Hunger Games, The: Deluxe Edition (Blu-ray) (2012)

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Released 17-Aug-2012

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Featurette-Game Maker
Featurette-Making Of-The World is Watching
Featurette-Letters from the Rose Garden
Featurette-Making Of-Controlling the Games
Interviews-Crew-An Interview with Gary Ross
Featurette-Preparing for the Games
Short Film-Propaganda Film
More…-Marketing Archives
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Stories from the Tributes
Featurette-The Tribute Diaries
Biographies-Character-Tributes
Gallery-Photo Album
Bonus Episode-Digital Copy
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2012
Running Time 143:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Multi Disc Set (4)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Gary Ross
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Stanley Tucci
Wes Bentley
Jennifer Lawrence
Willow Shields
Liam Hemsworth
Elizabeth Banks
Case ?
RPI ? Music T-Bone Burnett
James Newton Howard


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 7.1
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

   

The Hunger Games, the young adult novel by Suzanne Collins, was already a publishing phenomenon before it became a cinema phenomenon. Beginning as these things usually do, with murmurs around the high school locker rooms, and probably aided by some front cover endorsements from teen-lit writer Suzanne Meyer, the book gained a huge following, which carried on to its two sequels Catching Fire and Mockingjay.

The announcement of a film adaptation came fairly swiftly on the heels of the publishing success of the book. How is it possible for a book that only hit the streets in 2008 to be read, adored, adapted, filmed, shown in cinemas and now on home video by 2012?I guess Hollywood knows when it has to move fast to make sure the adoring readers get their bums onto the seats.

As usual there were the Internet buzzes about casting-who was right for Katniss Everdeen, who could possibly play Haymitch and Effie? How would they balance the violence in the book with the need to secure a PG-13 rating to get maximum audience numbers?

When the film of The Hunger Games completed its cinematic hunt it had taken in over half billion at the box office. In retrospect the decision to spend $80 million making a film adaptation of the novel seems like easy money. Of course, history has shown us that adapting children's or young adult novels to the screen does not guarantee success, no matter how huge the popularity of the source novel. One only has to look back to Lemony Snicket, Eragon and The Golden Compass for examples of surefire winners that just didn't make enough to justify a sequel. The lesson is that not everything can be a Harry Potter or Twilight.

So what makes The Hunger Games a success where so many others have failed? If I was to hazard a guess there are a couple of real strengths in the novel and the film. For starters Collins writes about a world that is both like our own and understandably different. It doesn't take too much time to work out that the United States of the future resembles nothing more than the Roman Empire where extravagance and dandyism contrast with brutal repression of their subjects. It is a story that is easy to hook in to and yet offers surprising depth.The book is a thrilling ride with just enough violence and surprises to keep the pages turning.

The second strength to me has to be the casting of Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen. The fans who were slavishly devoted to the novel raised a ruckus - the solidly built Lawrence was no physical match for Katniss, a girl who grew up wondering where her next feed was coming from. In fact, the Collins novel is shorn of detailed descriptions of the characters - one is more likely to find a description of their clothing than their facial features. What they miss of course is that Lawrence is a superb actress, just young enough to play the 16-year-old Katniss yet with an acting ability that is well beyond her years. Perhaps her performance in The Hunger Games began with the characterisation of another downtrodden backwoods,squirrel huntin' youth as Ree Dolly in Winter's Bone.

For those who aren't with the program The Hunger Games is set in the United States of the post-apocalyptic future called Panem. This is not a future of hope and joy for all. The world consists of 12 districts ruled by a wealthy Capitol. After a failed revolution the Capitol came down hard on the districts and instituted the Hunger Games as a means of punishment and a reminder of the might of their benevolent masters.

Each year at an event called The Reaping one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 is chosen from each district by a lottery system. Called Tributes the lottery makes no distinction between the weak and the strong.Once chosen they are conveyed to the Capitol for the commencement of the games - a fight to the death in a artificially created arena for a television audience with fame and wealth the prize for the sole victor.

