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Review: 'The Hunger Games' series shines on 4K

Posted Tuesday, November 8, 2016 at 4:58 PM Central

by John Couture

Since I have never reviewed the Hunger Games series, this review will focus on two parts. In the first part, I will review the series and in the second, I will talk about the 4K offerings specifically. But first, there's an interesting conversation about 4K that I think we need to have.

At what point do we replace our very capable Blu-ray copies of a film with their 4K counterparts? We are still in the nascent stages of 4K UHD Blu-ray, but it's becoming a real issue as we've already seen 4K offerings from films that are less than a year old already. So, the question remains, is it worth it to upgrade to 4K?

The answer is not so simple. I think there are certain films that I think truly pushes the boundary and were actually shot with 4K in mind, so in those situations, it makes perfect sense to upgrade. In others, though, you're simply getting a slightly better image and sound and you have to really question if the added investment is worth it to you.

Everyone's situation is different, but I believe that people will replace some of their films with 4K and stand pat on others. For instance, I doubt that I will ever buy Clerks on 4K, but you better bet that I'll be looking to replace my favorite action films with new 4K transfers. What do you think?

The Hunger Games Review

I thoroughly enjoyed the book series, but I had reservations as to how Lionsgate would handle the brutality and violence in the series. In particular, I was sure that they would change a pivotal moment during the finale that I thought would tone down the effectiveness of the series.

As it turns out, they did tone down the violence a bit, but they kept things relatively in line with the books. So, from that aspect, I was OK with the films, but what I'm still scratching my head about is the decision to break up the last book into two films. I mean, I get it. The studio wanted to prolong the money-making series of films as long as possible, but ultimately, I think that decision seriously undercut the quality and effectiveness of the series.

Jennifer Lawrence is perfectly cast as Katniss Everdeen and she is far from the reason that the last two films fall apart, but when you take source material that is barely able to support one movie and then cut it into two movies, you end up adding a bunch of stuff to flesh the two films out and not all of it is good.

Ultimately, though, I enjoyed The Hunger Games and Catching Fire quite a bit and thought that they transferred well to the big screen. In particular, the intricacies of the arena from Catching Fire looks amazing compared to the descriptions in the book. I will re-watch those two films over and over again, but it will be a long time before I slog through the last two films.

4K UHD Blu-ray Review

I always felt that The Hunger Games wasn't as visually stunning as the other films in the franchise and I'm not sure if that was simply a product of budget or specific visual decisions made by director Gary Ross. While The Hunger Games looks and sounds significantly better on 4K than the Blu-ray, it is still the odd stepchild of the franchise when it comes to the visual style of the franchise.

I will say that while I was pretty down on the last two films of the franchise and still think that they are the least entertaining films in the series, they do look and sound spectacular on 4K. There are a lot of explosions and high action scenes in the last two films and they lend themselves to this new format.

What I did find more interesting though is how Lionsgate handled the bonus features for the series. For The Hunger Games, they included a new feature, an audio commentary with the editor, special effects and sound editor from the film. First, its inclusion on the 4K disc struck me as odd as all other 4K UHD discs that I've watched only included the movie on the 4K disc.

The reason for this, I thought, was the size of the files that the added visual and audio quality created. So, this lends credence to my theory that the quality of the first film just wasn't up to the standard of the other films in the series.

Interestingly, they also cherry-picked what special features they included in this new package. Not all of the special features from the original Blu-ray versions are included, so if you are a completist, you won't be able to simply buy these 4K offerings and get rid of your existing Blu-rays.

That being said, I didn't find that any crucial bonus features were left off of the 4K UHD Blu-rays. So, they did a good job of selecting the best features. Finally, the one thing that sort of surprised me was Lionsgate's decision to set the price of Mockingjay Part 2 twenty dollars higher than the other titles. I get that Mockingjay Part 2 is the latest film to hit home entertainment but is it really still a high-priced offering? Why not wait a few months and release them all at the same price point?

At the end of the day, I felt that you were able to noticeably see the differences between the Blu-ray and the 4K UHD versions and these films certainly pass the threshold of quality that would indicate that you should buy them on 4K