For 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) this is yet another year where she could be chosen to be entered into the Hunger Games - an annual tournament where 12- to 18-year-olds must fight to the death for the entertainment of the Capitol.
For her sister - Primrose (Willow Shields) - it is a new experience. As a fresh young 12-year-old, she is far less experienced than her sister, who is more than just handy with a bow and arrow.
When Prim has her name pulled out during "the reaping", Katniss puts herself across as Tribute - thus volunteering in her sister's place. Then she is transported away to the Capitol for a few days of luxury before the tournament - where only one can survive.
For me, The Hunger Games came with a pre-meditated good reputation. My girlfriend read the trilogy by Suzanne Collins a while ago and loved them so much that she convinced me to buy them for my sister - who proceeded spread the praise in equal measure. On the announcement of a film adaptation, my mind was made up for me.
Although I have never read the books personally, I have been reassured that the film follows its novel counterpart very closely, capturing Collins' land of Panem beautifully. This is unsurprising with Collins taking the helm as both a producer and as part of the screenwriter team so she could easily have ensured a smooth transition into visual art. This will undoubtedly please fans of the book, but for those who are novices to the series it is still easy to follow and very engaging.
Jennifer Lawrence is the star of the show as Katniss. She is the embodiment of raw power mixed with soft emotion and a strong moral compass that ensures that she never turns into a savage as some of the other children do (much like William Golding's Lord Of The Flies). The audience is always aware that she only kills for the sake of good. With good looks to match her powerful aura, she, as an actress, is certain to be in demand in the near future.
Despite focusing heavily on the dystopian politics of Panem, very few parallels or comparisons can be drawn with today's society - in fact, there are far more film references that can be drawn from it; The Truman Show is a huge influence. All scenes of political unrest are kept to a minimum and, although this may be explored in the later novels (Catching Fire & Mockingjay), it was a little disappointing that the brief scenes of violence outside the games were never expanded on.
On the subject of minor disappointments, I should mention the cop-out ending. Without going into too much detail, an interesting (but predictable) twist part-way through the film is alternated various times at the end and I think that the story would have still worked - albeit on a more political level - had the alternative been shown.
Still, there is a huge positive in the film's focus on the character's preparation. This reveals far more about each person, aiding character development no end and also makes it far more interesting than if it had sped straight into the gory fight scenes.
Because of the ending, I did come out of the cinema feeling a little unsure on what to rate it - either 3 or 4 stars. I do feel my expectation level was set very high though so I'll give the film the benefit of the doubt. Bring on the sequel.