Katniss lives in the impoverished District 12, responsible for supplying the coal needs of Panem. Since the death of her father in a mine blast several years ago, Katniss has lived with her mother and her younger sister Primrose. Food is hard to come by and Katniss has developed some skill with the bow and arrow. Risking great punishment she hunts the food in the areas outside District 12 with her good friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth). As a 16-year-old Katniss has been in the lottery has several years and like many from her district has been forced to trade extra lottery tickets for food.

When Primrose's name is drawn for the lottery Katniss has no option. She volunteers to take her place in the games. Also chosen is Peeta Mallark (Josh Hutcherson) the baker's son. Katniss only vaguely knows him but can't shake one memory when, in defiance of his nasty mother, he slipped her a loaf of bread.

In no time at all the pair are shipped to the Capitol. Soon they will be fighting to the death in an arena watched by millions across Panem but before they can contest they must be guided by trainers. The last successful Hunger Games winner from District 12 Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) may seem like a drunken loser but he might just know a way that they can win. Social butterfly Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) knows the way around the politics of the games and maybe, just maybe Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) will be able to make the downtrodden pair from District 12 presentable.

What is the value of good presentation? Before going into the games it is essential to get sponsors-rich patricians who can, when the time comes, send essential items such as food or medicine into the game arena. Like Big Brother the sponsors can give medicine or other gifts in order to keep the popular competitors alive. Without sponsors you are on your own. Not that Katniss all Peeta had any illusions about their likelihood of success. The District 12 competitors like some of the other Regions are basically plucked from their daily lives and thrown into the arena. The rich districts like District 1 and 2 have career tributes, competitors who have been trained ruthlessly in the skills of killing.

Since the release of The Hunger Games detractors have been quick to point out comparisons between the basic premise of the film and book and the Japanese film Battle Royale which itself was based on a novel. The comparisons are there to be sure. Both see teenagers shaping up against each other in a battle to the death. Both are also, at their heart, about social control and totalitarianism.

However, The Hunger Games seems to draw its inspiration from numerous sources including The Truman Show as both feature the power of television and the desire of those in charge of the games to "give the people what they want". The media and the insatiable desire for drama combined with bloodlust is palpable throughout. Though everyone secretly despises the games and the loss of their young people, at the same time no one can tear themselves away from the TV screens showing every angle, every heartache and every death.

Critics have generally focussed on two perceived weknesses. Firstly, the hand held style which dominates the early part of the film. Ross defends this style on the basis that it conveys the subjective viewpoint he wanted to achieve but it is still a little hard to watch. Ross's direction of the action scenes follows this chaotic style too. Secondly, for a film about horrendous violence it is often not shocking enough, with only one character having a tragic death. It is true that the barbarism of the Games is not carried through as much as it could have been, but it must be remembered that this is the 74th annual Hunger Games. This populace has been used to the death and mayhem for generations.

Having seen the film more than once it not only retains its power but actually improves with each viewing. Not only is the film superbly crafted and the drama well directed but the performances are above and beyond what might be expected of a young adult novel adaptation. Not only is Lawrence is her but her fellow tribute played by Josh Hutcherson turns in a surprisingly detailed performance. The other tributes have small roles but Harrelson and Banks do great work with their very different roles. The surprise may well be rock star Lenny Kravitz who gives a nuanced and moving performance as Cinna, Katniss's personal stylist.

The book is told pretty much from the perspective of Katniss. The film expands the story and includes numerous scenes involving the Gamemaker (Wes Bentley) and Donald Sutherland as President Coriolanus Snow a calculating and evil leader. Finally, from a casting perspective Stanley Tucci gives a stunning performance as Caesar Flickerman the "host with the most" dispensing jokes and sympathising comments as the carnage ensues.

The Hunger Games will surprise anyone who believes that an adaptation of a young adult novel, with its limited ability to portray the stomach churning violence at the core of the games, would be somehow and experience only for the younger set. This is a powerful and at times deeply moving film that should be in every good home entertainment collection.

