The Hunger Games - 4K Blu-ray Review - Home Theater Forum and Systems - HomeTheaterShack.com

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The Hunger Games - 4K Blu-ray Review


Title: The Hunger Games

Movie:
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Audio:
Extras:


HTS Overall Score:87






Summary
"The Hunger Games" is going to be the next "Terminator 2". That is, it is going to be released and re-released every few years till the end of time. We've had the Blu-ray release. The trimmed down Blu-ray release, the 4 film collection and now the 2012 hit is getting a fully 4K combo pack release. While I normally get irritated with tons of re-releases, I'm more than willing to give the 4K disc a spin as I've been very impressed with the new evolution of the Blu-ray format into higher resolutions. While Lionsgate go off to a rocky start with poor releases like "The Expendables III" and "Ender's Game", these 4 films seem to have been given some TLC treatment as they look noticeably better than the films that went before it. Below is my original synopsis of the film for those who haven't seen it, but the video and audio sections and the final recommendation are brand new to elaborate on the enhanced video and audio from the shift to 4K.

It seems like every time I turn around ANOTHER tween book is being made into a movie. Ever since the success of the Harry Potter franchise we’ve been inundated with a wave of them. “Hunger Games” is the next in the line of book to movie adaptations ripe for young girls and boys to come swarming to the theater to see. I personally have never read the books, but my lovely wife has devoured them and is a constant source of information on what tween books have done right and wrong in their adaptation. Since I haven’t read the books I was fairly comfortable going into this review in an unbiased manner with no previous misconceptions or bias besides the fact that it was based off of a popular trilogy of books.

“Hunger Games” is set in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic, United States. It seems that 74 years or so prior to the movie there was a great civil war where many of the people rose up against the government and started a long and bloody conflict. In time the government won, but not until both sides had suffered heavy losses. As a penance the people where separated into 12 districts and required that each year one boy and one girl from each district are chosen through a lottery to compete in a “memorial” called the Hunger Games. This Hunger Games is no normal display of athletic prowess but rather a fight to the death, a way to give the people hope of a victor but still punish them and keep them under the watchful eye of the government. Each district is spread out and numbered in order of distance from the capital. As the districts go up in number the poorer and poorer they are the farther they are from the Capital.

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is a young girl living in district 12. Having lost her father at a young age she has had to take care of both her mother and her younger sister Primrose. Unfortunately for her, this year Primrose has the “luck” of being chosen to be in the upcoming hunger games. Knowing that Primrose won’t have a chance Katniss does what has never been done. She volunteers to take her sister’s place. Along with her male counterpart, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), she’s taken to the capital city where she is to be trained for the games. Once the games begin it’s an all-out brutal war to survive, but until then they have to “market” themselves to the rich and snobbish elite in the Capital, vying for endorsements that can save their life in the arena. Once in the arena, it’s every man and woman for himself, until Katniss decides to make some changes in the way the game is played……

Sounds exciting and a great romp in theory. Unfortunately for the viewer much of this story isn’t TOLD per se, but rather implied. Sidelong glances, symbols that aren’t explained, and cryptic phrases push the story along at a breakneck pace leaving the viewer to sit back and go “huh???” much of the time. I had to constantly push the pause button, look at my wife and ask her why people were doing certain things or why a certain symbol seemed to be such a big deal when it isn’t explained. I understand that this was taken from a very large book and things needed to be cut out, but disappointingly much of the explanations of things IN the movie were cut out as well. The rest of the story went very well though, had it not been for lack of explanation on certain events I would have rated the narrative much higher. My other complaint had to be the lack of emotional resonance with everyone but a select few. I found that the people NOT involved in the arena were much more fleshed out than the people INSIDE the arena. Woody Harrelson, as their mentor Haymitch, was brilliant and easily one of the best characters in the movie. Lenny Kravitch played Cinna so well that I almost couldn’t tell it was Lenny. Stanley Tucci is incredible as ever playing an over the top announcer for the Hunger games, a character so bizarrely twisted that you both hate and love him at the same time. Even Elizabeth Banks stepped out of her comfort zone and played a dolled up version of Dolores Umbridge from the Potter universe to a tee. However, the characters INSIDE the arena, the other contestants, were over clichéd and under developed. There are scenes where it’s very obvious that we’re supposed to care about different combatants deaths, but I found myself asking the question, “why am I supposed to care about this one again”? So much of the battles just felt lifeless and dull. A hollow “shell” so to speak. Personally I felt that with more fleshing out of the characters we could have had so much more on an emotional impact than what was imparted on us in this film.

As much as I felt the storyline could have used some fine tuning I did find a lot of enjoyment in the symbolism that was used. Everything from the decadent lifestyles of the rich, the wildly gaudy hair styles and addiction to ludicrous “fashion”, down to the abject poverty of the working class reminds me very much of French culture before their revolution. While the exploitation of the poor by tyrannical governments is nothing new every little subtle queue and dress just reeked of 17th century France before the great revolution occurred. Even the houses and dress of the working class had a very “French Countryside” feel to it.

