Available today on DVD and Blu-ray is the first major success of 2012. Gary Ross’ The Hunger Games stormed the Box Office, breaking records as it did so. So does the Blu-ray release do the film justice? Let’s find out.
When Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to take part in The Hunger Games after her younger sister’s name is drawn out in the lottery she is quickly taken away from the squalor of District 12 and away from her family and best friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth). Alongside her is fellow tribute Peeta (Josh Hutcheson) and mentor Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), as they travel to the totalitarian Capitol to be paraded to the world before going to the Arena and asked to fight other children from the remaining 11 districts to the death, all for the viewing public of Panem.
At this point in the year there have been bigger and bolder blockbusters released – The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises take a bow – but the fact that, even after the huge summer we’ve had, I still remember how I felt after watching The Hunger Games means something. Yes, the others were more robust and action packed but I think the cultural message at the centre of The Hunger Games rings out and demonstrations that you don’t need superhero’s to get an audience into a theatres. The dissection of wider society and their need for reality TV and desire to see people suffer; it intelligently exchanges emotional anguish for physical pain and death. It’s an extreme, but it’s needed to have the impact that it does.
But what Gary Ross is able to do, and where the film really succeeds, is wrapping an entertaining story full of likeable, but flawed, characters and well realised universe around that central theme. You can’t help but fall for Katniss as she discovers her strength, both mental and physical, when she’s put the impossible situation she finds herself in. And in a year of big masculine summer releases, she’s the heroine 2012 needed.
And everything is so well controlled, the vérité style helping to keep the film keep its naturalist feel and its feet firmly on the ground. Including the use of the societal hierarchy as well as the subdued but still evident futuristic setting, the director doing an impeccable job as he doesn’t overpower the film with any of the obvious tropes you would expect, managing to keep a fixed balance throughout. He lets the story and characters tell the story, with it never feeling overproduced.
But now onto the disc and I’m glad that I can say that fans will not be disappointed because the 1080p transfer, represented in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio, is one of the best I’ve seen. The way it deals with the palette changes for each environment is beautiful, from the neutral browns and greens of District 12 and the Arena to the vibrant primary colours of the extravagant Capitol. The crispness of the image is actually astounding, every detail is captured and the sound is pretty much exactly the same. Its DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 audio mix is absolutely booming, and like the image quality does not miss a thing, only accentuating the phenomenal sound design of the film. On a technical level, the disc really can’t be faulted.
But what about the special features? I hear you ask. Well the main attraction would be the 2hr ‘Making of’ documentary which chronicles the journey from first concept to release day. It’s enjoyable and includes all the main players of the film, either in talking heads or actual behind the scenes footage. In-depth but still fun, it’s a must for any fan. Other notable inclusions include a featurette on Suzanne Collins and the phenomena that has become of her novels, a short one with Donald Sutherland about playing President Snow and finally one concerning the creation of the games’ control centre we see in the games. There are a couple more little things here and there such as the Propaganda film in full and some marketing slideshows, but nothing worth discussing.
Overall, a fantastic movie that zips through is massive 141 minute runtime represented with a glorious transfer on a disc that doesn’t lack bonus content. It’s great to see Lionsgate treat the material with the respect it deserves and deliver something extra for the fans that went out in their droves to see it in theatres.