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Transfer Quality

Video

The Hunger Games is presented on Blu-ray in a 2.40:1 transferred almost identical to the cinematic 2.39:1 original aspect ratio.IMDB lists it as a 2.35:1 aspect ratio but this transfer is as close to 2.40:1 as can be.

It is a superb transfer from start to finish. It is extrememly sharp and the detail on the faces and clothing is superb.

The colours are rich and vibrant in the Capitol. Elsewhere, such as in District 12 the colour palette is decidedly muted. Once in the arena greens dominate. Except in the Capitol there is no attempt to make this a technicolour marvel. Although the arena is computer created it feels very real.

This Blu-ray four disc Deluxe Edition contains two Blu-rays of extras as well as a digital copy of the film. What this means is that the film itself has been given an entire dual layered BD 50 to spread its wings. There are therefore no issues of compression and the transfer is crisp and clear throughout without any artefacts or minor defects.

The flesh tones are accurate.

There are subtitles in English for the hearing-impaired.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

 

The Hunger Games carries as its main soundtrack a wonderful DTS HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track.There is also a 2.0 Descriptive Narration track.

It is always a joy to get a 7.1 track on a film that truly deserves it. What might surprise some, however, is that the chief virtues of this track are to be found not simply in the fighting scenes (the games arena has plenty of nasty weapons but no guns to ricochet through the surrounds). In fact, it is the marvellous ambience of the piece that is most enjoyable. There is a great depth to the transfer with nature sounds, including the wind, water and the ever present mockingjay giving us the feeling we are in the arena with the Tributes.

That is not to say that it lacks in firepower. The sub-woofer responds well to the bass thumps - the thud of the cannon as another Tribute bites the dust and the room shaking sound of the hovercraft.

The dialogue is clear and easy to understand throughout.

Music plays an important role in the film. It comes from disparate sources. The score itself is by James Newton Howard who provides the sort of moving orchestral score that the 7 times Oscar nominated (also once for song) master can provide.

The rest of the music choices are more eclectic. Perhaps there is no surprise that country pop superstar Taylor Swift turns up with a song in the closing credits. The more unusual choices would have to be Canadian indie band The Arcade Fire to contribute the defining song Abraham's Daughter and the fascistic theme of the Capitol (which Howard reworked with choir and orchestra). Who would have thought the sensitive Canucks would know how to write such strident martial music? An even bigger surprise is in the cornucopia scenes where not only does obscure analogue electronic artist Laurie Spielgel gets decent airplay but also New York minimalist composer Steve Reich. Both are used to great effect.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

The set comprises 4 discs as follows

Disc 1

The Film.

Disc 2

Game Maker: Suzanne Collins and the Hunger Games Phenomenon (14:05)

This feature focuses on the development and success of the first novel and the series. Although Suzanne Collins doesn't make an appearance (she doesn't appear in any of the extra features?!) The publisher does as do a series of book critics.

The World is Watching: Making the Hunger Games (2 hours 02)

This is the mother lode of the features set. A making of feature that spans a mighty two hours. In fact, despite its length this is eminently watchable throughout. It is split into eight sections as follows: Intro, Countdown, Casting, Design, Arena Ready, on Location in Panem, Effects, Post Production, May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favour.

Each describes an interesting aspect of the production. Gary Ross is present throughout and the more he appears the more apparent is that he was the right man for the job. He had an intense belief in the production and that dedication has found its way into all aspects of the film. Fans of the book and film will find the amount of the on-set and production materials to be comprehensive and there are ample interviews with the cast. Enjoyable from beginning to end.

Letters from the Rose Garden (9:08)

The script and book of The Hunger Games struck a chord with Donald Sutherland which he says harks back to when he saw the Stanley Kubrick film Paths of Glory. He wrote director Gary Ross a three-page letter about the character of Coriolanus Snow and here he talks about his feelings for the story and its anti-fascist intent and reads the letter.

