This film is based on the first of a wildly popular trilogy of books by Suzanne Collins, aimed at young adults, centred around a teenage girl and generally collectively known by the name of the first book (OMG so it's all just like Twilight!!). But this is a much harder-edged story in which virtually nobody sparkles. Collins, who graduated from kids' TV writing to The Underland Chronicles before this, has said that she was inspired by such diverse influences as the Theseus myth, ancient Roman civilisation and her father's military career. But her immediate inspiration for the books came late one night, when she found herself channel-surfing between the news – showing endless images of war – and a reality show, and combined the two. In other words, fluffy this ain't.
The film is being directed by Gary Ross, of Pleasantville fame, so he should have a reasonable grip on the teenage elements. Billy Ray, who wrote and directed Shattered Glass and wrote Flightplan and Hart's War, adapted the script. It's shooting now and is out in March, 2012.
In an unspecified future hundreds of years after some unspecified apocalyptic event, the North American continent is a country called Panem (as in "Panem & Circenses", aka "bread and circuses" or the means by which the Romans ruled), divided into 12 districts ruled by the Capitol. Following a rebellion against the technologically superior Capitol years before, which resulted in the utter destruction of District 13, each district must provide 2 "tributes" each year, one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18. The resulting 24 teens fight to the death in a sealed arena over a period of, well, as long as it takes for the so-called Hunger Games. Think Big Brother with edged weapons, Battle Royale without the exploding collars, or Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome with teenagers. Thus does the Capitol keep its dominions in line.
Our heroine is Katniss Everdeen, a resident of poverty-stricken District 12 who supplements her family's meagre income by sneaking off hunting outside the district's boundaries. Her father died in a coal mining accident, her mother's been near-catatonic ever since, and Katniss' younger sister Primrose – aka Prim – depends on her to provide for them. Katniss' only close friend is Gale, a fellow hunter who's slightly older than she is. But when Prim is chosen as a Tribute, Katniss volunteers to go in her place. The male tribute who accompanies her is Peeta, a comfortably-off baker's son who once did Katniss a kind turn. But can he be trusted in the arena?