12A certificate, 142 minutes
Director: Gary Ross
Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth
"May the odds be ever in your favour."
The Hunger Games is based on the book of the same name by Suzanne Collins, the first in the trilogy of the same name. It is set at some unknown time in the future, in the country of Panem (possible a country in North America, although this isn't made clear in the film) is divided into twelve districts, and the Capitol.
Some years previous, presumably at least 74 as this is the 74th Annual Hunger Games, the districts had risen in rebellion against the Capitol, which resulted in an apparently nuclear war. The rebellion was crushed, and as punishment for this, each year, from the twelve districts, one boy and one girl are selected to compete in the annual games. There is a mention several times in the film of thirteen Districts, but only twelve are competing in the games, so it's unclear as to what the thirteenth District is or was.
The twenty-four participants selected compete in the Hunger Games, but there can only be one winner. The losers are those that die in game. If you want to live, you have to win.
Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) lives in District 12. Although the edge of the District is bounded by an electrified fence, and leaving it is prohibited, she hunts in the forest, in order to get extra food and goods to trade with. The inhabitants of the District appear to live in pretty primitive and largely low-tech conditions.
At the drawing for the District's participants by Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks, Man on a Ledge, The Lego Movie) in the Hunger Games, her younger sister, Primrose (Willow Shields), is unexpectedly drawn the first time she is entered. Katniss volunteers to take her place instead. This is allowed, and she finds herself on a train to the Capitol with follow District contestant, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson).
The inhabitants of the Capitol live in vastly different, and comparatively decadent, conditions to those of Katniss's District. There is no limitation on food, electricity or anything else. It isn't certain whether all Districts live in the same manner as District 12; there is a suggestion that Districts 1 and 2 have better conditions, as apparently their Hunger Games participants are trained extensively even before they enter.
Peeta and Katniss are supposed to be mentored by a previous winner from their district, Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), although he seems more than somewhat disillusioned and frequently drunk.
During their training, both Katniss and Peeta are told they need to appeal to sponsors. Sponsors can provide extra resources in-game, which can be the difference between life and death. It is uncertain as to what sponsor's get from this.
After training and television appearances on the show hosted by Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci, Jack the Giant Slayer, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, Transformers: Age of Extinction), where Katniss is coached by Sinna (Lenny Kravitz), the contestants are flown to this years arena, where they are left with supplies and now have to fight until only one remains alive. The entire arena is wired for video and sound, so everything can be watched by those at home.
Unlike the book, which was told solely from Katniss Everdeen's first person perspective, the film is done more in the third person. This allows the film to show scenes that Katniss never saw, but which we knew took place "off camera" as it were in the book, as well as allowing the explanation of things that Katniss knew, but never vocalised. A couple of the additional scenes do cover events that didn't actually take place or weren't referred to until the second book, Catching Fire.
The Hunger Games is a pretty decent film portrayal of a dystopian future. The President, Snow (Donald Sutherland), appears to be a dictator rather than an elected official. The country is tightly controlled, and the Hunger Games provide an outlet of hope for the people, to help keep rebellion down. The names of a lot of the characters in the film appear to have a Roman influence, with the Hunger Games themselves being reminiscent of the gladiatorial contests of Rome, the "bread and circuses" used to keep the populace in line. Worth a watch, and will probably appeal to more than the teenagers to whom it appears the book series was originally marketed to.