In a dystopian future where the government keeps a tight rein on the populace, the annual reminder of a failed uprising is The Hunger Games, a televised battle to the death of teens from each of the twelve districts. When her young sister Prim (Willow Shields) is selected as the female tribute from District Twelve, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers for combat instead, getting paired up with local baker’s son Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson).
The book is characterized by a retinue of colorful supporting characters who help Katniss during the Games, each of whom is also wrestling with their hatred of the totalitarian regime that forces each district to sacrifice its children, year after year. Unfortunately, little of that translates to the screen, and interesting characters like President Snow (a completely wasted Donald Sutherland) and head stylist Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) come across as one-dimensional at best. Even the bitter, alcoholic Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) becomes far more sympathetic on screen, undermining how badly damaged he is in the original story.