"Forget comparisons to the Twilight Saga, try to ignore similarities to Battle Royale and The Running Man, focus instead on a sublime lead performance, post-apocalyptic anarchy and Woody Harrelson’s hairpiece. The Hunger Games is based on Suzanne Collins’ best-selling novels, set in the ruins of North America. Every year each of Panem’s twelve districts is forced to send a girl and boy to compete in The Hunger Games. Part entertainment, part intimidation tactic; The Hunger Games are a nationally televised event in which the 24 "Tributes" must fight to the death, until a lone survivor reigns supreme.
When her little sister is picked to compete, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers in her place. She is helped on her way by drunken former victor Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), battling the fierce combatants and taking down love in the process. A strong cast is on hand to see her through, with Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks and Stanley Tucci proving especially memorable. Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Wes Bentley and even Lenny Kravitz add further weight to an impressive roster, providing the saga with plenty of ammunition for later rounds.
The Hunger Games doesn’t play out in the way you might expect. The opening act is a slow-burner, with minimal dialogue and Indie trimmings. It sure is slow to find its feet but Jennifer Lawrence is as captivating as ever, and in hindsight, The Hunger Games benefits greatly from steering clear of the Hollywood gleam machine. Gary Ross paints a unique picture, drowning Panem in flamboyance and colour, a stark contrast to the brutalising battlefield awaiting the contestants in the final act. The Hunger Games has its fair share of violence too, with swarms of killer insects, death by javelin and a terrifying opening stampede that oozes tension from every pore. Ross cuts away from the bloodshed, but the ‘less is more’ approach works in the films favour, allowing the viewer to fill in the blanks left behind by his admiral direction.
Romance rears its ugly head of course, and its hard to tell whether Hutcherson and Lawrence have the chemistry to pull it off, but Hemsworth is waiting in the wings to provide the saga with a gushy love triangle that shouldn’t resort to who can get their shirt off first. I’ve yet to see how this one plays out (I don’t do books) but Gary Ross - with his fresh approach to over familiar material - has more than wetted my appetite for further instalments. Lawrence is asked to hold the film together through sluggish terrain in the second act, and she hits the target with deadly precision, but there’s more to The Hunger Games than one great performance, and time will tell whether Gary Ross’ enthusiastic opener can lay the dawdling demons of Twilight to rest." AW