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DVD Review: The Hunger Games

August 17, 2012

The Hunger Games – An Alliance Films’ Release

DVD Release Date: August 18th, 2012

Rated 14A for violence and disturbing content

Running time: 142 minutes


Gary Ross (dir.)


Gary Ross (screenplay)

Suzanne Collins (screenplay)

Billy Ray (screenplay)


Based on the novel by Suzanne Collins


James Newton Howard (music)


Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen

Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark

Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy

Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket


Our reviews below:


The Hunger Games DVD Review By John C.

**** (out of 4)

Watching The Hunger Games, it is impossible not to feel a rush of excitement like you are witnessing the dawn of a pop culture zeitgeist still in the making.  But this is also a thrilling, personal and emotionally powerful film filled with constant suspense, that stands proudly alongside the bestselling trilogy of novels by Suzanne Collins.  Every year, two teenaged tributes are selected by the rich Capitol of Panem from each of the twelve Districts, to compete to the death in the annual Hunger Games.  There are two dozen contestants competing in the televised event, but only one winner who will be awarded with extra food for their poor villages.  After taking the place of her sister Prim (Willow Shields) at the reaping in District 12, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is chosen to be sent into the arena alongside the kind Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson).


This is a cautionary tale of how quickly things could devolve in society, and it encourages an important discussion about the implications of reality television and violence for the sake of entertainment.  The changes that have been made from the book and the scenes that have been added make this the rare adaptation that stays faithful to the strong source material, while still standing on its own.  The way Gary Ross directs the action scenes is captivating, thrusting us into the midst of the barbaric chaos.  From the excellent performances to the impressive look of the film and haunting musical score, this is a triumph that delivers on multiple levels.  A thrilling and emotionally resonant blockbuster that feels both epic and personal at the same time, The Hunger Games is one of the best movies of the year.  Please read my full thoughts on the film here.


The Blu-ray set comes with a second disc devoted entirely to special features, including numerous “behind the scenes” featurettes as well as the short propaganda film seen in the movie.


The Hunger Games DVD Review By Erin V.  

**** (out of 4)

Based on the first book in the best-selling trilogy by Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games is one of those film adaptations that really works.


For those not familiar with the book series – and there are a few – The Hunger Games takes place in an undetermined future time, in a country called Panem.  Panem is divided into 12 districts and one Capitol.  In punishment for the districts attempt at an uprising against the controlling Capitol years prior, each year the Capitol puts on ‘the hunger games’ – in which each district must offer up one boy and one girl between 12-18 years old (‘tributes’), so that the 24 of them can fight to the death in an arena filled with obstacles controlled by the ‘gamemakers.’


This gladiatorial game is required to be watched by every citizen of Panem – and the stark contrast between the Capitol residents watching it as just a ‘reality TV show,’ and those in the districts watching the horror of their children fighting each other, is strong.  When Katniss Everdeen’s (Jennifer Lawrence) sister is chosen as a tribute, Katniss volunteers to take her place.  So it is that she and the boy chosen from her district (12), Peeta Mallark (Josh Hutcherson) head off to the Capitol to train and fight in the Hunger Games.


The thing that fascinated me with the story in both the books and the film, is that this is not a glorification of these ‘heroes’ fighting in these games.  Instead, the majority of them are just teenagers who don’t really want to be thrown into this, but for the sake of getting food for their families and keeping the peace are forced to.  We get so many characters here – from the trained kids who have spent their whole life preparing for a spot in their games and are now thoughtless killers, to the tributes like Rue (Amandla Stenberg), who at twelve years old is one of the youngest in the games, and can’t be seen as anything other than the face of innocence.


The film is really well acted, with its huge cast, from Woody Harrellson as Katniss and Peeta’s mentor Haymitch, to all of the relatively unknown teen actors.  The art direction and set design as well is stunning, and the score by James Newton Howard, haunting.  The one minor distraction for me was the way some of the dialogue scenes were filmed, but the (and I’m presuming purposeful) breaking of the camera line did add to the sense of confusion that the characters were so clearly feeling.  I did respect it as a filmmaking decision though.


