Released in 2012 The Hunger Games was a phenomenally successful film taking a monstrous $US691 million at the box office worldwide - indeed it broke even the loftiest expectations and the sequel bettered it with $US864 million worldwide. Sadly due to the birth of my little girl I never saw the sequel in cinemas, but was very keen to check it out on Blu-Ray, and I wasn't disappointed.
After winning the 74th Annual Hunger Games with fellow tribute Peeta Mellark the District 12 victors are enjoying their lives however winning means that they must turn around and leave their family and close friends, embarking on a "Victor's Tour" of the districts. Along the way Katniss senses that a rebellion is simmering, but the Capitol is still very much in control as President Snow prepares the 75th Annual Hunger Games (The Quarter Quell) - a competition that could change Panem forever.
While Gary Ross directed the first film the directing reigns have been handed over to Francis Lawrence (who is also handling the two upcoming sequels). While the film is a little slow in the opening segments, in no way does this feel like a film that runs for 146 minutes. The actual Games are a lot more deadly with some big twists and turns while the ending is, well, somewhat surprising if you're not familiar with the story. The film does up the ante on an emotional level - but most of that comes from Katniss remembering Rue - the young girl who died in the first film, but there are a few other moments which are handled quite well too. If we do have one complaint it's that the Games take place in the jungles yet again - it would have been nice to see a change to an urban environment, a more inhospitable desert/scrubland or something different. Still, that's how it is in the books so the filmmakers weren't going to change that!
If there was a disappointment it was that Lenny Kravitz gets very little screen time although it's hard to see where it could have been expanded while the late Philip Seymour Hoffman also had a smaller role then I expected - although I would assume this increases in the upcoming sequels (no, I have not read the books!).
In many regards this sequel feels like a rehash of the original, but the games are more brutal, and the film does set up for the two sequels due this year and next. Catching Fire is a great film and one to watch if you enjoyed the first.
As expected from a major film release the visual quality on this release is superb. The film ranges from bright, colourful visuals in the capital city while, in contrast, District 12 where Katniss resides is bleak and lacking vibrancy - exactly as one would expect from a starving, poverty-ridden area. Also impressive are the sets and costumes seen throughout the film - the attention to detail is astounding.
On a technical level the Blu-Ray is presented in the film’s original 2.40:1 aspect ratio using the AVC MPEG-4 codec and during our viewing of the film we noticed no issues of concern and indeed the darker scenes, of which there are many more then in the first film, are handled well with fine detail retained.
The disc also includes an English Audio Description Track for the Vision Impaired which is encoded in Dolby Digital 2.0 at 224kbps, while there is only a single English caption track for subtitles which is accurate the on- screen dialogue.
Audio Commentary with Director Francis Lawrence & Producer Nina Jacobson: As far as audio commentaries go this is a pretty good track which details much of the production and details about the story and scenes that would probably go unknown without this track. Definitely the pick of the extras on the disc is well worth a listen.
Inside District 12: The Hob (2:13/HD): This is a quick look at The Hob, or market within District 12 including the people and what they are selling. Pretty pointless really.
The Alliance: Returning Cast (14:27/HD): As the title suggests this extra looks at the cast returning from the first film to work on this second. There's a little too much gushing about Jennifer Lawrence but it's great to hear from almost the entire cast about returning for the second film.
Friend of Foe: New Cast (18:25/HD): This featurette looks at the new cast added for this second film, with the filmmakers detailing why actors were cast, their experiences of working on the film and creating their characters.
Review By: Dave Warner