Academy-Award winner Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle, Silver Linings Playbook) returns as Katniss Everdeen in this action-packed, breath-taking movie. Katniss is home safe after winning the 74th Annual Hunger Games along with fellow tribute Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) but is struggling to come to terms with what has happened and her feelings for close friend Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth).
Furthermore, the commandeering Capitol hasn’t finished with the pair yet. Winning means that they must once again leave their family and friends in District 12 to embark on a ‘Victor’s Tour’ of the other districts. Katniss senses that a rebellion is coming and that she might have something to do with it, but the Capitol is still very much in control as President Snow (Donald Sutherland) prepares the 75th Annual Hunger Games ‘The Quarter Quell’ – a competition that draws Katniss, Peeta and other previous victors back into the arena to fight once again for their lives. But it’s the game that could change Panem forever…
Not having read the original books that they are based on, I originally approached the Hunger Games movies with a bit of caution. Seeing them as a more westernised version of Battle Royale, the first film surprised me with it’s handling of the more adult themes and brutality of the story. The sequel ‘Catching Fire’ returns to District 12 shortly after the original events of the first film and continues the story from the get go without introducing the characters again. Whilst the buildup to the Quarter Quell game itself did seem to drag on a bit, some strong performances from the cast and intensity of the story and dramatic aspects of the story made it pleasurable. When the games finally start, instead of treating the viewer to action packed heroics, the suspense of fighting to survive and the emotional struggle of the characters gives a deeper impact that what you would expect. Some superb direction from Francis Lawrence and great performances from Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman round off a superbly made film and a strong entry into the franchise.
The Hunger Games : Catching Fire arrives on a BD50 disc with a 1080/24p MPEG4-AVC codec that preserves the film’s original IMAX theatrical exhibition that has a variable aspect ratio of 2.40:1 for a majority of the film and 1.78:1 for all the scenes set inside the arena. Shot digitally, the transfer is flawless. Detail is refined and razor sharp with close ups exposing every wrinkle and pore on the actors faces throughout. The films highly stylised look that combines bleak, natural environments of the Districts and the arena with the bold and colourful backdrops of Panem which can go intentionally over the top in some scenes (check out the insane whiteness of Ceaser Flickerman’s teeth and you’ll see what I mean) is executed beautifully on screen with a wide range of colours being utilised. As mentioned above, Lionsgate have replicated the IMAX theatrical exhibition with the aspect ratio being opened up at the start of the games themselves (in a pretty nifty transition as well I might add). Detail and resolution is enhanced for these scenes thanks to the superior technology that IMAX use and the results are jaw dropping. The framing and setup of these scenes bring the viewer a bit closer to the action and make the landscape more open as well. There were a few shots where it had a true three dimensional quality to it which added to the beauty of this presentation.
The Hunger Games : Catching Fire Blu-ray is supplied with 3 audio tracks. A DTS-MA 7.1 audio mix, an optimised Dolby Digital 2.0 mix for late night viewing and an English narrative audio track for the visually impaired. Originally mixed with Dolby Atmos for it’s theatrical release, the audio quality matches the already praised video quality. A very strong and detailed mix throughout, the 7.1 track delivers on every level without being overcooked or too loud. Surround activity in the expanded rear soundstage is descrete and fine tuned with clarity. There are some amazing panning effects between the front and rear speakers as well that brings the viewer deeper into the world of Panem. Dialogue is spot on and is mixed nicely without being overshadowed by the surrounding speakers. LFE is used to great effect to further enhance the sound mix throughout.
Surviving the Game – Making The Hunger Games : Catching Fire (2 hours 24 minutes):a mammoth documentary which runs the same length as the film itself, this really delves deep into the production of the film. .presented in 1080/24p with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio
Deleted Scenes (04:35) : A collection of short scenes that were excised from the final cut . Presented in 1080/24p with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio
DTS-MA Sound Check : selectable from the setup menu, this feature will make sure your home cinema equipment is correctly setup.
- Disc Two (exclusive to the Deluxe Version only)
One Vision (12 mins 38 seconds) : on screen interviews from key cast and crew that discuss the films adaption from book to screen. Presented in 1080/24p with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio
The Alliance (14 mins 27 seconds) : on screen interviews with key cast and crew that discuss returning back to their roles for the second film in the franchise. Presented in 1080/24p with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio
Friend or Foe (18 mins 25 seconds) : more on screen interviews with key cast and crew discussing the new additions in terms of cast and crew to the franchise. A majority of this does look at Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s role which is quite haunting after his recent passing.
The second film in the Hunger Games franchise was a better experience than the first in my honest experience as it really does explore a lot more deeper themes and is more intense than the original. Disc quality wise this is an absolute winner with top tier audio and visual that was an absolute delight to view. If it couldn’t get any better, Lionsgate topped the disc off with nearly 3.5 hours worth of bonus materials which really does give the production of the film and it’s franchise a lot of insight that will delight fans of the film and collectors. Highly recommended
The Hunger Games : Catching Fire is available in three different editions
The regular release is the regular Blu-ray, the DVD and Digital HD Copy
The Steelbook release features the same discs as the regular release
Finally, there is the deluxe edition which features the regular edition discs as well as an exclusive bonus disc (which was kindly supplied for this review)