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This Blu-ray collection arrived just before its release date, so I’m going to keep things brief and mostly technical, as well as including links to my previous series reviews. Do note that the re-release discs included in this set are identical to their older counterparts, right down to the out-of-date trailers.

The Hunger Games


The nation of Panem, formed from a post-apocalyptic North America, consists of a wealthy Capitol and twelve surrounding districts – each one poorer than the last. As a punishment for their failed rebellion, each year, one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each district are selected by a lottery called ‘The Reaping’ to participate in ‘The Hunger Games.’ These participants, or ‘Tributes,’ must fight to the death in a specially designed arena until only one remains alive. The games are televised throughout the districts, and the victor is rewarded with fame and enormous wealth. When her younger sister Primrose (Willow Shields) is selected, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), a 16-year-old girl from District 12, does the unthinkable and volunteers for the 74th Annual Hunger Games. The districts are quietly moved by her sacrifice. Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), a baker's son who Katniss remembers secretly giving her bread when her family was starving, is also selected. Katniss and Peeta are taken to the Capitol, where they are mentored by a drunken former Games victor, Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), and learn that the higher caste players have been training for the Games their entire lives.

See my review of the standalone release of The Hunger Games here.

 Hunger Games: Complete Four Film Collection

 Hunger Games: Complete Four Film Collection

 Hunger Games: Complete Four Film Collection

 Hunger Games: Complete Four Film Collection

 Hunger Games: Complete Four Film Collection


The Hunger Games: Catching Fire


Against all odds, Katniss and her fellow tribute Peeta have returned home after surviving The Hunger Games. Winning means they must turn around, leaving their loved ones behind, and embark on a “Victory Tour” through the districts. Along the way, Katniss senses a rebellion simmering – one that she and Peeta may have sparked. At the end of the Victory Tour, President Snow announces a deadly 75th Hunger Games that could change Panem forever. (From Lionsgate’s official synopsis)

See my review of the standalone release of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire here.

 Hunger Games: Complete Four Film Collection

 Hunger Games: Complete Four Film Collection

 Hunger Games: Complete Four Film Collection

 Hunger Games: Complete Four Film Collection

 Hunger Games: Complete Four Film Collection


Hunger Games: Mockingjay: Part 1


Following her rescue from the devastating Quarter Quell, Katniss awakens in the complex beneath the supposedly destroyed District 13. Her home, District 12, has been reduced to rubble, and Peeta is now the brainwashed captive of President Snow (Donald Sutherland). At the same time, Katniss also learns about a secret rebellion spreading throughout all of Panem -- a rebellion that will place her at the center of a plot to turn the tables on Snow. (From Lionsgate’s official synopsis)

The Hunger Games had established the story’s universe and the abilities of its fantastically qualified cast. Catching Fire refined the visuals, upped the stakes, and set the table for a big climax. With the story chugging along at a swift pace and the cliffhangers stacking up, Lionsgate and producers decided to take a page from the Harry Potter and Twilight playbooks and cut the final novel in Suzanne Collins’ trilogy series into two seperate movies. As in every recent case of stretching single books into multiple movies (including the Hobbit fiasco), Mockingjay: Part 1 is all set up – no pay off. Director Francis Lawrence and screenwriters Peter Craig & Danny Strong take advantage of the elongated runtime in terms of how much of the book they’re able to draw from, but the fact of the matter is that books and movies tend to operate on different narrative levels. Books can meander and break off into subplots, while movies – at least mainstream movies – thrive on a three-act structure. Mockingjay: Part 1 has the makings of a complex moral and political fable, but it rambles and loses steam on its two-hour trudge towards the one major plot-point: saving Peeta and the other hostages. It’s like stretching Han Solo’s rescue from Jabba’s palace into Return of the Jedi: Part 1.