The Hunger Games will be watched by many teenagers, and in some ways it should be, but know your kid and whether or not it is something that they can handle.  Certainly those under 12 or 13 should not be viewing this, let alone on their own.  While you do not see actual impact (the camera edits are cutting merely a frame before), the dizzying camera work during the brutal fight scenes, with blood shown in the aftermath is tense and hard to watch even as an adult.  I think I should make an explicit note that is not a film for the faint of heart.  It is heart-wrenching at times, especially during what I would also consider possibly the best sequence in the entire film, when something that happens in the arena sparks a riot from those forced to watch in the districts…  I won’t say anymore, so as not to spoil too much.


Why did The Hunger Games become such a phenomenon?  I’ve read the books and I think it is simple.  The young adult market does not thrive on the violence, but rather on the messages in the books of questioning what is right, who is good or bad and why, and trying to relate how you would yourself react in these situations.  There are so many characters that seeing how many different individuals deal with things is an important lesson to think about.  Plus, practically everyone can find someone they can understand.


While it certainly won’t be something for everyone, The Hunger Games is one of the top films of the year – working well both as a film, and a book adaptation.  There are a few changes (some things left out, others added), but on the whole they seemed to work.  I especially liked a few of the scenes they added, that really fleshed other characters out more.  Of course, the book is in first person narrative from Katniss’s point of view, so this was required when adapting it to the silver screen.  For those who feel that they can handle the storyline, or have read the books, The Hunger Games is definitely worth seeing – it gives a lot to think about long after the film is over.


The Hunger Games DVD Review By Nicole

**** (out of 4)

Based on the bestselling series by Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games provides a disturbing look at poverty and the exploitation of child soldiers.  Set in the near future, the Capitol of Panem (North America) has become a series of 12 third world districts.  Each year, the dictatorial Capitol – an overly lavish first world society – holds the Hunger Games, a sadistic event in which one boy and one girl between 12 and 18 are put under a dome and forced to butcher each other to death.  Only one can win and the whole thing is broadcast and mandatory viewing for families in the districts.


The main protagonist in this story is Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), a 16 year old survivalist who, due to extreme hunger, is driven to poaching (not shown).  When her little sister (Willow Shields) is picked for the horrific games, the bow savvy Katniss volunteers to take her place.  At the games, she is paired up with the gentle and sensitive Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), who has feelings for her and is determined to survive the games without killing or maiming anybody.  Many other interesting character are also present, including the fatherly stylist Cinna (Lenny Kravitz), former District 12 contestant turned mentor Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) and adorable District 11 tribute Rue (Amandla Stenberg), whose young age and resourceful attitude makes her a good friend to Katniss.


The Hunger Games, despite the original Canadian PG rating, is emotionally draining and certainly not for the under 12 market.  The violence, while no impact is shown, is still incredibly brutal.  We don’t see the kids get stabbed, but blood is shown in as restrained a way as possible for what is happening.  However, even if no blood were shown, the subject matter would still be deeply disturbing.  But The Hunger Games does not glorify violence.  It is an anti-war film that draws obvious parallels to the use and abuse of children as soldiers.  In many places, armies do encourage young people to enlist by promising food, housing, medical care or an education if they join.  The film is also about poverty and how it can drive people to violence, whether toward animals or each other.  The film is very much about the 1% versus the 99% of the population.


The acting in The Hunger Games is superb.  Every line, every nuance and action is brought to incredible believability.  One really roots for Katniss, Peeta and Rue as they struggle not only to survive, but keep their humanity in the inhumane games.  The set designs, ranging from the developing districts to the futuristic Capitol is sombre with many grey and cool green tones.  The Capital in particular has a stunning yet incredibly cold feel, matching the desolation of the film.  The game dome is a manmade forest conservatory, (filmed in North Carolina), which gives a quiet, often reflective feel, which contrasts the violence, as well as the loud and artificially cold coloured reality TV setting of the games.  James Newton Howard’s haunting and beautiful score adds an often quiet sadness to the whole film.


The Hunger Games is not an easy film to watch.  But it is a powerfully emotional and thought provoking work that sparks important discussions about real human rights issues.  Hopefully it will inspire viewers to take action and support children’s rights organizations and charities that relieve hunger.


