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The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Hunger-Games-Catching-FireHot on the heels of the original came the obvious sequel to The Hunger Games, Catching Fire.  Since there’s, you know, multiple books in the series, anybody and everybody was expecting regardless of “how big” the first film would do.  With the sequel came a changing of the guard as Gary Ross stepped away from the director role and Francis Lawrence would fill his shoes and finish out the series.  Along with Lawrence came some hard hitters filling in the supporting character roles with the likes of Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright and Amanda Plummer.  It was another huge success for the franchise, which is making a full on 4K UHD Blu-ray appearance, just a year after finishing its run.  This thrilling second chapter, er book…or sequel will be making its Blu-ray debut on November 8th.

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Film 

Based on the best-selling second novel of Suzanne Collins’ award-winning trilogy, with a screenplay by Simon Beaufoy and Michael DeBruyn and directed by Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend), The Hunger Games: Catching Fire begins as, against all odds, Katniss and her fellow tribute Peeta have returned home after surviving The Hunger Games. Winning means they must turn around, leaving their loved ones behind and embark on a “Victory Tour” through the districts. Along the way, Katniss senses a rebellion simmering – one that she and Peeta may have sparked. At the end of the Victory Tour, President Snow announces a deadly 75th Hunger Games that could change Panem forever.

Most of everyone from the first film carried over except in one of the most notable positions; director.  Francis Lawrence picks up the bat and finishes this whole thing out.  And honestly, I think there’s an uptick in the direction for the series right here.  Maybe he had some feedback which Gary Ross wasn’t able to, but there are notable improvements.  Especially in the cinematography department.  Catching Fire is a much better film to look at and is much more stable and capable of the shaky cam action sequences.  There is also a sense of liveliness to the new characters that peps it up too.

One thing that was a great carryover, was the production artist.  There’s a consistency with the look and a nice advancement and welcoming of new environments.  That vintage 70s non-Star Wars science fiction inspiration continues and brings to new places and worlds.  And the new arena, while a bit similar, is still different enough to be fresh for this film.

Of course this film is basically the first one again, but its the first one again with a twist.  You feel comfortable, but yet are second guessing as things don’t feel the same.  You just don’t know what.  There is also a lot of trusting with new characters that you just don’t know if you want to trust.  We don’t get much at all from the “bad” victors that are in the matchup but I think that helps.  You truly in this movie have about the same mentality and feelings as the protagonist does in this film.

Catching Fire adds some really strong and enjoyable new characters to this film.  And, they all happen to be some recognizable character actors who are usually at the top of their game.  First off, I haven’t seen Amanda Plummer in…well…anything in years and years and years.  She was quite fun in a weird role.  Phillip Seymour Hoffman was a nice jump in prestige here and having him share deviously evil sequences with Donald Sutherland is quite a bit of a treat.  Jeffrey Wright is a terrific player and is super interesting and instantly likeable as the tech savvy BeeTee.  Jena Malone joins the cast and is just an instant spark plug to everything.  How this woman is not a bigger star is beyond me as she’s great in everything she does.

For the series, this is my favorite film of the bunch.  Its a tighter, more confident and interesting take on what the first one  was.  This one is a hair more of a “thinking” film.  The movie is also a little bit better in some of the technical fields and really moves.  I didn’t realize I had been watching the movie for an hour and twenty two minutes and the games were JUST starting.  The Hunger Games portion of this film is less than an hour, believe it or not.  Catching Fire is the one of the top pedestal for an overall terrific series.

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Video 

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Layers: BD-100

Clarity/Detail:  Catching Fire has that similar look in 4K UHD that I saw in Jupiter Ascending.  The image is crisp, clear, full of detail, but it seems to have a darker tint or filter put over it.  Its fine and its one of the best pictures of the whole series, but its carrying something found in these early 4K UHD titles that many are noticing and saying it could be fixed or will be a nonissue later on down the line.  An early growing pain.  However, its not really fully noticeable until the Hunger Games actually begin and we are in the brightly lit tropical setting and yet there’s still an overall darkness.  Its a really nice picture, though, don’t get me wrong and its got a confident, smooth, natural groove to it that really works.  I mean, you can see fraying, hair and whatnot coming off of Katniss’ bow string.

