I think Harry Potter filmmakers were really onto something when they decided to turn Deathly Hallows into two parts. The book was nearly 700 pages long and, having read it twice, there was a lot of stuff going on. But as we all know, Hollywood is a business and their business is making money (and entertaining the masses). Harry Potter delivered the goods with ticket sales and it sparked the fire for other franchises to come. The Twilight Saga soon followed the blueprint, now the Hunger Games and soon the Divergent films will do the same (and others as well, I’m sure). I won’t criticize Hollywood for doing what they’re supposed to do, but it’s a double-edged sword when it comes the audiences. I’m in favor of getting it all out there in one shot – said and done. But I don’t run Tinseltown. Moving on, we’ve now reached the first part of the final installment of The Hunger Games – hell has broken loose, the country is on the verge of a Civil War and Katniss and Peeta have been separated. Life is good? Not quite.
Taking up right where Catching Fire left off we find Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) in the hands of District 13. Having been separated after the Quarter Quell from Peeta (Josh Hutchinson), Panem is in a state of disarray and on the verge of Civil War. Katniss, now in the capable hands of President Coin (Julianne Moore) and former Gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), is the literal face of the revolution. The plan is to use Katniss to take her “spark” (so to speak) and use her in an elaborate Marketing plan. The ultimate goal is to unite the twelve Districts and rise up against the Capitol, thus ending the tyranny. Add to this that Peeta is now the face and voice of the Capitol – representing the ultimate in a conflict of interests. With the help of Betee (Jeffrey Wright), they’re able to tap into the Capitol’s network. The question is…will it work?
As I’d alluded to in the opening paragraph, this movie is merely a precursor to all of the “good stuff” that will happen in the final installment. Having read the novels by Suzanne Collins, there was a lot of material to cover in the book. While it would have been nice to have it all neatly wrapped up, I suppose there is some merit in having this spread out over the year. But much like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, all of the action will come to a head in Part II. Then again, we all know that. It’s nice to see Hoffman in his last role and if you want to talk about timing, seeing Julianne Moore in a starring role about a week after she won her Best Actress Oscar – I’m sure the studio is beaming! Good, solid performances abound and the film does set the stage well for the final part. Stay tuned…
Video: How’s it look?
Dark, dank and mostly lacking color would be how I could best describe this transfer. On a technical level it looks the part, the 2.40:1 AVC HD image reeks of everything that we’d expect from a Blu-ray. The movie shows the aftermath of war and battle and it does so in a very convincing way. The smoldering ash, the scrapes and scratches on the actors’ faces are so lifelike that you can feel their pain. The limited scenes in the Capitol are vivid and bright with Ceasar’s purple ‘do taking front and center. Granted, this might be the most colorful film out there, but it looks how it was intended.
Audio: How’s it sound?
There are a few instances in which the DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack really spreads its wings (sorry, I couldn’t resist). The audio, by and large, is mostly dialogue-driven which sounds clear and crisp. When Katniss sings the “anthem” you can hear the little cracks in her voice, desperate and sullen. It’s quite a moment, actually. Contrast this to some of the action-oriented sequences and it makes for quite a robust mix, but at the right times. This checks all the boxes, for sure.
Supplements: What are the extras?
In what will likely be one of the bigger of this year’s titles, Lionsgate has given a very good assortment of features.
Audio Commentary with Director Francis Lawrence and Producer Nina Jacobson – Director Francis Lawrence (who will have helmed three of the four installments of the franchise when all is said and done) along with partner-in-crime Nina Jacobson discuss the movie, a lot of technical information, how and why to split the film into two parts and everything else in between. It’s a nice and very informative track.
The Mockingjay Lives: The Making of Mockingjay Part 1 – An expansive documentary broken down into seven shorter, but no less informative, featureless.
Hope and Rebellion: Continuing the Saga
Designing Dystopia: Visual Aesthetic
Rebels and Warriors: The Cast
Fusing Form and Function: Costume, Make-Up and Hair
Fighting the System: Shooting on Location
D13: Rebellion Tactics: Stunts and Special Effects
Perfecting Panem: The Post-Production Process
Straight from the Heart: A Tribute to Philip Seymour Hoffman – Essentially a montage and farewell to a great actor.
Songs of Rebellion: Lorde on Creating the Soundtrack – A look at the music in the film, including the “anthem.”
Deleted Scenes – Even at eleven minutes, these didn’t seem to offer much. It’s pretty clear why they were cut.
Music Video – Lorde’s “Yellow Flicker Beat”
Insurgent Sneak Peak – Lionsgate is not letting this opportunity go to waste as they feature a look at the second installment in the Divergent series.
The Bottom Line
Like other “Part I’s” out there, this is merely a precursor to the real ending to the film. I’m glad that they took the time to explore the nuances in the film, but let’s face it – this is merely trying to milk this franchise for all its worth. I realize movies are a business and that this disc contains amazing A/V and supplemental material, but Part II is where all the action will be.