The Hunger Games is something new in the business of adapting a best-selling teen literature series into a big-screen franchise.
It's a pretty good movie.
While the first Twilight and the later Harry Potter pictures succeeded well enough, they still felt shackled to their literary sources, compressed versions of sprawling novels.
However, this adaptation of the first instalment of Suzanne Collins' dystopian fantasy cycle about teenagers who are forced to fight to the death for the edification of a morally benumbed audience powers along as pure cinema without betraying its source material.
Stripped bare of narration or the heroine Katniss Everdeen's interior monologue or any ponderous explanatory material, The Hunger Games is almost a pure action movie in the tradition of The Terminator or The Running Man or one of many, many sci-fi thrillers it closely resembles.
Best of all is that The Hunger Games is free of vampires and werewolves, wizards, wands, Dementors and all the other magical malarky that inevitably compromise the drama, otherworldly solutions to real-world problems.
Best described as Gladiator mixed with The Truman Show by way of Survivor and Big Brother, The Hunger Games takes the obsession with televised combat, pushing it to the logical limit and setting it in a world of haves and have-nots uncomfortably close to our own recessionary time.
While this hugely anticipated first episode is not as stylish as we might have hoped - it's efficient rather than scintillating - director Gary Ross does a fine job in conjuring the hardscrabble world of Katniss and her family.
Winter's Bone Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence proves an inspired choice for the role of Katniss, the expert hunter who uses her deadly skills when she volunteers to take her younger sister's place in the brutal televised spectacle.
The Hunger Games doesn't soar but it's a real movie. It hits its target.The Hunger Games opens today.
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