Depth:  Immediately one will notice the smoother, more confident movements by the characters, vehicles and objects in the picture.  Fire and water also roar and flood with good clarity.  Foreground and background feature a nice separation and sense of deep spacing between them.  Details on background imagery are quite good, even when the focus isn’t at its finest.

Black Levels:  I mentioned its very dark, but it is pretty saturated with details seeping through in hair, surfaces and clothing by way of pattern, texture and fuzzies.  There are some moments that are just too dark to protrude details, but that’s expected.  Shading is good as well as defining some imagery.  No crushing was witnessed during this viewing.

Color Reproduction:  The HDR here is quite impressive an done of the best of the entire series.  Effie Trinket is pretty much a model for how wonderful it can be with pinks, reds, purples and more emitting a nice poppy fume.  Fires, explosions and ambers all glow tremendously through the screen.  The green in the games features a nice palette full of different shades both making their presence well known and also sorta just there.  Panem features the best this film has to offer in terms of color as its just gushing with so many.  Some of the colder, bluer moments look pretty strong, too.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and maintain a consistent appearance throughout the entirety of the film.  Facial details come through quite good as spray on tans, make-up, lip texture, dried blood, moles and facial lines all come through very clearly.  There’s a moment where fog poisons people in the film and the bubbling, redness and blemishing of it all looks very detailed and neat.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos (English 7.1 DTS-HD MA default), Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics:  As with the rest of the series, the audio mix has been the absolutely highlight.  Catching Fire is no different.  This one booms, and bursts through your room.  Whether the clock is turning in the game and shaking the hell out of your room, or just an exterior shot has a train fly by the rail, you’ll feel every minute of the excitement.  The balance is mixed nicely with vocals always audible (There are some scenes where its not intended to be, so aside from those), the effects perfectly layered and distinct while the score comes in and plays its part and takes center stage whenever necessary.  Its an awesome blast of a time with Catching Fire as many different types of things bring some excellent booming to your experience.

Height:  Above features some decent pieces of the action as well as ambiance.  One of my favorite moments was  when lightning and storming sounds were filling up the room including from above.  There is also the sounds of water crashing, engulfing as well as fire roaring that flies overhead.

Low Frequency Extension: There are many things that get the subwoofer rumbling here.  Trains, fire, water rushing, the clock turning, canon fire, fists punching, the destruction of the hologram people in the training facility…and much much more thump the sub.

Surround Sound Presentation: Once again, the mix makes no hesitation to take advantage of all 7 person level speakers.  Arrows fly across the room.  You’ll also find animal sounds like monkeys or mockingjays floating from the sides and rear speakers.  Ambiance is golden here and distinct, individual sounds permeate through any given channel.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is clear and crisp.  Voice placement and volume level is set to perfect spacing and leveling.

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Extras 

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire comes with the Blu-ray edition and an UltraViolet digital copy of the film.

Audio Commentary

  • With Director Francis Lawrence and Producer Nina Jacobson

Surviving the Game: Making The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (HD, 2:24:56) – Another feature length documentary featuring all the players that go completely in depth and cover everything about the production, top to bottom.

Deleted Scenes (HD , 4:36)

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Summary 

The second film in The Hunger Games franchise, Catching Fire, is my personal favorite of the bunch, though all the films are pretty damn entertaining.  Its 4K UHD Blu-ray debut isn’t perfect, but damn if it isn’t a nice uptick and still quite striking overall in terms of picture quality.  The audio continues to be the strongest selling point of these releases and its no different here.  You also get the important extras and while they don’t look like much when listed…how is a two and a half hour documentary on making the film something to complain about?  You’re right, it isn’t.  Definitely upgrade yourself and pick this one up.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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