Blu-ray
Highly Recommended
4 stars
Overall Grade
4 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
3.5 Stars
HD Video Quality
4.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
5 Stars
Supplements
4 Stars
High-Def Extras
1.5 Stars
Bottom Line
Highly Recommended

The Hunger Games (3-Disc Target Exclusive)

Street Date:
August 18th, 2012
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
December 10th, 2012
Movie Release Year:
2012
Studio:
Lionsgate
Length:
0 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13
Release Country
United States

Editor's Notes

Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of 'The Hunger Games.'

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

Having never read the books, seeing the events of Suzanne Collins' dystopian society in which kids kill other kids in an arena while millions watch, makes me wonder how these books could be considered "young adult" fiction. There's some heavy stuff going on here. Sure, it's not as gory as a similar movie like 'Battle Royale,' but no one pretended that that book and subsequent movie were for kids. This is brutal!

Everyone knows the story of 'The Hunger Games' by now, right? Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) lives in a futuristic society ruled by a cruel upper-class who keep a stranglehold on the poorer people in their society by holding games every year where 24 children are chosen randomly throughout the 12 outlying districts. These kids are then put into a dome and told to kill each other. The last one standing wins. It's a cruel world Katniss lives in.

After her younger sister is picked during what is called "the reaping" Katniss volunteers herself to take her place. She's a capable archer and stands a better chance than her sister in the games.

I'd be lying if I told you that it wasn't hard to watch the first few moments after the games commence. Gary Ross' cleverly employed shaky-cam helps deaden the senses, but you still see a few blood spatters and knife thrusts as teenagers brutally murder pre-teens.

'The Hunger Games' could have easily been rushed to theaters amidst its wave of surging popularity. It did come to the screen pretty fast, but it doesn't feel rushed when you sit down and watch it. It doesn't feel like, say, 'Percy Jackson' for example, another popular young adult series, that was rushed out the door and ended up feeling more like a made-for-Disney-Channel movie than a big budget adventure. 'Hunger Games' on the other hand has that grand scope to it, and it feels like a big budget adventure.


Much of that success should be laid at the feet of the outstanding cast assembled for the film. Woody Harrelson as Haymitch, a person who won the games once but now drowns his sorrows in alcohol, is just the person to play that part. Who embodies inner struggle better than Harrelson? Speaking of inspired casting, what about Stanley Tucci as the flamboyant broadcast announcer Caesar Flickerman? Then at the center of the pack you have Jennifer Lawrence, an accomplished actress who showed how well she can play this kind of hard-nosed heroine in 'Winter's Bone.'

Ross, who hasn't directed action until now, employs many of the tiresome clichés of modern day action movies. The shaky-cam here is bothersome. It's understandable why it's used, and to his credit he employs it sparingly (this isn't as bad as a Greengrass film). It's blatantly used to cover up the more intense action scenes, to simply give a semblance that bloody action is taking place. All so they could get away with a PG-13 rating. Could you imagine a young adult fiction series getting an R rating? That would be the day.

'The Hunger Games' is entertaining enough, mostly because its stellar cast really carries the movie along. The story has been seen before, as it's a mixture of 'The Running Man' and 'Lord of the Flies,' but it still holds enough excitement and "Did they really just bludgeon that kid to death?" surprises to make for a solid blockbuster adaption.


The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

The standard 'Hunger Games' Blu-ray set comes with two 50GB Blu-ray Discs - one for the movie and one for the special features - and a code for an UltraViolet Digital Copy; however, this Target exclusive also comes with a better-looking case (here's hoping that Target will continue this tradition with the future movies so that they all have a matching look on my shelf) and a bonus third Blu-ray disc containing new special features that focus on the roles of the Tribute characters. All three discs are housed in a unique three-fold case that vertically slides into a matted and embossed black slipcover featuring unique artwork. It's labeled as a Region A release.


