Plot: What’s it about?
About five years ago I was going into withdraw. Yes, really. You see, the Harry Potter movies had just ended and, with that, a small part of me (and millions of others) died. What were we going to do? No more Hogwarts, Snape, Harry or the rest of the gang? Say it ain’t so! Thankfully author Suzanne Collins was channel surfing and came across a reality TV show (we’ll call it Survivor) and then flipped the to coverage of the conflict in Iraq. And then, like that, we had the story of Katniss and the saga of the Hunger Games. Like most of the teen-oriented films, it took place in a distant, dystopian future where the world had collapsed on itself and a new government had risen up and taken control. The United States was divided into 12 districts that, once a year, had to pay homage to the government that “saved” them by offering up a male and female to compete in a battle to the death where the victor would live a life of luxury. And that’s the way it went. That’s the story of the Hunger Games and this is how it ends.
Picking up right where the first installment ended, we meet Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) as well as a slew of others. The President of the rebellion, President Coin (Julianne Moore) is gearing up for a revolution and Katniss wants nothing more than to kill President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Katniss is the face of the revolution and the inspiration to the districts to rise up and fight the power. Now assigned to a small task force, Katniss, Peeta and a few others make their way to the Capitol to carry out their plans, but we all know it won’t be as easy as that. We’ve all seen this scenario before in every horror movie ever made – the group starts to dwindle and even with the help of trained military personnel, it’s looking more and more like their goal won’t come to fruition. And when or if it does, is there a more nefarious plan in the works?
A lot has happened in the years since we were first graced with The Hunger Games. Jennifer Lawrence won an Oscar for her role in Silver Linings Playbook as did co-star Julianne Moore for Still Alice. The film franchise made a mega star out of J Lew (can I call her that?) and while not quite at the Harry Potter level, this franchise has made a name for itself. But this too, now, is over. Looking back on the four films, I’d have to say that I liked them in descending order. I really enjoyed the purity of the first and most of the second, but after reading the books I found the third book (and last two films) far too political for my taste. I see what they were going for, but I was all about the action. Still, I was entertained and that’s the point of any film. Jennifer Lawrence is now a household name and this series made that possible. For those out there that haven’t had the chance to explore The Hunger Games, I’d recommend it. I also can’t help but wonder how many little girls out there are now named Katniss?
Video: How’s it look?
It’s kind of odd how the second installment of a film can have such a different look and feel to it visually. Quentin Tarantino did this with the Kill Bill movies, with the first being more “Asian” in nature and the second paying homage to the spaghetti Westerns, so it’s not totally unheard of. Still, the 2.40:1 AVC HD image seems to have a lot more color than its predecessor. Granted, it’s still dark, the actors are wearing black military-type outfits and the charred remains of the Capitol don’t exactly exude color. I found detail to be amazing. There’s a character who has been tattooed to look like a tiger (yes, really) and the detail is second to none. The texture in the fabric of Katniss’ outfit, and the grand landscape all combine for a very interesting and rich palette. It’s a perfect-looking transfer that’s sure to delight.
Audio: How’s it sound?
There are some movies out there that are just made for robust sound and this is one of them. Featuring a Dolby Atmos soundtrack, it’s down sampled to a Dolby TrueHD track for those that don’t have an Atmos receiver. This delivers on every level. Vocals are sharp and crisp, surrounds are used constantly and are always filled with action. The LFE get plenty of chances to flex their muscle and the front stage sports a strong track as well. The movie is an all out war and this sound mix really helps deliver the goods. Helicopters whizzing by, things blowing up, the thrill of the chase are all examples of how dynamic this mix is. It’s a perfect compliment to the reference-quality video.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Audio Commentary – Director Francis Lawrence and Producer Nina Jacobson who take part in all of the other supplements as well, collaborate on the final installment’s commentary track. These two also did the commentary for the first part, so they pick right up where they left off there. If you’ve watched all of the supplements listed below, a lot of what they say will be redundant, but they’re chatty and obviously work very well together. It’s another nice commentary track and well worth a listen.
- Pawns No More: Making The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 – Broken down in to 8 parts, each of which covers a different aspect of the production, this is a very lengthy and informative viewing.
- Walking Through Fire: Concluding the Saga- We get a crash course in the history of the film franchise as well as some words from various producers and crew on the film. We’re told of the “need” for the film to be in two parts (which made me chuckle, just come out and say it – money!), the journey Katniss takes and the impact of the series as a whole.
