It would be easy to prejudge The Hunger Games as another young teeny thriller along the lines of Twilight. Something designed for a particular audience, based on a young adult novel, not suitable for anyone with a driving license and a cynical outlook. But it is much more than that.
Rather than another young adult adaptation sensation, this film deserves respect in its own right. It is, to be honest, a solid piece of Sci-Fi that just happens to be about teenagers.
It is set in a post conflict North America, where the nation has been divided into 12 districts that are presided over by the affluent and corrupt Capitol, headed by an evil autarch, President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Each year, as a show of its dominance, the Capitol holds a tournament where a boy and girl from each district, aged between 12 and 18, have to fight to the deathon live television. The last one alive is crowned the winner of the Hunger Games. The heroine Katniss puts herself forward instead of her younger sister, who is cruelly picked to fight.
The plot alone, borrowed from the violent Japanese classic Battle Royale, is fairly harrowing. You are effectively watching young people stab, slash and blow each other up. There were reports that cuts had to be made to achieve the box office friendly 12A certificate, but what did make the final effort certainly pushes the boundaries of what can be allowed. However, when scenes of violence do appear, the director gets the tone exactly right. Instead of revelling in the blood letting, sometimes the sound is lowered or even removed completely, which maintains the shock factor but stops it from entering the realms of exploitation.
Although it is aimed at pre-teens, the subject matter is positively grown up. There is plenty for a cynical head to enjoy. Such as the satirical spin on modern reality TV, where the Hunger Games are simultaneously a method of social control and the most popular form of entertainment consumed by the masses. Plaudits have rightly been given to Stanley Tucci for his portrayal of the ridiculous yet sinister blue haired TV host. As for the leading lady, Jessica Lawrence is more than competent in portraying the strong yet conflicted Katniss.
The film is not without it's flaws, at nearly two-and-a-half hours long, there are some inevitable sags in the pace and it drags slightly towards the end. There is some slightly ropey CGI, but with that said, it is genuinely entertaining.
As the third highest opening for a film in history, maybe the sequels will be even more violent but with a PG rating.