Say what you like about the Twilight movies, but the mould-breaking model of an epic teen-oriented fantasy franchise that doesn't pander predominantly to a Boy's Own audience has had major repercussions for mainstream cinema. That the Hunger Games saga, with its ass-kicking, independent heroine and unusually grim subject matter, could become an international screen sensation is due in no small part to the much-maligned legacy of Bella Swan; no wonder Stephenie Meyer's all-important endorsements were splashed so prominently across the covers of Suzanne Collins's source novels.
And so we return to the totalitarian future, where once rebellious districts are forced to offer up their children for annual sacrifice, part of a grotesque Running Man-style reality show designed to titillate the ruling classes while subjugating the masses. Here, Katniss Everdeen (the brilliantly mercurial Jennifer Lawrence) is keeping her head down after not only surviving but outsmarting the Games. But having saved her team-mate Peeta from death through feigned (or is it?) affection, Katniss finds herself cast back into the arena when the authorities announce a Quarter Quell; a deviously super-charged tournament peopled entirely with former champions who will be forced to exterminate one another while battling poisonous gas, raining blood, man-eating monkeys, electrifying force fields and worse. Once again, the Games are on.
While the first Hunger Games movie owed a weighty (if unacknowledged) debt to Kinji Fukasaku's controversial Japanese hit Battle Royale (and Koushun Takami's source novel), this second instalment leans more towards the themes of Norman Jewison's dystopian 70s offering Rollerball. In Jewison's bleak morality tale (expanded by screenwriter William Harrison
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