- Real or Not Real: Visual Design – In addition to the visual effects, the main challenge with this final film was showing the viewer the Capitol. It had never really been explored that much in the previous films and we’re told of the challenges of creating it, what it would look like and how it all came together.
- High-Value Targets: The Acting Ensemble – Various members of the cast comment on their characters as well as the burden placed on Jennifer Lawrence and her character. In truth, the interviews do tell how far the actors have come as well as the series itself and some of the inherent challenges playing the same character in multiple films.
- From Head to Toe: Costume, Make-up & Hair – Costume Designers Kurt Swanson and Bart Mueller give us the lowdown on the challenges involved in costume design as well as the sheer scope of wardrobe in the movie series.
- Navigating the Minefield: Production in Atlanta, Paris & Berlin – Some of the challenges involved in shooting both this movie and its predecessor are discussed. Producer Nina Jacobson, Director Francis Lawrence and Production Designer Phillip Messina give us the low down on shooting in Atlanta and in Europe as well as some of the challenges involved in shooting two movies at the same time.
- Collateral Damage: Stunts, Special Effects & Weapons – Given the magnitude of what happens in the final movies, we’re treated to how they did it and made it look real. Special Effects Coordinator Steve Cremin tells us how some of that was made possible with the realistic fighting, stunts involved and some of the more practical special effects used.
- Tightening the Noose: The Post-Production Process – The longest of these supplements, running 30 minutes, tells of how the films were edited and the planning and preparation involved with it. Director Francis Lawrence is touted for his preparedness as well as the breathing room they had with this second installment. We see some before and after shots, the visual effects as well as the tightly-wound editing process that would leave most of us speechless.
- A Different World: Reflections – We do get some genuine reflections from the cast and crew, notably the final scene shot in the film was when Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) read the letter from Plutarch (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) to Katniss, though, due to his death – was unable to film the scene. We learn of the family and the bonding that took place over the shoot and it was Jennifer Lawrence’s nephews that played her kids in the epilogue. This actually was a pretty touching installment and does put a nice closing on the series.
- The Hunger Games: A Photographic Journey – Murray Close, a photographer who’s worked with Stanley Kubrick among others, gives us the duties of the photographer on the set. As a budding photographer myself, I found this to be pretty interesting as he tells us of his role in the overall production of the film, the importance of documenting the images and, as every photographer knows – getting that all important shot!
- Cinna’s Sketchbook: Secrets of the Mockingjay Armor – Costume Designers Bart Mueller and Kurt Swandon walk us through the process of designing the Mockingjay armor worn by Katniss in the film. We get a look at their sketches, how they designed it through “Cinna’s eyes” and some of the influences that ultimately determined the look and feel of the suit worn by our heroine.
- Panem on Display: The Hunger Games: The Exhibition – I have no idea if this is a traveling exhibition or not – they never say. This “feature” shows us a set up of some of the technology and costumes used for the films. Patrons can go through and “experience” some of the things that the characters did in the film and, of course, visit the gift shop on their way out. According to the official web site, it’s located in San Francisco and again, I have no idea if it will reach other cities or not. I’m sure if there’s money to be made – it will branch out.
- Jet to the Set – I’d never heard of this show (if that’s what you can call it), but it’s hosted by Carly Steel (from TV’s Entertainment Tonight) and Laurie Feltheimer. The premise is this: these two women jaunt around the globe checking out movie sets and living the lifestyle associated with that movie. They giggle like women 1/3 their age, go shopping and try to get the feel of what it is they’re doing. The movie was filmed in Atlanta where the duo go and hang out. Admittedly, running 41 minutes (it was broadcast as an hour long show on television in conjunction with the film) it’s a fairly robust supplement. Still, these two made the hair on the back of my neck stand up – yes, that’s how annoying they are. But fans of the film might actually get a kick out of this. I didn’t, but it’s possible.
The Bottom Line
A fitting end to the Hunger Games series, Mockingjay delivers on everything that it was supposed to. Director Francis Lawrence has done a fine job wrapping up all the loose ends and giving the fans what they wanted. The Blu-ray is second to none when it comes to how it looks and sound and it sports enough extras to warrant a purchase. It comes highly recommended.