Still packing out audiences in its second week, the world certainly is watching Gary Ross’ adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ dystopian fantasy The Hunger Games.

As punishment for a revolution of the people of Panem many years ago, the Capitol runs a yearly televised game show in which two young people from each of the twelve districts are randomly selected to fight to the death in an outdoor arena- in which only one person can win and return home.

the hunger games katniss effie haymitch

The actors were not impressed with the day’s blooper reel.

The story is told through the eyes of Katniss Everdeen (a brooding Jennifer Lawrence), a protective and strong minded 16 year old girl, who volunteers in place of her younger sister Primrose who is selected. Katniss, along with the male tribute from District 12, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), is transported to the Capitol, a shining metropolis of extravagance and far away from the poverty of  the Districts. Their chaperones are the unrecogniseable Elizabeth Banks as Effie ‘That is mahogany!’ Trinket and past winner, now alcoholic Haymitch Abernathy (played by Woody Harrelson.) They, along with stylist Cinna (a great performance from Lenny Kravitz), they advise, publicise and style the tributes in order to put them in favour with the judges and the public.

It is here that the satire bites down, hard. Modern society’s obsession with reality TV and watching people suffering for comfort is displayed for us in a way that is by no means subtle. The ‘tributes’ are preened and trained in the art of survival, and interviewed by brash TV host Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci). It seems as if Peeta is making a ploy for media sympathy when he admits in the interview that he has long harboured a crush for his fellow district member, which angers Katniss. When the games begin, 11 of the tributes are killed in the first day, and independent Katniss avoids making allies until the judges decide that two contestants may both win if they are from the same district. Will the rule change bring Katniss and Peeta together? And are his feelings for real or for the public?

It’s a fast-paced, dramatic ride that echoes a world obsessed with Big Brother and the like. The comparisons to Kinji Fukasaku’s Battle Royale are accurate but Collins’ story is of a much newer subject matter, unlike the issue of teen rebellion in Battle Royale. Now in its third week, The Hunger Games has grossed several hundred million pounds and it doesn’t look like the hoardes of audiences are quite finished yet. Superb performances, pacy editing and intimate camera work makes this the one to watch for April.

By Stephanie Broad