For every successful book-translation to the silver screen, there will always be at least more than a hand full of crash-and-burns that clutter up the multi-plexes as Hollywood et all try to replicate the cash-cow that was Harry Potter and The Lord Of The Rings. Teen literature, since the critic-confusing but tween-delighted success of The Twilight Saga, has been constantly raped in order to generate the next big thing, and, without further ado, here, its producers hope, it is....
The Hunger Games is, without doubt, a rare breed indeed. It achieves this notoriety by accomplishing two sorely sought-after feats - no prior knowledge of the source material AND a cinematic experience that stretches far beyond its 12A certificate. For those of you who like their films and pride themselves on their knowledge of them, combining the likes of Battle Royale with The Running Man and Lord Of The Flies may sound like a hopeless task but writer/director Ross has achieved just that. Not only has he accomplished this but he has done so in a way that, although on paper should invite comparisons, it leaves those others behind it's hand-held, shaky-cam, thought-provoking wake.
Whereas Battle Royale made full use of its 18 certificate, Ross gets around the lack of blood and guts to create his horror by quick cuts, confusion and Saving Private Ryan-esque cinematography. This is after all a story of children between the ages of 12 and 18 having to kill each other in order to survive but even without red splashed across the screen, the tension and anxiety are equally felt when the countdown to the Games reaches zero and the slaughter begins. Infact, even before then, there's so much tension as the heroine is taught how to play the game of celebrity and crowd-pleasing to the uber-rich, bored populace of the Capital. Its these over-indulgent excuses of civilised beings that ultimately could be the difference between life and death to Lawrence's reluctant heroine regarding sponsorship during The Games. The genre of reality TV that was so aptly dissected in The Truman Show has a new magnifying glass put upon it and it's not rosy - we as viewing spectators will have a lot to answer for somewhere down the line!
Lawrence, who knocked on the Academy, and the world's door, with Winter's Bone, takes that character and layers on more levels as a young adult having to defend her family although this time the stakes are that much higher. Her determination seeps through all that she does which perfectly balances the fake glitz and glamour that the likes of a superb Harrelson and an unrecognisable Banks as her "helpers."
And to top it all, the glimmer of a love triangle is brought into play due to the basic mechanics of survival and therefore more acceptable and believable than the Bella fiasco of Team Edward and Team Jacob - no long melancholy looks into the distance here, you could be killed if you do!
A stunning surprise of a film that will have something for any age that wisely chooses to sit down and watch it - you can go as shallow or as deep as you wish at its message and reflection on where society could, and has, gone to. The second instalment cannot come to quick!
UK release date: 23.03.12