Local fans get first taste of 'Hunger Games' at midnight showings

PORTLAND, Ore. - Fans lined up at area theaters late Thursday night to be among the first to see what many expect to be an early 2012 blockbuster: the film adaptation of the best-selling book The Hunger Games.

Showtimes for the Friday night showing of the movie were already selling out early in the morning.

The story, set in a dystopian near-future where the United States has become an authoritarian nation of 13 "districts" called "Panem," centers around a young woman who volunteers to take her younger sister's place in a brutal and deadly annual ritual, the namesake "Hunger Games."

Just 12 districts remain, as District 13 was wiped out in an uprising that was put down by the ruling regime decades before the story takes place.

The Hunger Games are a forced competition between "Tributes," young people ages 12 to 18 that are chosen by lottery (or volunteer) and are forced to fight to the death on live television in a perverse, manipulated mix of Survivor, American Gladiator and a beauty pageant. Only one tribute will make it out alive - and will then lead a life of relative comfort.

The games are used as political tool to keep the once-rebellious districts under the thumb of the wealthy rulers of the nation, who reside in an opulent, futuristic city called "the Capitol."

Some tributes have trained all their lives for the Hunger Games. Others, usually those from the poorer districts like the central character, appear doomed from the very start.

Reaction from Portland film-goers who saw the movie at midnight Thursday was mixed. The portrayal of fatal teen-on-teen violence has been a contentious element of the film, which is rated PG-13.

After the movie let out, one young fan called the film's violence "pretty graphic." Her friend said "if you're able to read the book, then you're able to see [the movie]." However, she also said she would not take an 8-year-old to see the movie.

Twitter and KATU News Facebook posts ranged from adulation to lukewarm responses:

Caeleb Lacey on Facebook: The movie was amazing! It seems that most people who didn't like the film were those who obsessed with the differences between the movie and the book. While I noticed every difference, I still greatly enjoyed the movie and would recommend it to anyone. Although bringing kids to see this movie is a bad idea. It is a quite dark storyline and most little kids wouldn't understand it or would be disturbed by it.

Devin Landry on Facebook: It was good, if you can get past them cutting stuff out and the crowds of teenage girls trying to turn it into some weird twilight like obsession romance. :P

Sarah Jordan on Facebook: For the hype that it got, it really didn't impress me. Some said good as or better then Twilight saga.

@Chris 93036 on Twitter: Maybe I shouldn't have read the book. Movie was good. But would be better if I didn't expect a lot!

@Catritic on Twitter: Hunger Games was perfect! OMG. Perfect.

So far, most critical reviews for the film have been good and it appears the movie is on track for blockbuster status, racking up almost $20 million in ticket sales just for the midnight showings, according to the Associated Press.

Watch a trailer for the movie here.