While I’m sure I sound like someone who’s saying “the book is better” I went in without any knowledge of the books plotline besides the basics and came out wishing there was a director’s cut of the film to flesh out some of points instead of relying of previous knowledge of the books to completely understand what’s going on around us. Overall an enjoyable movie and in the “tween book to movie adaption” realm one of the better ones I’ve seen (I’m looking at you Twilight).



Rating:

Rated PG-13 for intense violent thematic material and disturbing images - all involving teens



Video

Lionsgate pictures once again gives us a fairly fantastic 2.40:1 HEVC transfer of "The Hunger Games". It's gone through a few unique color grading and filtering ticks on the ole tweak machine, mainly relating to Katniss' home and the outdoor arena. When home the color grading goes to a bleak and drab grey hue, while the outdoor arena scenes are dominated by hues of green and blue. Detail is fantastic, especially close ups. Several times (much to my wife's annoyance) I was caught pausing the film just to look at the incredible facial detail on Jennifer Lawrence face. Colors were bright and rich with PLENTY of saturation, ranging from drab greys and mild greens in Katniss' community all the way up to every single color the rainbow could ever imagine once we get to the Capital. However when faced with shaky cam material a lot of the fine detail can be obscured due to not being able to actually FOCUS on what's going on around you. The final irritation would be the the occasional close up that was literally swarming with digital noise. we'd switch from a scene that's as crisp and clear as can be to an extreme close up of Katniss that would be dancing with noise. Don't get me wrong, this issues are mostly an irritant to my OCD nature rather than a large visual distraction from an otherwise pristine picture. Much of this is the same form the Blu-ray release, but there is a noticeable uptick in quality when it comes to the textures and intimate facial details. Katniss' bow and the training look look simply incredible, and the colors look amazing and brightly saturated with the HDR enabled. blacks are sick and inky, but there is still a few flickers of banding nonetheless. the film had a 2K DI made for it back in 2012 and I'm assuming it's the same transfer used her today based upon some mild softness associated with the film along with the same digital noise in close ups. It's a very nice upgrade for the disc, and it certainly is one of Lonsgate's better catalog 4K UltraHD discs







Audio

Here’s where things get fun. I scored “The Hunger Games” a perfect 5/5 back in 2012 and rightfully so. It was an amazing 7.1 DTS-HD MA track and rocked my home theater quite nicely. Now it’s been given a steroid shot in the arm and comes back even better. Sadly I can’t edit my original review as it WAS a 5/5 star rated track at the time, but this one definitely is a distinct upgrade in the audio department. The same great sense of immersion and ferocious aggressiveness is still there, but we have some added opening up of the sound stage with an enhanced use of overheads for forest noises and the sounds of contestants killing each other. Katniss’s arrows shoot to the sides and overhead with a whistling sound that is both distinct and impressive, and the use of the ambient forest effects make for an increasingly creepy sense of immersion. Bass is unrelenting, with a sonic assault from beginning to end and the dialog is just as crisp and clean as before. Simply put, an amazing auditory experience for sure.



Extras:

• Metabeam Smart Remote
• BD Touch
• DTS-HD Master Audio Sound Check
• The World is Watching: Making The Hunger Games
• Game Maker: Suzanne Collins and The Hunger Games Phenomenon
• Letters from the Rose Garden
• Controlling the Games
• A Conversation with Gary Ross and Elvis Mitchell
• Preparing for the Games: A Director's Process
• Propaganda Film
• Marketing Gallery







Overall:

I still have mixed feelings about "The Hunger Games". On the story side I felt like there was just so much more that could have been done with it that wasn't. After viewing I was left feeling that we had the framework for an excellent movie, but instead we're plagued with several "tween" moments and a lack of "filling" that would have completed it. However It was still an enjoyable watch and coupled with it's enormous fan base I can see the other two books being made into movies which can hopefully flesh out some of the awkward and confusing moments of the film. The real question is. Should I upgrade my Blu-ray copy? (if you're one of the few people who have never picked up the films on Blu-ray or DVD). The answer to that is probably yes. Unless you want the uber cool special features on the "complete collection" Blu-ray 4 film set than this is a pretty easy upgrade. the video is one of the nicest 4K releases Lionsgate has done yet, and the incredible audio from the Blu-ray is enhanced with a very nice Atmos upgrade. I for one definitely enjoyed the uptick in quality on both audio and video fronts.


Additional Information:

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Stanley Tucci, Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland
Directed by: Gary Ross
Written by: Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 HEVC
Audio: Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Core), Spanish DD 5.1
Studio: Lionsgate
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 140 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: November 8th, 2016



Buy The Hunger Games On 4K Blu-ray at Amazon



Recommendation: Highly Recommended



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