I understand that this is the logical point to break the book in half and that the filmmakers did their best with a bad situation, so I’m more comfortable blaming the studio for this particular problem. Despite the uneven entertainment value, I do have to admit that the almost overwhelmingly bleak tone (the early images of a bombed-out District 12, strewn with the charred bodies of Katniss’ friends and neighbors are more unnerving than most blood-and-guts horror flicks) and lack of crowd-pleasing action is actually a respectfully brave move for the filmmakers. I even enjoyed the whole ‘Katniss can’t be coached into being the icon of a rebellion’ subplot, because it’s the kind of unusually specific narrative avenue that makes The Hunger Games better than its more cliche-driven competitors. There’s just no good reason – aside from box office receipts – that the entirety of this film couldn’t have been compacted into 30 minutes of a standalone movie.

Mockingjay: Part 1 was the first Hunger Games movie to be shot using digital cameras (Arri Alexas), instead of 35mm and IMAX film. This 2.40:1, 1080p Blu-ray transfer does appear significantly cleaner and smoother than the two film-based movies. Lawrence and cinematographer Jo Willems still maintain relative visual continuity with Catching Fire (the first movie really is ugly and I’m glad it didn’t dictate the look of the entire series), but the more heavy-handed colour grading is a bit obnoxious, especially the rusty orange and green interiors of the District 13 rebel base. Here, the prevalent darkness, shallow focus, and desaturated tones create blobby banding effects and smudge-up the crisper edges. The HD image helps to support shapes, but the 1080p abilities are best left to the more vivid daylight exteriors. The deeper focus, brighter lights, and more eclectic hues lead to tighter, more complex images and harder blacks. Occasional muddiness aside, there aren’t any notable compression effects.

Mockingjay: Part 1 was also the first Hunger Games Blu-ray to feature a Dolby Atmos sound option. This review pertains to the Atmos’ core Dolby TruHD 7.1. As a more internalized set-up for the next film’s bigger action spectacle, there isn’t a whole lot of room for the track to show off, outside of a couple of explosions and the big rescue climax. But, even the driest environmental ambience keeps the channels buzzing with machinery, chatter, and the echo of the otherwise crisp dialogue tracks. While his score doesn’t have too many ‘hero moments,’ returning composer James Newton Howard’s music still offers plenty of stereo and LFE support. The most spectacular sequence in the entire film, where Katniss sings to the mockingjays and her song bleeds into the following shots of rebels marching on the hydroelectric dam that powers the Capitol, is also the soundtrack’s shining moment.

Extras include
  • Audio Commentary with director Francis Lawrence and producer Nina Jacobson
  • The Mockingjay Lives: The Making of Mockingjay – Part 1:
    • Hope and Rebellion: Continuing the Saga (12:00, HD) – The cast and crew discuss the emotional stakes of the third movie, choosing to keep Lawrence as director, dividing Collins’ book in two, and changing some of the source material’s plot points and chracters.
    • Designing Dystopia: Visual Aesthetic (13:20, HD) – A look at the production design and set construction.
    • Rebels and Warriors: The Cast (14:00, HD) – This casting featurette explores the on-set relationships and introduction of new characters.
    • Fusing Form and Function: Costume, Make-up & Hair (22:50, HD) – An in-depth breakdown of the challenges the costume, make-up, and hair departments faced in depicting the utilitarian District 13 residents.
    • Fighting the System: Shooting on Location (16:50, HD) – Behind-the-scenes clips from the Atlanta locations.
    • D13: Rebellion Tactics: Stunts & Special Effects (16:40, HD) – An exploration of the big action and sci-fi sequences, from design and previsualization, to physical effects elements, digital effects augmentations, and the stunt team’s planning/execution.
    • Perfecting Panem: The Post-Production Process (29:50, HD) – Further special effects work (including before and after comparisons, editing, Howard’s music, and the sound design.
    • Taking Back Our Future: Reflections and Looking Forward (9:30, HD) – A wrap-up and tease of the things to come in the final movie.
  • Straight From the Heart: A Tribute to Philip Seymour Hoffman (11:00, HD) – A touching memorial for the actor, who died during the production of the Mockingjay movies.
  • Songs of Rebellion: Lorde on Curating the Soundtrack (8:10, HD) – The singer/songwriter discusses her involvement in the series.
  • Lorde “Yellow Flicker Beat” music video
  • Nine deleted scenes (11:20, HD)
  • Sneak Peek of The Divergent Series: Insurgent
  • Trailers for other Lionsgate releases


