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A scene from the just-released trailer for "The Hunger Games"

The Hunger Games: The trailer

  • Directed by Gary Ross
  • Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson

Considered the inevitable successor to the hugely successful Twilight series, The Hunger Games, scheduled for release on March 23, is the first of four films adapted from Suzanne Collins' young adult science fiction trilogy.

According to Collins, the story was inspired by the televised juxtaposition of reality game shows and news footage of the Iraq War, though Stephen King has pointed out the similarity to the Japanese novel Battle Royale, among other sources.

The good news is that the movie doesn't look totally silly, thanks to the dewy gravitas of star Jennifer Lawrence, an Oscar nominee for Winter's Bone, and director Gary Ross's interesting casting of the secondary roles (including Lenny Kravitz as a futuristic stylist).

Here, Lawrence is facing an even bigger threat than the meth-cooking hillbillies of Winter's Bone: Big Government, in the future totalitarian state of Panem (so why wasn't it called the Panem Games?). Lawrence plays Katniss Everdeen (honest), a young woman who steps in for her younger sister to compete in the annual televised The Hunger Games, in which a boy and a girl from each of 12 districts are sent to fight until only one survives.

Director Ross ( Pleasantville) fills the screen up with Twilight-like images of looming tall trees and mixes the short breathless conversations with preparing-for-battle action sequences with pounding tympani and musical crescendos. Perhaps it's just a coincidence that this is another story about an androgynous warrior girl who must choose between two brooding young men – Katniss's hometown buddy, Gale Hawthorne (Hemsworth) or her rival but potential love, Peeta Mellark (Hutcherson) – but most probably not. Twilight may be heading off into the sunset, but that series has obviously primed the appetite for The Hunger Games.

Rating: B