The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

Lionsgate's 1080p AVC-encoded presentation is quite a treat. Overall, this is a strikingly clear, very well produced big budget movie whose visuals transfer really well to the high-def format. Faces feature as much detail as they possibly could. There may be a little too much detail in the case of Efie (Elizabeth Banks). Her close-ups reveal how caked-on her make-up for the movie really is. Close-ups on other people reveal all sorts of facial details, from Donald Sutherland's unruly beard hair to Lawrence's smooth, rosy-cheeked skin. Detail on textures is also great as tree bark is naturally bumpy and rough and clothing shows individual threads or wrinkles depending on whether it's woven or leather.

Colors are great here too, even though there have been quite a few post-production filters added onto the look. Depending on the setting a light green or light blue filters has been added. Green is a dominate color here, as the entirety of the games are fought in a lush forest setting. The sterile environment of the command center controlling the game offers cool blues. The strange clothing of those people in The Capitol pop off the screen as pinks, yellows, purples and neon blues are commonplace. There really isn't a color that isn't represented here in one form or another, making for a highly colorful presentation that is rendered well.

Blacks are deep and sufficiently inky. Shadows are perfectly delineated too, offering a detailed view of people and objects even in low light. I didn't notice any artifacts to report. Banding and aliasing stayed at bay. There was one scene where a character's shirt shimmered for a few seconds, but that was it. The rest of the movie is flawless looking, reminding me of what I saw in the theaters when it first came out.


The Audio: Rating the Sound

If the visual presentation was near perfection, the 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio presentation is perfection. This is a butt-kicking, ear-thumping audio mix that puts you right smack-dab in the center of the action and never let's go.

The additional two channels really help in providing and enveloping feel. As Katniss runs from other game participants we can hear them yelling at her through the rear speakers as the rush of foliage and the crunch of twigs are happening in the front. A swarm of killer bees is unleashed and all of the channels fill up with a deadly buzzing that really makes you feel like you stepped into the middle of a bunch of angry bees. LFE is also astounding. Fireballs shoot past Katniss as a wildfire is created in the game. The loud whoosh and boom they create rumble the floor, walls, and pictures if you've got them. Even subtle ambiance is completely noticeable. The scene where Katniss and Rue use mocking jays to communicate offers pin-point accuracy in the speakers as the whistling mocking jay song bounces from one channel to the other as it travels further away.

Dialogue is always clear and comes directly from the center channel with the front channels offering pitch-perfect directionality when needs be. There's nothing that's left out here. Lionsgate's audio mix covers all the bases and what you end up with is a demo-quality track which you could use to show off your set-up.