The Hunger Games DVD Review By Maureen

***1/2 (out of 4)

The Hunger Games is a powerful, well acted and beautifully shot film adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ first book in her popular sci-fi fantasy trilogy.  Set in the futuristic Capitol of Panem, the dystopic post-war area in what used to be North America is controlled by President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and his privileged team of game keepers who run a nationally televised reality based survival contest called the Hunger Games.


The area is divided into twelve districts, each of which have specific jobs to do in order to earn food.  Every year, one area will earn the right to extra food if a member from their district wins the fight to the death contest.  Two teenagers, one male and one female from each district are randomly selected to represent their area.  The rule is that the one competitor who remains alive wins the games.  The drama begins when a terrified twelve year old girl, Primrose Everdeen (Willow Shields) is selected to represent district 12.  But her sixteen year old sister, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to take her place.  The offer is accepted and Katniss, along with male tribute Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) are recruited to fight for their district and their life.


The fact that these games are all viewed by the masses and controlled by the game makers as entertainment makes the hand to hand combat and violent encounters between the twenty four teens disturbing to watch.  Yet The Hunger Games is a very compelling movie to watch.  The cinematography of the North Carolina forest and the futuristic buildings is beautiful.  The violence is just graphic enough for emotional impact, but it it not gore for the sake of gore.  The strength of The Hunger Games lies in the excellent casting choices.  Jennifer Lawrence is powerful and focused as Katniss and Josh Hutcherson is very believable as the gentle Peeta.  Secondary characters played by Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson and Lenny Kravitz provide much needed levity to the overall dark tone of the story.


If you saw the movie in theatres and were moved by it, then you’ll want to add the Blu-ray to your collection.  Those waiting to see the second instalment will also want to watch The Hunger Games again on disc.


The Hunger Games DVD Review By Tony

**** (out of 4)

The Hunger Games needs no introduction for fans of the popular trilogy of young adult novels by Suzanne Collins. It is set in a near future North America called Panem divided into the Capital and twelve outlying districts. As a means of control and punishment for a prior rebellion, a young male and female tribute is chosen annually from each district and taken to the Capital where they are briefly pampered and trained before going into an arena to fight to the death until only one remains. The arena is an artificial forest environment completely controlled by game operators working under Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley) and monitored by cameras for mandatory viewing by the population–the ultimate reality show hosted by the flamboyant Caesar (Stanley Tucci) under the watchful eye of the ruthless President Snow (Donald Sutherland).


From the dirt poor coal mining District 12 come Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). She is a brilliant survivor and crack archer supporting her family on squirrels and other game both consumed and bartered, while he is a baker’s son whose work slinging flour sacks has given him enormous strength. They are assigned as mentor a past winner from their district, Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), who proves useful despite his post-traumatic alcoholism. I hope this is enough to whet your interest.


Fans of violent East Asian films will insist that Suzanne Collins ripped off the 2000 Japanese film Battle Royale that I am told leaves nothing to the imagination. Be that as it may, given its more discreet portrayal of violence largely suggested rather than seen and its optimistic outcome, The Hunger Games will appeal to a much wider audience of adolescent and older males and females alike. About half of the film is spent on preparation, and much of the rest concentrates on the characters. Despite the 142 minute running time interest never flags.


I found The Hunger Games to be a triumph in every way. Though I personally never read the books I have been assured the film adaptation is brilliant, opening a trilogy that promises to be among the best ever made. The director Gary Ross, all the cast and crew, production and musical score by James Newton Howard and T-Bone Burnett are all excellent. I can recommend The Hunger Games without reservation.


Consensus: Based on the first book in the bestselling trilogy of novels by Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games is a thrilling and emotionally powerful blockbuster that ranks as one of the best movies of the year.  **** (Out of 4)

One Comment leave one →
  1. Carter permalink
    August 23, 2012 4:02 pm

    I absolutely loved this movie and I plan on seeing Catching Fire as soon as it is released. I read all of the books and loved them, but I wasn’t sure on seeing another book-to-movie project until a coworker at Dish recommended it to me. I decided that instead of buying the movie outright, I would just rent it with my Blockbuster @ Home subscription and see how it is without having to commit to it. I fell in love with it immediately and still haven’t taken the movie back yet. I don’t really plan to until I decide to just dish out the money for it and make the purchase. I can’t wait for the next movie!


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