Controlling the Games (5:50)

The book of The Hunger Games is told entirely from the perspective of Katniss Everdeen. Once in the arena she has no idea what the Gamemaker and his team are devising. In order to give a more complete perspective the role of the Gamemaker was expanded from a few lines in the book to a complete character and we get to see the room where they are creating their computer-generated mayhem. Interestingly, Gary Ross was quite specific that he did not want the room to be an ultra futuristic den of evil. These were people working away at a job like any other. The featurette goes through how the CGI filled room was created and directed.

A Conversation with Gary Ross and Elvis Mitchell (14:31)

A fairly lengthy interview with Elvis Mitchell in which he takes director Gary Ross through the production. An interesting enough interview although most of the ideas are already in the lengthy making of feature.

Preparing for The Games: A Director’s Process (Blu-ray Exclusive)

In the short featurette, a Blu-ray exclusive, director Gary Ross talks about his method for preparing for the day shooting. He creates his own version of the shooting script and meditates on it before starting.

Propaganda Film (1:34)

This is the full-length version of the film that is shown at the Reaping in its high-definition glory as narrated by Donald Sutherland.

Marketing Archive

Marketing Archive is a trendy way of saying that this includes the various trailers for the film(teaser trailer, theatrical trailer and extended theatrical trailer), still photography set and a theatrical poster gallery.

Disk 3

This disc is entirely turned over to the Tributes (except Katniss and Peeta)being Jacqueline Emerson as Foxface, Amandla Stenberg as Rue, Isabelle Fuhrman as Clove as Alexander Ludwig as Cato, Leven Rambin as Glimmer, Jack Quaid as Marvel and Dayo Okaniyi as Thresh.

What at first may seem like an indulgence makes perfect sense by the end of the disc. It is clear that although Suzanne Collins gave sometimes only limited description of the tributes that many of the fans of the book created images in their heads of the young men and women. These features give those actors a chance to talk about their roles and have some fun. This will prove intoxicating particularly for some of the teen readers who can identify closer with the journey of these young people.

Stories of the Hunger Games

This is a two-part feature. Part one entitled Casting the Tributes (10:41) describes the detailed process that casting director Debra Zane went through to get the perfect line-up of tributes. There are lots of interviews with the key tributes on set. Zane explains the individual challenge of each role and then the actor talks about their experience of being cast in the film.

The second part entitled Stories from the Tributes (17:41) is a great experience for young fans of the film. It gives each of the core tributes a chance to talk about the wonderful experience they had making the film. Their enthusiasm is genuine. These young people train together, play together and "die together" on the set and in the wilds of North Carolina when shooting the arena. Working with stunt coordinators and in training sessions was tough but also, it appears, a whole lot of fun.

The Tribute Diaries (16.44)

From the time that the film finished up until the premiere be cast including the tributes to at the United States promoting the film. They were given tiny film cameras to record their experiences and this is the result. What it lacks in structure it makes up for in the joy of seeing these young people have the time of their lives travelling around and experiencing the adulation that comes with being part of a phenomenon.

Biographies

This feature allows you to select any one of nine of the tributes including Katniss and Peeta great brief rundown of their history and skills.

Photo Album

In a refreshing break from the traditional this consists of a camera moving across a photo board with the tributes have stuck all their pictures taken during the glorious experience that was their time working on the film and promoting it.

Disc 4

Digital Copy

A digital copy of the film for viewing on your computer, tablet or smart phone.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

  The 4 Disc Deluxe Edition contains specifications and features which mirror the Region A special releases. Buy local!

Summary

   

The Hunger Games has been an amazing success at the box office and preparation has already begun for filming the second book in the series, Catching Fire. However, more important than the financial success is the fact that this is a quality movie and to my mind one of the better films of 2012.

The transfer quality of the Blu-ray is exceptional in both sound and vision terms. It perfectly replicates the aesthetic of the film and enhances the home viewing experience.

The extras are comprehensive but not mere fillers. Given that this four disc Deluxe Edition can be found around for under $30 it represents unbelievable value. Buy now!

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Monday, August 27, 2012
Review Equipment
DVDCambridge 650BD (All Regions), using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-VW80 Projector on 110" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer SC-LX 81 7.1
SpeakersAaron ATS-5 7.1

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