If the early word is any indication, Hunger Games is no Twilight.
On the contrary, filmmaker Gary Ross' adaptation of the first entry in Suzanne Collins' postapocalyptic young adult series of novels is actually receiving high praise for, you know, actually being good as it chronicles the tale of 24 teenagers chosen by lottery to compete in an annual gladiatorial-like TV spectacle in which only one will survive.
Here's a quick roundup of some of the first critiques of The Hunger Games, which as of press time has earned a 98 percent "fresh" rating on film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, though it's still too early for a complete consensus.
Todd McCarthy, chief critic for The Hollywood Reporter, lavished praise on star Jennifer Lawrence as 16-year-old archer Katniss Everdeen, whose illegal hunting skills help her survive in this sci-fi dystopia.
"As she did in her breakthrough film Winter's Bone, Jennifer Lawrence anchors this futuristic and politicized elaboration of The Most Dangerous Game with impressive gravity and presence, while director Gary Ross gets enough of what matters in the book up on the screen to satisfy its legions of fans worldwide," gushes McCarthy.
He noted, however, that since Lionsgate is marketing the flick as the next Twilight in order to harness the former's box office magic, the filmmakers aimed for a PG-13 rating, whereas "a film accurately depicting the events of the book would certainly carry an R."
"That said, Hunger Games has such a strong narrative structure, built-in forward movement and compelling central character that it can't go far wrong," McCarthy adds.
While acknowledging The Hunger Games will satisfy fans of the best-seller, Variety's Justin Chang suggested the mission to make it palatable to a PG-13 audience may have stripped the movie of some of its more subversive elements, notably the "morality of violence as entertainment and the brutality of pitting children against each other."
"What viewers are left with is a watchable enough picture that feels content to realize someone else's vision rather than claim it as its own. Any real sense of risk has been carefully ironed out: The PG-13 rating that ensures the film's suitability for its target audience also blunts the impact of the teen-on-teen bloodshed, most of it rendered in quick, oblique glimpses," writes Chang.
Here are a few more critics' takes:
• "This is a gripping, impressively mounted action movie—but its adherence to finicky details in the novel means that there's not enough time to fully explore Collins's complex world or the characters who inhabit it," opined TimeOut London.
• "Sadly, there's a sense of familiarity that The Hunger Games can't completely shake off. Recalling everything from Lord of the Flies to A.I. to The Running Man to the cult Japanese thriller Battle Royale, the movie feels more like a solidly crafted amalgam of disparate influences than a wholly original vision," offered Screen Daily.
• "Despite its well-worn ideas and themes, Gary Ross's provocative, pulse-surgingly tense adaptation couldn't feel fresher, or timelier," said London's Telegraph, delivering up some of the best raves. "The Hunger Games is an essential science fiction film for our times; perhaps the essential science fiction film of our times. Whatever your age, it demands to be devoured."
The Hunger Games unspools worldwide on March 23.