Let’s be honest here — The Hunger Games is no literary masterwork; its dystopian themes and brutal child-on-child violence is derivative of dozens of novels and movies from 1984 to Lord of the Flies to the infamous Japanese teen massacre film Battle Royale. Yet — like Harry Potter and Twilight before it — The Hunger Games has captured the zeitgeist of the hormonal and alienated youth of America through its use of a strong but relatable protagonist, an improbable love sub-plot, and a visceral action set piece with life-and-death stakes. Susanne Collins’ Kindle-friendly unit shifter has fairly obvious themes: violence and war are bad; classism is bad; it’s hard to be an impoverished, under-privileged teenager in a world where the rich and powerful make all the rules,etc.. In many ways, it’s the ultimate 99% vs. the 1% metaphor. But, allegorical critiques aside, the real question is: does any of this make for compelling cinema? Fortunately, despite a cornucopia full of flaws, the answer is yes.

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