 Hunger Games: Complete Four Film Collection

 Hunger Games: Complete Four Film Collection

 Hunger Games: Complete Four Film Collection

 Hunger Games: Complete Four Film Collection

 Hunger Games: Complete Four Film Collection

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2


Realizing the stakes are no longer just for survival, Katniss teams up with her closest friends, including Peeta, Gale (Liam Hemsworth), and Finnick for the ultimate mission. Together, they leave District 13 to liberate the citizens of war-torn Panem and assassinate President Snow, who's obsessed with destroying Katniss. What lies ahead are mortal traps, dangerous enemies, and moral choices that will ultimately determine the future of millions. (From Lionsgate’s official synopsis)

I had assumed that, like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 and Twilight Saga – Breaking Dawn Part 2, Mockingjay: Part 2 would be all dessert. The audience earns the climax by paying to eat their vegetables. For better or worse, that’s not how it worked this time. In its broadest strokes, Mockingjay: Part 2 delivers upon the promised action spectacle with the ne plus ultra of Hunger Games set within the concrete jungle of the Capitol, which is a nice contrast to the forest environments of the first two movies. Here, Lawrence shows off his penchant for clean, methodical action direction and squeezes every penny from the sizable $160 million budget (it seems that price will get you much more convincing CG critters than the first film’s $78 million). He takes some inspiration from Alfonso Cuarón’s virtuoso vérité Children of Men (2006) for the bigger battle sequences and defaults to Ridley Scott’s classic Alien (1979) motifs while wringing suspense out of the monster attack. And all the while he maintains that brutal bleak quality that presses these films beyond the blockbuster fluff they could’ve been, had they been placed in the wrong hands.

Unfortunately, it turns out there’s an awful lot of story left to cull through on the way to the spectacular brawl. This excess of plot renders many of the previous film’s narrative concepts extraneous. At the same time, Mockingjay: Part 2 is less sophisticated in its approach to the politics of propaganda. Craig & Strong revisit the same basic themes – “war is hell,” “there are two sides to every story,” “leadership is earned, not ordained,” et cetera – with considerably less of that uniquely ambiguous tone. While Katniss’ quest is hardened and her relationships with her friends are strained, the moral heart of the story is too streamlined. The story ends in a wonderfully complicated ethical conundrum, but many of the interim attempts to bloody the ethical waters fall short, especially where Peeta is concerned. He’s reduced to a moping stereotype and a liability in battle. He no longer offers anything to the story besides plot inconsistencies and unnecessary hurdles on the way to the end of the line (side note: Katniss gets knocked unconscious an awful lot in these movies and people keep having to explain the plot to her – it’s a weird narrative tic). I know I’m echoing myself like a broken record, but, I really think the major issues with both of the Mockingjay movies could be solved by combining them into a single film. The performances, Lawrence’s general direction, and the greater story arc would all benefit from compression. At least 90 minutes.

Mockingjay Part 2 was also shot on Arri Alexa digital HD and, since the shoot overlapped with Part 1, the look and quality of this 2.40:1, 1080p transfer matches the Mockingjay Part 1 release. This transfer has a small advantage, because the film isn’t stuck in the doldrums of the District 13 base for nearly as much screen time. It’s still pretty dark and over-graded into limit the colour palette, but the greys and blues of the city offer greater contrast and, in turn, tighter details. Once the film is out in the open, the backgrounds are swimming in fine textures and relatively complex shading effects. Blacks are also relatively consistent and neatly set against the subtler highlight elements. There are still some banding effects here and there, but no edge enhancement or major noise issues.

Mockingjay Part 2 maintains the next-gen Atmos track. The quieter, drier sound design continues throughout the earlier parts of the movie, but there are new locations/districts to make these subtler moments a bit more eclectic. Then we get into the pseudo-Hunger Games part of the film and the sound designers are able to cut loose with dynamic action, including flame-throwing explosions, giant machine guns, waves of oil, hissing gas, screaming critters, and whirring floor grinders. The increase in action and heroic moments means that Howard’s score gets a nice boost as well, especially where percussion and horns are concerned.