The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

  • The World is Watching: Making 'The Hunger Games' (HD, 2 hr. 2 min.) – This eight-part documentary covers everything you'd want to know about the movie, although it does wander into far too much self-back-patting for its own good. Everything from casting to development is covered here. There are some pretty candid interviews, like the one with Lawrence about how she just wanted to do indie movies her whole career and almost turned down the part of Katniss because it was a big budget movie. Also, Harrelson talks about initially turning down the part, but agreeing after Ross called him personally. We also get discussion of intentionally trying to make the movie PG-13 and how they were able to achieve that along with a ton of other information for fans. I do warn you though, much of this documentary and its interviews borders on the EPK-style of making-of. There are some great nuggets of information in there, but they're surrounded by people saying, "Oh, he's the best director out there," "She's just the best," "Working with him is amazing," and so on.
  • Game Maker: Suzanne Collins and 'The Hunger Games' Phenomenon (HD, 14 min.) – Author Suzanne Collins and Scholastic Books' David Levithan discuss Collins' work.
  • Letters from the Rose Garden (HD, 9 min.) – I kept getting the sense, from Donald Sutherland's interviews in the making-of that he is slowly going crazy. This featurette kind of seals the deal. Sutherland wrote Ross a three-page letter after reading the series of books and discussed, in verbose detail, how he felt about the part he was about to play and then goes on to read the letter reading so far into the book and its characters that you wonder if he's even still talking about 'The Hunger Games.' You simply have to watch it because it's just so strange.
  • Controlling the Games (HD, 6 min.) – This focuses on the command center, its design, and its technology, which was introduced by Ross in order to flesh out the parts of the story that weren't covered in the book because of how limiting first person storytelling is.
  • A Conversation with Gary Ross and Elvis Mitchell (HD, 14 min.) – Film critic Elvis Mitchell talks with Ross about the movie and how it was adapting it from the much-loved book.
  • Propaganda Film (HD, 2 min.) – This is the propaganda film that you see snippets of during the reaping that takes place at the beginning of the movie. This is the whole film, which is kind of a fun supplement.
  • Marketing Gallery (HD, 5 min.) – You can see trailers in here along with a movie poster gallery and a photo gallery.
  • Stories from the Tributes (Target Exclusive) (HD, 18 min.) – See set footage of the Tribute actors that highlights the genuine camaraderie that existed between them. The whole feature is set to actor interviews telling anecdotal tales from the shoot. Please note that the main players are absent. This feature is dedicated entirely to the no-name Tributes, but it's actually not half bad hearing these actors – some of which are first-time actors – explain how fun, exciting and trying the whole process was.
  • The Tribute Diaries (Target Exclusive) (HD, 18 min.) – As the opening title card states, "after filming on 'The Hunger Games' wrapped, 7 Tribute actors were given portable video cameras to record their journeys leading up to the film's premiere. These are their adventures …" and most of it consists of geeky fan frenzy that's not worth watching. This feature is made for the kids.
  • Biographies (Target Exclusive) – Read quick and chintzy bios that resemble digital trading cards on nine of the main Tributes in this interactive menu.
  • Casting the Tributes (Target Exclusive) (HD, 11 min.) – Casting Director Debra Zane explains how the more important of the Tributes were case. The actors also describe the process from their aspects. Of course, several of these actors initially auditioned for the leading roles, but were cast in lesser ones.
  • Photo Album (Target Exclusive) (HD, 3 min.) – Instead of featuring an interactive gallery, these production and premiere photos are shown in the form of a slideshow that you or I could make on an iMac. As expected, it's set to pop music.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

There are a few HD Extras provided in the way of apps for smartphones and so on. There is a promo for Metabeam Smart Remote that you can watch and then download if you want. Also, there's BD Touch and a handy little sound check tool called DTS-HD Master Audio Sound Check that will help you calibrate your audio system for the movie. It's not as advanced as other calibration tools, but it will help out if you're a novice.

  • Preparing for the Games: A Director's Process (HD, 3 min.) – This is a very short featurette of Ross discussing writing the screenplay from the source material and then putting it up on screen.

Final Thoughts

'The Hunger Games' delivers the goods on Blu-ray when it comes to packing a punch in the technical categories. The physical look of this Target exclusive is worlds better than the standard Blu-ray release, although you basically have to be a die-hard to enjoy the content of the special Target-only bonus features disc. Fans will absolutely love this release, while casual film buffs will probably like it too. You already know what you're getting with 'Hunger Games' so it's pretty easy to know if it's for you or not. I, for one, find the story entertaining and the movie well-acted. This is a highly recommended release for sure.

Technical Specs

  • 3-Disc Set + Ultraviolet Digital Copy
  • Three 50GB Blu-ray Discs

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/AVC MPEG-4

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 2.40:1

Audio Formats

  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
  • English Dolby Digital 2.0
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles/Captions

  • English, English SDH, Spanish

Supplements

  • Eight-part The World is Watching: Making of The Hunger Games
  • Letters from the Rose Garden featurette with actor Donald Sutherland
  • Controlling the Games on the control center
  • Conversation between Gary Ross and film critic Elvis Mitchell
  • Complete version of the film's Panem propaganda video
  • Marketing archive
  • Stories from the Tributes (Target Exclusive)
  • The Tribute Diaries (Target Exclusive)
  • Biographies (Target Exclusive)
  • Casting the Tributes (Target Exclusive)
  • Photo Album (Target Exclusive)
  • Game Maker: Suzanne Collins and The Hunger Games Phenomenon

Exclusive HD Content

  • Preparing for The Games: A Director's Process

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