The temptation to pat yourself on the back after making a movie that grossed $650 million worldwide must be overwhelming. At least, that’s the impression you get watching the new two-disc set of The Hunger Games (2012, PG-13, 2 hrs., 22 mins.)
As anyone who’s seen the teen blood-sport adventure knows, director Gary Ross and his trio of young stars (Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth) did a pretty remarkable job of staying true to the spirit of Suzanne Collins’ best-selling novel and delivering the goods without dumbing things down. They gave the book’s rabid fan base exactly what they wanted – at least within the parameters of a relatively gore-free PG-13 rating. So bravo to them. We can’t wait for next year’s sequel, Catching Fire.
That said, the more than three hours of extras left me a little… hungry.
What should be the meatiest featurette – an eight-part making-of doc that’s set up to walk us through the filmmaking process from script to casting to stunt training to postproduction – turns out to be a missed opportunity. Instead of going into detail about what pieces of Collins’ novel were cut for the big-screen adaptation and why (something readers would no doubt love to hear), there are a lot of interviews with studio execs and crew members who are more interested in giving air-kissing compliments to one another than in dishing up any real behind-the-curtain intel. If you want to know what a high-stakes pressure cooker it must have been every day trying to launch a beloved book into a successful Hollywood film franchise – and placing that wager on the backs of a bunch of unproven stars – you won’t find that here. If, on the other hand, a testimonial from Donald Sutherland (who plays Panem’s totalitarian President Snow) about how the script reminded him of Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory interests you, you’re in luck.
The only segments really worth tuning into are a longer version of the movie’s clever propaganda film-within-a-film and an all too brief featurette called “Preparing for the Games: A Director’s Process.” In that chapter, Ross walks us through a couple of scenes from the movie, splitting the screen into three parts. He simultaneously shows us the shooting script, the cool storyboards, and what we ended up seeing in theaters. It’s fascinating stuff for film nerds, offering a real sense of the nuts and bolts of how movies get made. Sadly, it’s only on the Blu-ray version and it’s only three minutes long. The movie: A–; the extras: B–