New Release: 'The Hunger Games' – May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor
The first blockbuster of 2012 arrives on Saturday, August 18 on Blu-ray, DVD and other digital formats
"The Hunger Games" (Lionsgate), the first blockbuster hit of 2012 (it grossed almost $400 at the U.S. box-office), is poised to be the first blockbuster home video release of the season.
Lionsgate is hoping to stoke the flames of fandom by giving the Blu-ray and DVD its own separate release date (it goes on sale at 12:01 am on Saturday, August 18) with special release parties organized at select video store and other disc retailers (in the tradition of the "Harry Potter" books).
See an exclusive clip from the disc below.
You could say the "The Hunger Games," based on the first book in the young adult dystopian trilogy by Suzanne Collins, is Lionsgate's effort to create a franchise from a hot young adult series, more mature than "Harry Potter" and grittier than "Eclipse." And on the balance I’d say they made a pretty good effort.
The story of Katnis Everdeen, a teenage girl forced to be her family's provider and protector in an impoverished household in a bleak future that resembles Depression-era Appalachia -- and then suddenly yanked from her home and dropped into a modern gladiatorial ring to kill or be killed -- succeeds in its big screen incarnation thanks largely to Jennifer Lawrence. She plays a character not unlike her breakthrough role in "Winter's Bone" (the film could have been her audition for the role of Katnis) and if she's just a little too old for the part of a girl on the verge of womanhood, she's still a ferocious figure in a feral world, a survivor discovering that, at her most alone, she's actually part of a bigger community.
I confess that for all my issues with the film (and there are many), I'm more impressed with how much it got right. The adaptation borders on slavish, to be honest, with subplots shaved down or simply cut out and new scenes added to show us what Katniss (who narrates the novel from her perspective) couldn't see, but it also hones in on the personalities, the culture, and the sense of overwhelming corruption and control beyond the comprehension of this girl from the provinces.
Gary Ross, who directed and adapted the novel (along with author Suzanne Collins and screenwriter Billy Ray), understands the material and makes a good faith effort to be true to it. He can't help but prettify the poverty (their coal mining town is far too lush and free of dust and grime to be convincing) and never quite captures the desperation, the exhaustion, and terror of Katnis' ordeal. But he engages with the intensity of the experience and grounds the metaphors in a physical world. And he was successful enough to satisfy the core audience: the fans of the book.
MSN film critic Kat Murphy is less forgiving: "What if some red-blooded filmmaker had brought real passion and style to the adaptation of Suzanne Collins' megahit "The Hunger Games"? Then this hero's journey -- starring a distaff warrior, for a change! -- might have taken fire and captured our imaginations, signifying something beyond an industry jackpot. What we've got instead is a glossy entertainment sufficiently bland and sanitized that it will offend no one."
"The Hunger Games" arrives on 2-Disc Blu-ray and DVD editions, both of them packed with the supplements you'd expect from a popular hit with a passionate fan following from the original novels.
The centerpiece is "The World is Watching: The Making of The Hunger Games," a comprehensive two-hour documentary that follows the production essentially from acquiring the book through the release of the film (including all the promotional efforts along the way). It shows just how much effort they made to be true to the book, the characters, and the story while recrafting the first-person novel as an immersive big screen experience. It also does something that very few such supplements accomplish: it gives viewers an sense of what it takes to make a film of this size, from adaptation to release, and all the decisions that have to be made at every step of the way. And it does it very well.
Here's an clip from the documentary, exclusive to the Blu-ray and DVD release of the film.
Also features the 14-minute featurette "Game Maker: Suzanne Collins and The Hunger Games Phenomenon" (on the original novels), the rather unusual "Letters from the Rose Garden" (centered on letters written back and forth between actor Donald Sutherland and director Gary Ross in preparation for the film), "Controlling the Games" (on the control room scenes, original to the movie), the 14-minute interview "A Conversation with Gary Ross and Elvis Mitchell, and the entire "Propaganda Film" played in the "reaping scene,
Exclusive to the Blu-ray is the brief but effective three-minute featurette "Preparing for The Games: A Director's Process," which runs a scene from the film next to the storyboards and the original script, all presented simultaneously on separate quadrants of the screen, to illustrate the script-to-screen process. The Blu-ray also features an Ultraviolet digital copy, for download and instant streaming.
Available at Redbox same day as stores.
"The Hunger Games" arrives on Blu-ray, DVD, On Demand and Digital Download on Saturday, August 18, on sale at 12:01 am