Extras include:
  • Audio Commentary with Director Francis Lawrence and Producer Nina Jacobson
  • Pawns No More: Making The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2:
    • Walking Through Fire: Concluding the Saga (14:00, HD) – An introduction to the themes of the final film.
    • Real or Not Real: Visual Design (10:30, HD) – The first of many featurettes that act as a continuation of the Mockingjay: Part 1 extras. This one covers the new set and production design, specifically the interior of the Capitol.
    • High-Value Targets: The Acting Ensemble (17:20, HD) – A continuing look at the cast of the series, their growth, and the final film’s new characters.
    • From Head to Toe: Costume, Make-up & Hair (14:20, HD) – One final ode to the costume, make-up, and hair designers, who had a very eclectic job in Mockingjay: Part 2.
    • Navigating the Minefield: Production in Atlanta, Paris & Berlin (13:50, HD) – More on the perils of location shooting, which extended beyond Atlanta for this film.
    • Collateral Damage: Stunts, Special Effects & Weapons (19:00, HD) – Mockingjay: Part 2 ended up with the largest scale and the most action, enough that the stunt and effects techs treated it as a war film.
    • Tightening the Noose: The Post-Production Process (30:10, HD) – Another glance at special effects, editing, music, and sound design of the Hunger Games series.
    • A Different World: Reflections (23:30, HD) – A final wrap-up of not only the Mockingjay movies, but the entire Hunger Games franchise. The final shot of principle production ended up being a scene between Katniss and Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) that was intended for the late Philip Seymour Hoffman.
  • The Hunger Games: A Photographic Journey (10:20, HD) – An interview with behind-the-scenes photographer Murray Close.
  • Cinna’s Sketchbook: Secrets of the Mockingjay Armor (9:20, HD) – Concerning the fabrication of Cinna’s sketchbook prop and the design of the final Mockingjay costume.
  • Panem on Display: The Hunger Games – The Exhibition (2:00, HD) – A promo for the Hunger Games experience that coincided with the release of the final film.
  • Jet to the Set: The Hunger Games (42:00, HD) – This Blu-ray exclusive is an episode of a documentary series in which two obnoxious women travel to Atlanta to visit tourist attractions and Hunger Games locations. I don’t know if this was an Atlanta tourism bureau/Lionsgate concoction or if it is intended to be an ongoing series.
  • Trailers for other Lionsgate releases.


 Hunger Games: Complete Four Film Collection

 Hunger Games: Complete Four Film Collection

 Hunger Games: Complete Four Film Collection

 Hunger Games: Complete Four Film Collection

 Hunger Games: Complete Four Film Collection

In addition to the three films and the original Hunger Games bonus disc, this collection includes a sixth disc of features – some of which is exclusive content. However, the non-exclusive content is available elsewhere on the other five discs. That’s hours and hours of disc space spent on doubled content. Very strange. Anyway, the exclusive new stuff includes:

  • The Hunger Games:
    • Twelve deleted/extended (mostly extended) scenes (21:10, HD)
  • Catching Fire:
    • Capitol Cuisine (5:00, HD) – Hunger Games and Catching Fire food stylist Jack White discusses his contributions to the movies.
    • Deleted scene (00:40, HD)
  • Mockingjay: Part 1:
      Featurettes (originally Target exclusives):[list]
    • Rubble and Ashes (9:10, HD) – A further exploration of the set/production design.
    • Utilitarian Chic (13:40, HD) – More on the costumes and make-up.
    • The Propos Team (12:00, HD) – Bios on the characters and cast members that make up Katniss’ production team.
    • Combat Zone: Stunts (11:50, HD) – Behind-the-scenes of some of the action sequences that weren’t covered in the previous featurettes.
    • Katniss Propo Video (00:20. HD) – The propaganda video that is seen in parts throughout the movie.
    • Picturing Panem (7:50, HD) – The only exclusive Mockingjay: Part 1 featurette is a collection of behind-the-scenes photos with narration from photographer Murray Close.


* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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