The Hunger Games is the first film based on the hugely popular book series of the same name by Suzanne Collins. The movie stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, Wes Bentley and Lenny Kravitz.
In lieu of a brief synopsis of the plot, I would instead like to suggest that if you're not already familiar with the story told in The Hunger Games, it would be good to start by reading the book (or all of the books in the series). I'll touch on why I think it will aid the viewing experience in a moment, but on a more basic level the books are quite good and are easy, quick reads. Unleash the power of your imagination by cracking open a book, or something like that. This has been brought to you by The Book Council, whose motto is "desperately trying to keep people reading since the Internet happened."
There is a generic criticism of movies made from books that the book is better, and hopefully this is delivered by those who read the book first. Often it's overblown, sometimes it's defensive, and occasionally it's just elitist. Here, unfortunately, I think it's warranted. Movies certainly should be their own property apart from a book, and it's also true that movies simply don't have the luxury of time - as in length - that books are able to enjoy. Cuts have to be made and changes have to be expected. But there are some basic elements that both have to master in order to be successful, and at least on those terms the two can be held up to each other for scrutiny.
The fact that The Hunger Games book - and indeed the series as a whole - is told from a first-person perspective that monologues all of the background of this world and perceptions on what is happening presents a challenge for the film that it never quite solves. It shuns the idea of a narrator and tries to fill in this knowledge gap visually, and even then only sporadically. Because of this, there is so much about what's going on that is simply left unexplained. Characters progress from scene to scene as if playing catch-up with the book more than they are following a logical narrative path of their own.