By Roger Longenbach
Aug 19, 2012 08:06 PM EST

The Hunger Games Blu-ray Review

The Hunger Games Blu-ray Review
Purchase  Blu-ray | Digital HD
Out on Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy is one of 2012's most popular movies (currently #3, which is surprisingly good considering it was released in March, not during the summer season).  Based on the book with the same name, The Hunger Games is part one of a trilogy, which will have two movies for the finale just like the Twilight Saga (and until the most recent decision to move the Hobbit from two movies into three).

Countdown to the release of Catching Fire, with the iPhone Movie Countdown Clock App.

It takes place in the future, where the United States has been dissolved and reformed as Panem, which had 13 "Districts" with one central Capitol.  Seventy-four years earlier the districts revolved against the Capitol and lost, and in punishment, agreed on the Treaty of the Treason, which called for an annual game where a boy and a girl between the ages of 12 and 18 were pulled from each District, and forced to fight to the death on national television.  The winner gets to live in special housing and doesn't have to worry about money or food for the rest of their lives.  This is where the movie begins.  It is "Reaping Day" for the 74th Annual Hunger Games.  We are quickly introduced to District 12, and to the lead character, Katniss (played by Jennifer Lawrence), who volunteers for the Games in exchange for her sister, who, on her first year, had her name pulled to participate in the games.  The boy from District 12 is Peeta Mellark (played by Josh Hutchinson), who has known Katniss for a very long time.  They travel to the Capitol and on to the games – I don't want to give anything else away for those who haven't already seen the movie or have read the books. 

Some things are in the movie that is not in the book however – the interaction between President Snow (portrayed by Donald Sutherland) and the Gameskeeper Seneca Crane is not in the book but it is necessary to explain some of the background situation – which is explained early on in Catching Fire (the next book and movie).  After watching it again on Blu-Ray, the movie got stronger in my opinion.  There are countless foreshadowing statements made by the lead characters, some of which you won't see until the last of the trilogy.  Additionally, the direction by Gary Ross was amazing.  In the scene right before the Games begin, you can see Katniss trembling from the fight or flight response – those little details are often missed in many movies but this one does not disappoint.  It helps draw you in to her feelings when usually movies need additional dialogue or a voiceover to explain.  The hidden gem of the movie however, has to be Cinna (played by Lenny Kravitz).  Knowing the future of this character helped me see the little nuances he portrayed in his character and why he so badly wanted to help the poorest District in the Games.  He is a calming influence for Katniss, and will be very important in the next movie.  But the best character in terms of overall acting and story has to be is Caesar Flickerman, played by Stanley Tucci.  His portrayal captured the character perfectly from the book – the enthusiasm that he shows in the role as Caesar is nothing short of marvelous.  From the various facial expressions he makes to the tone of his responses, you can tell that he was giving the role everything that he could, and in doing so, he captured it brilliantly.

Some other things were cut from the book, and there were some other scenes (apart from the President Snow scenes mentioned above) added. A scene with another District rioting is not in the book – that event takes place in the next book but in order to set the stage for the story moving forward (and to leave a small cliffhanger in this movie) I see that it was an excellent fit.  And oh, the movie doesn't discuss District 13.  Yeah, again it wasn't necessary for this movie, but I wouldn't be surprised if it is one of the first items covered in Catching Fire (which you can countdown to the release of using the Movie Clock app).  Combining all of the little things that have added up, from the special effects for the Girl on Fire, to the scenes taking place in the Games arena, this is an excellent movie.  So even though it's not 100% from the book, if you exclude this year's crop of comic-book movies, The Hunger Games is the best movie of the year.

The Blu-ray transfer was excellent – the graininess of some scenes is evident but that was present in the theatrical release, and the sound mix is faithful to the theatre-mix.  The second disc includes special features including a copy of the Capitol Propaganda Film that is shown during the Reaping, in addition to numerous making of featurettes.  It also includes either an iTunes or Ultraviolet digital copy – a welcome change from other companies that only give you one choice.

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