It often amazes me how the littlest, most simplistic things can really take shape and turn into something tangible. Case in point, author Suzanne Collins was channel surfing a few years back and word has it that she was watching the television show Survivor (you know, the one where they vote people off an island after competing in challenges). Collins then ended up on CNN and was watching some footage of the war over in Iraq and her wheels began to turn. Essentially she took what she’d seen and eventually came up with The Hunger Games. Yes, I guess it really was that simple. Well when you’re an author and have a thoughtful and creative imagination – I guess that helps too. The book was an instant success and two more followed in the coming years: Catching Fire and Mockingjay. In 2012, the first novel was adapted into a film and the audiences for Harry Potter and Twilight needed something else to follow. As it turns out, the new hero was Katniss Everdeen and this is her story.
The world has nearly been destroyed and a new country has taken shape. It’s name: Panem. The country is the United States, or what used to be the United States, and in place of states are districts. Twelve in all. The government is called the Capital and is overseen by President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Once a year, a male and a female representative from each of the 12 districts are chosen at random to compete in the Hunger Games. Eventually only one will emerge as the victor and will then live the rest of their lives in luxury. These games are televised to the entire country to see and it re-asserts the Capital’s dominance. We then meet our heroine, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), who, when her sister is chosen, volunteers for the Hunger Games. The stage is set and Katniss is off the literally fight for her life.
There is, of course, much more to The Hunger Games than that, but I don’t want to ruin anything for anyone who hasn’t been exposed to the novels and/or films. Suffice it to say that there are a lot of politics in Suzanne Collins’ books and films, no doubt a result of things we all see and absorb via television every single day. The Hunger Games was one of the top grossing films of 2012 and the question of a sequel were answered in the opening weekend. Fans of the books will have long since seen this film and this Blu-ray review is coming late since this somehow got lost in the shuffle. Full with a great ensemble cast that includes Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks and Wes Bentley, The Hunger Games essentially has something for everyone. I’d keep the little ones away, but no doubt they’ll recognize Katniss regardless. Recommended.
Video: How’s it look?
This is one of the few films I saw in theaters in recent years and I’ve also seen this on Blu-ray and now in Ultra HD/4K. The film looks good and it’s new so there’s not a night and day difference between the Blu-ray and Ultra HD copy. There is increased color saturation (HDR) with the 4K version and colors are bold and deep in some scenes, the District 12 scenes appear bland, cold, grey and washed out – but that’s how it’s supposed to look. Detail is amazing, we can see the intricate beard of Senaca Crane, the whips of fire coming off Katniss’ dress and the blood and cuts of those less fortunate. This essentially looks like we’d think it would – amazing. Interestingly, Lionsgate had a split screen comparison between the 1080P version and the 4K version. Can you tell which is which?
Audio: How’s it sound?
The original DTS HD Master Audio mix from the Blu-ray has been replaced by a new Dolby Atmos mix that ups the ante a bit. Vocals are spot on, rich and vibrant, the surrounds offer a variety of sounds, ranging from jungle ambiance to explosions and the clashing of swords. The LFE are pretty involved as well, offering a robust feel to some of the later scenes in the film. Overall it’s a very immersive soundtrack that doesn’t fail to deliver. There’s not a lot more I can say about this other than to turn it up and enjoy it. Offering a more atmospheric and encompassing mix, this is a welcome change from the standard mix from before and it’s a nice inclusion to have.
Supplements: What are the extras?
There have been a few different versions of this movie on disc over the years, so while this 4K version doesn’t include all of those features, here’s what is incuded:
Audio Commentary – Editor Stephen Mirrione, Visual Effects Supervisor Sheena Duggal, and Supervising Sound Editor Lon Bender combine for a pretty in-depth and interesting track. Ironically I can’t find any evidence of this on any other disc for this film, so perhaps it might be new or exclusive to this release? I’d find that hard to believe since studios generally don’t create new content for a 4K release, but it’s here nonetheless.
The World is Watching: Making The Hunger Games – This eight part documentary covers just about all the bases of this film, from adapting the book to screen, the casting, planning, location scouting to the ensemble cast. Put it this way, just about everything you need to know is contained in this 2 hour, informative documentary.
Game Maker: Suzanne Collins and The Hunger Games Phenomenon – We get an interview with author Suzanne Collins who tells of the film’s origins and its subsequent journey to the screen.
Letters from the Rose Garden – Regardless of your opinions on Donald Sutherland, we get some very candid commentary by him regarding his part in the film, his fight to get the part and some of his rather political remarks.
The Bottom Line
Oh, they’re not done just yet! There will always be a way to get your money and The Hunger Games quadrilogy is now in 4K. While it doesn’t contain all of the supplements of the previous version, it does offer a better picture with a better sound mix and the addition of a commentary (which I was unable to find anywhere else) is the icing on the cake. While the latter installments might not be as highly coveted as this, I’d recommend this first movie for your collection.