HTS Moderator , Reviewer
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=9138[/img]Title: The Hunger Games
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Stanley Tucci, Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland
Directed by: Gary Ross
Written by: Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins
Runtime: 140 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: August 18th, 2012
HTS Overall Score:88.5
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……
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=9140[/img]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).
Rated PG-13 for intense violent thematic material and disturbing images - all involving teens
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=9141[/img]Lionsgate pictures gives us a fairly fantastic 2.40:1 AVC 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 occaisonal 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. Overall I'd say Lionsgate did an extremely faithful job of bringing this to the home market.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=9142[/img]Audio wise, the movie is just about FLAWLESS! Dialogue is smooth and clear without any distortion or overshadowing by the rest of the track. Voices are distinct and well balanced. You can hear Katniss whisper right up to Peeta's ear or hear here screaming over a friend's death perfectly without the need to jack up the audio or crank it down due to uncomfortable recording levels. Surrounds are incredible, birds chirp right over your shoulders and I swear several times that an arrow nearly missed my OWN head by about an inch! LFE, oh you beautiful beautiful thing, what can I say about you. LFE was DEEEEEEP and rich. LOTS of sub 20hz material here boys and girls. Landing ships rumbled so deep and low that I could feel some of the hairs on my arm raising during a few scenes. LFE was used frequently but also appropriately. Instead of a non stop sonic LFE attack there were quite a few scenes where the only LFE was small thud or bang from a cannon and then we would attacked by an entire 5 minutes of Katniss running from a raging forest fire that literally made my subs cry for mercy. Score was simple and beautiful, almost to the point of not noticing it, but in a good way. it wound it's way throughout the film lightly dancing around without ever becoming intrusive but still drawing the viewer into the feeling of the story.
• 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
I 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. Being that we have another new demo quality audio/video presentation I forsee this disc spinning in many homes for quite some time to come. Whether it has the staying power of Harry Potter or will fade like Twilight is yet to be seen, but either way I give it a good solid thumbs up for entertainment value alone and recommend a solid rental.
Recommendation: Rent It!