Complete A-Z list

Hunger Games, The


Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, Wes Bentley, Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Hemsworth, Willow Shields, Lenny Kravitz, Alexander Ludwig, Amandia Stenberg, Brooke Bundy, Isabelle Fuhrmann

Director: Gary Ross

Another epic (in length at least) adaptation from a teen best-seller series, this looks set for a successful franchise, and should make millions for its distributors, Lionsgate. So it's just a pity it's not a better film. Both action fans and kids should be warned that the first segment takes a long time to get going, and that the 'games' themselves - their impact slightly softened by the requirements of cuts for a 12A certificate - don't start until after a humdrum 65 minutes in.

The mundane screenplay combines elements of 1984, The Most Dangerous Game and The Running Man. It's the future and the one-time rebellion against the state is now divided into 12 impoverished districts, a penalty for an unsuccessful uprising.

While the rich cavort like something out of a demented Emerald City, and for some reason known only to their sadistic overlords, two teenagers from each district are chosen by lot to participate in a lethal elimination tournament in forest terrain, from which only one can emerge victor.

When her fragile sister (Shields) is chosen, Katniss Everdene (Lawrence), skilled at hunting with bow and arrow, volunteers to take her place, much to the anguish of her mother (Paula Malcolmson) and hunky boyfriend (Hemsworth). Her partner proves to be Peeta (Hutcherson) who has long worshipped her from afar, but finds his secret passion is favourite to win (hard to see why) and therefore likely to have to kill him if someone else doesn't get there first.

Not that Katniss herself is exactly invincible. She seems to have more lives than James Bond, loses most of her battles and survives more by luck than judgment, sometimes with a little help from her friends. A well-cast Lawrence shows she could be the heroine the story demands, but script and situations are no help to her, and it's Harrelson as her alcoholic mentor and Tucci as the blue-bouffant-haired Games MC who steal all their scenes.

Nothwithstanding all this, the film still has a certain resonance about it that bodes well for the future of this particular saga. Let the sequels commence! (and let them be better than this).

David Quinlan

USA 2012. UK Distributor: Lionsgate. Technicolor.
142 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 21 Mar 2012