In this image released by Lionsgate, Jennifer Lawrence portrays Katniss Everdeen, left, and Josh Hutcherson portrays Peeta Mellark in a scene from "The Hunger Games." (AP Photo/Lionsgate, Murray Close)

Murray Close

Here’s the movie for which millions of fans have been starving.

“The Hunger Games” will satisfy a broad audience that will appreciate its elements of science fiction, forbidden romance and action.

Those unfamiliar with the books will see a number of familiar elements here. It has the overall foundation of “Battle Royale” (although it is not as intense or adult in nature as this cult favorite). It also has close ties to “Lord of the Flies,” “The Running Man” and Shirley Jackson’s well-known story “The Lottery.”

But, even though it references prior material, “The Hunger Games” stands on its own as a well-wrought film set in a post-apocalyptic world.

After a ghastly war, North America is now sectioned into regions, or districts. As part of a peace pact, each district must send one boy and one girl, known as “tributes,” between the ages of 12 and 18 to fight to the death in The Hunger Games, which are televised live. The survivor wins an incredible bounty.

What we see here is the 74th annual event. Little Primrose Everdeen (Willow Shields) is selected as a player from District 12. Her older sister Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence, “Winter’s Bone”) volunteers to participate in her place. The male selection is Peeta (Josh Hutcherson, “Journey to the Center of the Earth”), with whom Katniss is acquainted.

The two are whisked away by train to the Capitol, a metropolis whose residents are wealthy and live lavish lives. Their trainer is the drunken Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), an earlier winner from years past. Katniss also has a designer in Cinna (Lenny Kravitz), who creates incredible costumes that draw the attention of the public. This is important, because sponsors can send their favorite players life-saving gifts during the games.

After two weeks of training, well, let the games begin. And they do, with characters displaying various strategies and characteristics that save their lives while proving their undoing — sometimes simultaneously.

Katniss the is the strong-willed, intelligent central character, and we see the story unfold from her perspective.

The movie offers a series of parallels, from the grim existence of Katniss and her family to the luxury of the Capitol to the compelling moments of compassion the players sometimes demonstrate to out-and-out savagery.

It’s intense storytelling that will leave you craving more.

(Linda Cook reviews movies for the Quad-City Times.)