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Hunger Games, The (Blu-ray Review)

15 Aug, 2012 By: Chris Tribbey

Street 8/18/12
Box Office $407.3 million
$30.98 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense violent thematic material and disturbing images — all involving teens.
Stars Jennifer Lawrence, Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth.

For the Blu-ray Disc release of The Hunger Games, Lionsgate doesn’t even bother with any critic’s quotes on the packaging. Why should they?

The film lays claim to the biggest-ever non-summer theatrical opening, the second best ever non-sequel opening, the fifth best opening of all time, and near-universal praise from critics and fans alike. Packaging quotes would be redundant.

Anyone who read Suzanne Collins’ trilogy beforehand knew how big it would be. Everyone else has figured it out by now.

In The Hunger Games, the new Super Bowl is a reality TV version of a gladiator fight to the death, with 24 teens as the contestants. The Capitol, the seat of power in this post-apocalyptic version of North America, uses the Games to solidify its control over the dozen districts remaining after nuclear war decimated the country.

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), a starving teen from District 12, volunteers for the annual bloodbath to spare her sister, and quickly becomes a fan favorite, thanks in part to a manufactured romance with fellow tribute Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). Their story becomes the spark behind a much larger epic, a revolution outside the arena.

So much is made by fans regarding what was left out of The Hunger Games: the mute Avoxes, Madge, Katiness’ peer who gave her the mockingjay pendant. Cinna’s assistants are barely glossed over, and the tracker jackers in the arena aren’t half as fearsome as in the novel. So much is also made of what wasn’t in the book: the unrest in District 11, the behind-the-scenes of the game room, the president’s rose garden.

It’s all necessary. Collins herself has noted that the movie and book are “individual yet complementary pieces that enhance one another.” Collins’ novels are from Katiness’ perspective, and two-and-a-half hours of first-person narrative wouldn’t have worked. Director Gary Ross stays true to the theme while bringing alive his own visually arresting interpretation of the narrative.

Everyone gushes about Lawrence’s performance as Katniss, and rightly so. It’s a breakout, career-defining role. Yet everyone else — from the unknown kids playing the tributes to the huge stars on screen for mere minutes — captivates. Elizabeth Banks’ oblivious Effie and Woody Harrelson’s blasé Haymitch top the list, but Lenny Kravitz’s quietly supportive Cinna and Donald Sutherland’s quietly seething President Snow are also indicative of how perfectly cast this film was.

Lionsgate knows it has home entertainment gold with The Hunger Games and, appropriately, the studio has fun with the disc, even before the bonuses, with an awesome introduction, slick menus and Capitol-sponsored “mandatory” previews.

A two-plus hour making-of featurette, covering everything from casting to the theatrical premiere, is the centerpiece, with the design and action portions the most entertaining. Overall it’s run-of-the-mill in terms of content, but it’s exhaustive in what it covers.

As excellent as this Blu-ray is — audio and visual included — there are two noteworthy absences. First, for all the hours of bonus features, including an entire featurette about her work (“Game Maker: Suzanne Collins and ‘The Hunger Games’ phenomenon”), we don’t hear word one from the author responsible for all this. No video, no interviews, nothing. It’s a severe disappointment.

The only thing more disappointing? No deleted scenes (sorry girls, nothing more from the cave scenes). But while it’s a letdown, it’s not surprising. Lionsgate would be foolish not to hold back a lot of footage and features for future releases. The odds of seeing a ‘Hunger Games’ trilogy set in the future are surely in the fans’ favor.

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