds be ever in your favour…
Becky Hoose is a freelance writer and hardcore film buff. Follow her on Twitter at @Bhoose