You’d be forgiven for thinking that you need to have previously read the books to appreciate The Hunger Games, but you’d have to concede – as I did – that you don’t need to be a fan of futuristic sci-fi to appreciate that this film is about much more than special effects flamboyancy.

Set in a dystopian near-future where the Capitol restricts what its population can and cannot do, the annual Hunger Games are about to take place.  Established after the nation plotted a failed revolution against the repressive state, the games exist to put the population in their place and remind them who is boss.  One young boy and girl from each of the districts takes place in a live, televised fight to the death.  Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take the place of her younger sister and, along with Peeta Mellark, the two of them represent District 12 in a battle where there can be only one winner.  But can they bring themselves to kill each other?

Peeta (Josh Hutcherson, Journey to the Centre of the Earth) and Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar-nominated for Winter’s Bone) have different game plans: Peeta decides it would be better to die without fighting, as he refuses to let the Hunger Games turn him into a monster; Katniss, however, decides she cannot afford to take that chance.  She has a little sister to protect.  The moral dilemma that the film exposes with ease is whether it is better to do what is right, or what is necessary.  These two ideologies are played out very well, and what is more memorable than the deaths themselves is the characters’ introspective moments of deep thought, and they friendships they form as they struggle to harm each other (even the tough Katniss, upon having an epiphany of love for Peeta, battles with her conscience).

Based on the best-selling novels by Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games is enjoyable for anyone who hasn’t actually read the books (although if you get chance, I strongly advise you do!)  Granted, it isn’t very convincing that a few participants get killed in the first few seconds of the battle so dismissively (I just don’t think people would find it that easy to do), and the jargon of the novels is sometimes not as well explained as it could be, but this film is far more compelling than Battle Royale, the 2000 Japanese film it is being compared to.

I can’t wait for the sequel!