Blu-ray Review: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games Blu-ray boxSTUDIO: Lionsgate | DIRECTOR: Gary Ross | CAST: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson
BLU-RAY & DVD RELEASE DATE: 8/14/2012 | PRICE: DVD $30.98, Blu-ray $39.99
BONUSES: featurettes, propoganda film, marketing archive
SPECS: PG-13 rating | 142 min. | Science-fiction | 2.40:1 aspect ratio | 7.1 DTS-HD audio | English and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

The Hunger GamesAs a huge fan of Suzanne Collins’ original book, the movie The Hunger Games falls short on its promise. Not to say it’s bad, but The Hunger Games on film is not as intense or deeply moving as it is on the page.

The PG-13 rating is partly to blame. In case you weren’t one of the moviegoers that helped the film gross a huge $407.7 million in theaters or one of the millions of people who have read the book, the futuristic story follows Katnis Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence, Like Crazy), a 17-year-old who lives in the poor Capitol-controlled District 12.

When her younger sister is chosen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, in which teenage representatives from each 12 districts must compete in a battle to the death for the entertainment for the Capitol, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She’s taken away from her home, family and best friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth, The Last Song), and thrown into a dangerous arena with her only ally from home, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson, The Kids Are All Right), but there can be only one winner.

With the PG-13 rating, the violence is honed down. There’s very little blood in the death scenes, a la the Narnia movies. But these are bloody death scenes, contestants getting hacked and bludgeoned to death. While it does take some of violence out of the deaths, this is understandable. The dead are teens afterall.

But the weight of the relationships, particularly between Katniss and Peeta and the politics of the world, aren’t explored as deeply as they could have been, keeping the film more on the action adventure side.

Again, that’s not a bad thing, it’s just different. The Hunger Games is a fine action adventure sci-fi movie for viewers from teens up, and it’s one that’s good for multiple viewings, making it good for purchase instead of just rental.

The performances are fine, if a little too understated at times. Elizabeth Banks (The Next Three Days) is a standout as the self-serving and clueless Effie Trinket, as well as Wes Bentley (American Beauty) as the game designer Seneca Crane.

On Blu-ray, the movie looks good, but the clear high-definition does give away some of the problems with the visual effects. The 7.1 sound is clear too, but the separation could have been better for a more immersive feel.

The two-disc Blu-ray contains a second Blu-ray disc with all the special features on it, and it’s packed. Just about everything about the making of the movie is discussed.

The main extra is the eight-part documentary “The World is Watching: Making of The Hunger Games,” which includes interviews with all the stars, plus director Gary Ross (Pleasantville), producers and more. It delves into characters, casting, locations, filming, training, etc. It’s a lot to take in, and it’s interesting in varying degrees, but fans of behind-the-scenes featurettes will enjoy seeing the process. The only section to avoid is the casting one, which is basically the cast and crew gushing about how perfect the people they’re working with are.

Character is also discussed in “Letters From the Rose Garden,” with Donald Sutherland (The Eagle) reading a letter he wrote to Gary Ross about his impressions of the movie’s villain, President Snow, and the conversation it spawned between them. Mostly, the featurette is an interesting look at Sutherland, and he spills a fun anecdote about a neighbor.

Sutherland’s smooth voice is heard behind the Capital Propoganda Film, shown in its entirety on the disc. It’s a nice touch for the extras, giving fans more of the story.

Visual effects is looked at closely in the longer making-of as well as in “Controlling the Games,” about the control center scenes. Bentley also talks about his own difficulties with these shots.

In the 15-minute “A Conversation With Gary Ross and Elvis Mitchell,” the critic interviews the director about The Hunger Games as it compares with his other movies as well as his reactions to the material itself. The featurette has some interesting moments, but it’s a lot of talking heads and might be a bit too much after all the other featurettes on the disc.

“Preparing for the Games: A Director’s Process” is more interesting, showing a scene from the film along with the corresponding script pages and storyboard pictures at the same time. The brief (less than three minutes) piece is an interesting look at how movie’s come together.

For fans of the books, Suzanne Collins is talked about extensively but she is absent, which might have been a decision on her part. In her place, we hear from Scholastic publisher David Levithan. Collins’ books are the focus of “Game Maker: Suzanne Collins and The Hunger Games Phenomenon.” It’s a good featurette, and there’s a nice photo of Collins and Levithan together. But I’m at a loss as to why the reviewer was put in here, as he doesn’t seem to know much about young adult books, describing them as “written down for children.” As well as being highly inaccurate, why insult the film’s source material?

The Blu-ray extras are rounded out with photos, a poster gallery and trailers.

Plus, there’s a fun Easter egg in the menu, a secret message from the resistance.

Buy or Rent The Hunger Games
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About S. Clark

Sam Clark is the former Managing Editor/Online Editor of Video Business magazine. With 19 years experience in journalism, 12 in the home entertainment industry, Sam has been hooked on movies on since she saw E.T. then stared into the sky waiting to meet her own friendly alien. Thanks to her husband’s shared love of movies, Sam reviews Blu-ray discs in a true home theater, with a 118-inch screen, projector and cushy recliners with cup holders.