While the ending is a bit of a mess, the rest isn’t terrible (and nobody sparkles in the sunlight).
Future North America is a place called Panem, a capital city-state surrounded by twelve districts. To keep the peace as a reminder of the horrors of war, each district is required to annually offer a boy and a girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to fight one another in the Hunger Games, and it’s a fight to the death. When a young woman named Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) does the unthinkable and volunteers for the games to spare her selected sister, it’s the first of many signs that point to her as a possible champion in the making. While the games offer a spark of hope for the both contestants and viewers alike, the people who manipulate the games behind the scenes aren’t about to let a poor girl from a backwoods district inspire anything but a glorious and entertaining death.
Never having read the book but still familiar with the story (you’d have to wear blinders online not to be), The Hunger Games borrows much from earlier dystopian science fiction and reworks it into young adult fare. With a cast of seasoned actors to carry some of the weight (including Stanley Tucci, Wes Bentley, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Toby Jones, and Donald Sutherland), the teens and ‘tweens mostly appear and die in as many ways as a PG-13 rating will allow (although following the book to the letter might have incurred a hard R rating). Where the story goes off the rails is the battle royal itself as Katniss lucks out or is helped out of every dangerous situation; when someone who refuses to kill others wins a fight to the death by default, there’s no other word for it other than manipulation.