THE HUNGER GAMES directed by Gary Ross (USA, 2012)

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Evergreen

Katniss Evergreen takes aim.

As far as ‘young adult’ fantasy fiction is concerned, you only have to look at what a pig’s ear was made of the adaptation of Phillip Pullman’s Northern Lights for The Golden Compass to know that there’s never any guarantee that a great book will make a great movie.

So Suzanne Collins is probably pinching herself over the fact that director Gary Ross has brought her vision to the big screen with such style and assurance.

The odds were always in its favour by the inspired casting of Jennifer Lawrence as the improbably named Katniss Evergreen. I loved her in Winter’s Bone and she is fantastic here because, while not being a conventional beauty, her strength and pragmatism establish her a modern-day feminist icon.

We get fine extended cameos from Woody Harrelson (as Haymitch Abernathy) and Donald Sutherland (President Snow) and Lenny Kravitz (Cinna) but none of these  ‘stars’ come close to outshining Lawrence.

The Peeta and Katniss ‘star-crossed lovers’ sub-plot is handled intelligently without an excess of schmaltz. Peeta is not a character I particularly liked in the novels but Josh Hutnerson succeeds in making him a little more palatable.

As in the book, the killings are not gratuitously gruesome and it’s big relief that , while fighting for their lives, the actors don’t have the additional  handicap of a thumping pop soundtrack.

The book takes many of its ideas from reality shows and the media’s tendency to depict real war as an entertainment package. The movie’s representation of The Capitol’s citizens revelling in the orchestrated bloodshed accurately reflects how television has made voyeurs of us all.

This is a movie that covers all the bases of the novel and sets the bar high for the inevitable sequels and the flaws in Mockingjay, the final part of Collin’s trilogy, will set the biggest challenge for the filmmakers.