The Hunger Games movie finally hits theaters at midnight Thursday for the March 23 release. The cast of the film, including Jennifer Lawrence, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson, just finished a whirlwind press tour before the big premiere Friday. They traveled from Los Angeles to London to Berlin to New York, promoting the first film adaptation of the trilogy by author Suzanne Collins.

The first reviews for The Hunger Games movie were in on Monday and offered overwhelming applause for the film directed by Gary Ross.

Christy Lemire, Associated Press: 'The Hunger Games' runs nearly two and a half hours in length but is the rare film that never drags and doesn't overstay its welcome. It could keep running as long as Katniss does, and we'd want to be right there every heart-pounding step of the way.

Joe Neumaier, New York Daily News: It's better and scarier than its source book, and aims an angry eye at our bloodthirsty, watch-anything-and-cheer culture. Neumaier gives it five out of five stars.

Manohla Dargis, The New York Times: Though Dargis critiqued the need for more grit and mystery, said the screenplay by Mr. Ross, Ms. Collins and Billy Ray hews dutifully close to its source material, at least in wide strokes.

Olly Richards, Empire Magazine: When a series has sold millions of copies, as Suzanne Collins' trilogy has, the default position is to produce something that will look just as readers imagined, to show what we were all thinking, rather than offer something nobody had considered. 'The Hunger Games' as a novel has been dissected, expanded and retooled into something intelligent, immersive and powerfully current.

Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter: Jennifer Lawrence is stellar in this faithful, good-enough film version of the massive best-seller... The arrow hits an outer circle of the target in The Hunger Games, an amply faithful adaptation of Suzanne Collins' monster young-adult best-seller that could have used a higher blood count in more ways than one. As she did in her breakthrough film Winter's Bone, Jennifer Lawrence anchors this futuristic and politicized elaboration of The Most Dangerous Game with impressive gravity and presence, while director Gary Ross gets enough of what matters in the book up on the screen to satisfy its legions of fans worldwide.

The March 23 opening of the film is very likely to break records.

The Hollywood Reporter revealed The Hunger Games movie has already raked in more than $15 million in advanced tickets and 2,000 shows are sold out nationwide. One exhibitor claimed that The Hunger Games could hit $20 million or more in midnight earnings alone. The film also entered Fandango's all-time top five presellers - the final two Harry Potter films and the past three Twilight movies. Hunger Games hit No. 4, beating out The Twilight Saga: Eclipse and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1.

Here is a guide to the games with all you need to know before seeing The Hunger Games movie Friday. And may the odds be ever in your favor.

Welcome to Panem

The nation of Panem is where Katness Everdeen, Gale Hawthorne, Peeta Mellark and the rest of the tributes live. Panem rose out of the ashes of the former North America. The country was established during an unknown time period, many years in the future, after the destruction of modern civilization. The Capitol is located in an area formerly known as the Rocky Mountain region.

According to The Hunger Games Wiki, the name Panem is derived from the Latin phrase panem et circenses, which translates into bread and circuses. The phrase is used to describe entertainment used to distract public attention from more important matters.

The Capitol Rule

The Capitol is the dictatorial ruling body that resides over Panem. The dictatorship is run by President Snow, a malicious man who smells of blood and roses. In the Capitol lives all the wealthy and powerful people of the nation. The buildings are candy-colored, the fashions are ostentatious, the citizens are wholly superficial and the food is plentiful.

The 12 Districts

Panem is made up of the Capitol and 12 districts. District 1 makes luxury items for the Capitol. District 2 specializes in masonry. District 3 manufactures electronics. District 4 handles the fishing. District 5's industry is power. District 6 is transportation. District 7 specializes in lumber and paper. District 8 manufactures textiles. District 9 handles grain. District 10 specializes in livestock. District 11 is focused on agriculture. District 12 mines coal for the Capitol. Katniss, Gale and Peeta each reside in District 12.

The Dark Days

The Dark Days occurred some 74 years before we enter the 74th Annual Hunger Games. The Dark Days were an organized rebellion against the Capitol that happened 74 years ago after the citizens of Panem became tired of the Capitol's oppressive totalitarian rule. Prior to the Dark Days, District 13 handled the development of nuclear weapons. During the rebellion, District 13 was obliterated and then used as an emblem of what could happen to the other districts if the citizens rebelled against the Capitol ever again.

Hunger in the 12 Districts

The citizens living in the 12 districts of Panem suffer from extreme hunger, particularly those living in District 12. The Capitol rations the districts as a means of control. The citizens in districts are oftentimes forced to go hungry. In District 12, they are especially vulnerable to this. District 12 citizens have been known to eat rotten food and tree bark, stealing from garbage cans what meager bits they can find. The one salvation is the woods, which are location on the edge of District 12 and are rife with game.

The Hunger Games

We enter the Hunger Games at the 74th Annual Hunger Games. The Hunger Games began some 74 years ago after the Dark Days. The Hunger Games are held annually as a reminder that the citizens of Panem should never have rebelled against the Capitol. Each year, every district must offer up one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 to fight to the death. These sacrificial lambs are known as tributes and are chosen during the annual reaping ceremony. The two individuals are chosen at random, with their names being drawn from glass bowls. The odds increase as an individual gets older, i.e. at 12 years of age a child has one entry but at 18-years-old a child has at least 28 entries. Each year there is one victor.

The Hunger Games, sadistic and brutal, are devised by the leaders of the Capitol who create a brutal arena for the tributes to fight in. The event is televised nationally for the viewing pleasure of the citizens of the Capitol. It is a sort of reality series, where the tributes each play a role and maintain a persona, emphasized and goaded by the Capitol.

Katniss Everdeen, the Heroine

Katniss Everdeen is the sole provider for her family--her mother and her sister, Primrose. Katniss' father died when Katniss was just 11-years-old in a coal-mine explosion. After her father's death, her mother broke down and could no longer provide for the family. Katniss became the matriarch, hunting for food and keeping some semblance of order in their lives. Primrose, otherwise known as Prim, is Katniss' heart and soul.

At the 74th Annual Hunger Games, Prim is just 12 years of age with one ballot against her in the reaping. However, by a cruel twist of fate, Prim's name is drawn as the tribute for District 12. Katniss immediately offers up herself and goes into the Hunger Games in place of her little sister. Katniss is 16-years-old at the time.