Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson
It has the credentials – the prospective love triangle, the genre setting (this time a dystopia where young ‘uns fight to the death in the titular reality TV show) and the built-in fanbase. One thing it has over its vamp-cousin, though, is a leading lady strong enough to carry it all.
Jennnifer Lawrence stars as Katniss, a young girl in one of the poorer districts surrounding the mega-city Capitol where all the glammed-up rich folk live. Katniss is chosen to compete in the games, a battle to the death where only one can live.
Lawrence is a solid lead, balancing the bow-wielding brawn of Katniss (who has honed her sharp-shooter skills hunting for food in the forests of her home District 12) with the vulnerability of someone who is fighting for her life, handling both the action and emotional upheaval with aplomb.
Woody Harrelson, looking like a washed-up rock star, is also good value as a grog-soaked former Hunger Games victor brought in to mentor the new combatant, and the film successfully satirises reality TV, mining intellectual smarts for the teeny-bopper crowd alongside all the death-arena antics.
It is an action set piece or two short by blockbuster standards, though, and a little too keen on setting up its ensuing chapters to satisfy fully, but in Lawrence’s Katniss, it has a positive heroine who is better suited to today’s world, and whose plight would be rewarded by the continuation film(s) there is sure to be.
Verdict: Three stars