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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: The Hunger Games: Complete Collection

March 28th, 2016

The Hunger Games - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games franchise has come to a close. The four films earned a combined $1.45 billion domestically and $2.90 billion worldwide. The final two chapters of the film franchise didn't live up to the first two in terms of quality and box office numbers. Did it collapse so much in quality that the franchise isn't worth owning? If not, is it worth picking up, even with the double-dips?

The reviews for the movies will be much shorter than usual, especially the ones I previously reviewed. The two Mockingjay films will also have short reviews, because splitting a book into two movies means there are too many spoilers to deal with.

The Hunger Games: Review

The movie takes place in the near future after an environmental disaster and a massive war. After the war, the victorious Capitol oppresses the other 12 surviving districts and forces them to pay tribute by having one teenage boy and one teenage girl from each district fight to the death in a televised event. In the first movie, Katniss Everdeen volunteered when her sister, Primrose, was selected. She and Peeta manage to win together, while Katniss's kind treatment of Rue, one of the younger tributes, made her a hero to many in the outer districts. So much so that in...

Catching Fire: Review

Open rebellion has been sparked and the Capitol is desperate to shut it down. President Snow decides to kill Katniss, but the new Gamesmaster, Plutarch, tells him to kill her image instead, so she can't be used as a symbol of the rebellions. In order to do so, Snow decides during the next Hunger Games, only previous winners will be allowed. This way, Katniss is forced to fight again and as she kills more of her fellow tributes, the districts will hate her. This doesn't work out, because several of the tributes are members of the Rebellion, so they work together to overcome the games. Also... and this is a big spoiler, Gamesmaster Plutarch is one of the higher ups in the rebellion and through their combined work, they escape the Hunger Gamers. Mostly. Peeta and a couple of the others are captured by Snow's forces.

Mockingjay, Part 1

At the beginning of the film, Katniss is hospitalized due to severe PTSD. We learn that while everyone is told District 13 was destroyed, it actually survived underground. It's leader, President Alma Coin, wants to meet Katniss. President Coin and Plutarch want her to star in some propaganda to unite the districts against the Capitol. However, she's furious with Plutarch for leaving Peeta. Plutarch does have an idea, to show her what the Capitol did to District 12, her home, and that will remind her who her true enemy is. This helps, but it is Prim who convinces Katniss to do the propaganda pieces, after demanding a few conditions, including a full pardon for Peeta.

Unfortunately, Katniss isn't exactly the most camera friendly person. She never got along with authority and even scripting her is too much like telling her what to do. As Haymitch says, Katniss is at her best when she's the most natural. In order for her to be effective as propaganda, she's going to have to go out in the field. This works, it works so well that President Snow decides to use his ultimate weapon ... Spoilers. He's not going around telling the Rebellion Darth Vader is Luke's father. But what he does do is too deep into spoiler territory to discuss here.

Mockingjay, Part 2

The final film begins with Katniss recovering from Spoilers. While this is happening, District 13 is planning an offensive against the Capitol. In order to do so, they have to go through District 2, which has a large number of loyalists and a massive fortress built into a mountain. Gale comes up with a strategy to bury the soldiers alive inside the mountain by causing avalanches. Katniss complains that there are civilians there as well, but Gale seems to think that the usual rules of war no longer apply. Later on, she sees Gale and Beetee designing a weapon that is set up to maximize casualties, by targeting first responders. It's clear District 13 isn't fighting this war on the up and up, but how far are they willing to go? That's too deep into spoiler territory.

So how does the two Mockingjay films compare to the first two? Not so good. They suffer from the main problem of most split-book adaptation. Mockingjay, Part 1 is a two-hour movie and it feels like 90% of that is setup for stuff that doesn't pay off until the next chapter in the franchise. Part 2 is over two hours, so that's over four hours of running time. I really think an hour of that could have been cut to improve the overall timing. Granted, that's still over three hours, which is probably too long for one movie, so I'm not going to blame Lionsgate for splitting the movie into two parts.

Additionally, the first two movies were great, so even a significant drop in quality doesn't do too much damage. All the previous strengths are still there, including great performances by the cast, especially Jennifer Lawrence. The scope feels epic, but we still have a lot of heart. The politics is something I found engaging, but I will admit that I might be in the minority here. There were enough big action scenes for the genre. Finally, the franchise ended on a satisfying note. Not every franchise can pull that off.

The Extras

I'm not going to talk about the extras on the individual discs, because people reading this are deciding between buying the individual Blu-rays or grabbing the box set, so talking about additional bonus extras is more important. There's a whole disc of "new" extras. Why did I put new in quotes? Welcome to the world of retailer exclusives. While most of the extras here are new, new, much of what is featured on the bonus disc are a collection of extras that were found on previous retailer exclusive releases for The Hunger Games original release. On the positive side, I never got a retailer exclusive release, so all of these extras are new to me.

Extras begin with a two-hour making of documentary on The Hunger Games. There are also more than two and a half hours of featurettes on various topics from the original novels, the casting for the movie, the production design, the food, etc. About a third of them were on previous releases, but that still leaves nearly a dozen that are brand new.

Thankfully, they dropped the retailer exclusive extras after the first movie, so everything from now on is new. The Catching Fire extras are a little more than 90 minutes of featurettes, plus one deleted scene. Subjects include the new cast, the returning cast, the shooting locations, more on the food, etc. On a side note, why didn't they just stick with fake plastic food instead of wasting so much real food. It's like they were the Capitol instead of trying to create the Capitol on the screen.

There are far less exclusive extras on Mockingjay, Part 1 with just six featurettes, or to be more accurate, five featurettes and a photo gallery. That said, the running time is still nearly an hour, so that's still a lot to watch.

There are roughly seven hours of bonus features on the bonus disc, which is fantastic. However, if you already own the first three movies, then you are being asked to pay $45 instead of just paying $20 for the final film. If you are like me and you didn't pick up Mockingjay, Part 1 (Split-book adaptations are too risky for me to bother with until I see how the final pay-off is.), then you are only being asked to pay $10 more. That's a good deal for all of the extra features. If you don't have any of the Blu-rays, because you assumed there would be a box set, then congratulations, you saved about $5.

The Verdict

While the final two films didn't live up to the first two in The Hunger Games franchise, the overall quality of the set is still worth picking up. The value of the DVD or Blu-ray depends on how much you want that bonus disc and how many double-dips you are dealing with. If you already have the previous three films, then this set is only for hardcore fans. Anything less and it is a good deal.

Filed under: Video Review, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2, Hunger Games, Woody Harrelson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Josh Hutcherson, Jennifer Lawrence, Julianne Moore, Donald Sutherland, Jeffrey Wright, Liam Hemsworth, Willow Shields, Amanda Stenberg