The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Hunger-Games-Mockingjay-Part IFollowing in the footsteps of its contemporaries, Harry Potter and Edward Cullen, Katniss Everdeen had the final book in her series split into to.  For the fans of the novel, it brought some head scratching, that of the three books, Mockingjay would get split and not one that could have been more detailed in Catching Fire.  When it comes to the splits of these novels, you get the impression the studio is trying to milk the cow dry, but in Harry Potter’s case, it actually worked out very well.  Either way with Hunger Games: Mockingjay, you can just look through a purely financial standpoint and see that Lionsgate made the correct choice from that angle.  This penultimate film in the Hunger Games series isn’t splitting any differences when it makes its debut on the 4K UHD Blu-ray format on November 8th.

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The worldwide phenomenon of The Hunger Games continues to set the world on fire with The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, which finds Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) in District 13 after she literally shatters the games forever. Under the leadership of President Coin (Julianne Moore) and the advice of her trusted friends, Katniss spreads her wings as she fights to save Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and a nation moved by her courage.

Mockingjay Part 1, the first part of a book split into 2 films, proves to be probably the most unique Hunger Games film in the series, but that’s really most it has going for it.  For the duration of 2 hours you’re treated to a full realization that no, they shouldn’t have split this into 2 movies.  As the film drags on, when we finish, we are left only a few steps forward from where we began.  What we have here is a full film and two long hours that are essentially a glorified Act I.

Don’t knock the Mock(ingjay), as it does provide merit.  Where it lacks in the action or any sort of focused drive, it makes up for in dramatic scenes and speeches.  Julianne Moore enters the fold and is a perfect fit and a terrific presence as President Coyne.  She shares some great moments with fellow Paul Thomas Anderson alum Philip Seymour Hoffman that make you a bit sad because you’re never going to see them together on screen again.  We’ve seen the politics of the capital, but now we’re fully involved in the politics of the revolutions.  The fluff, the propaganda, the suffering.  Katniss is the face of all this, but you can tell she doesn’t fully support the “how” of the way things go.  Scenes with these sorts of debates and dilemmas are the meet of this first part, but ultimately its too flooded with them and no progress in terms of the narrative or the action.

What this film needs is to go outside a bit more (Its hold it all off until the next film, though).  When it does, its eye opening with the aftermath wreckage, Katniss witnessing all the tragedy and destruction she has been the face of.  However, this movie likes to hang out underground and in the dumps.  Its almost like spending an entire Matrix film in Zion, which is just a completely dull and boring idea (Which hampers Revolutions).  Because of where this story is, its just sort of handcuffed to being down in the underground facility, but it does try to divert and get to other places.

With all this aftermath, the rebellion unveiled and everyone’s true colors shown, our familiar characters all now come across differently.  They have honest attire and behavior in the film.  And its really great to see the evolution of Haymitch and Effie through this.  Haymitch has found a purpose and Effie is living in the shadow of what she used to be.  Mostly this movie has everyone sitting around and talking about what has happened and what they ultimately should be doing.  Much of which isn’t done til the next movie and the past stuff we’re already familiar with or have it hammered home by multiple sequences of Katniss wandering ruins.  The most unfortunate thing is we get a switch in this movie of Gale for Peeta.  Not only is his character just sort of bland and uninteresting, so is the actor playing him.  Liam Hemsworth in the doses we’ve had the last 2 films have been okay, but this time is really just too much of him not working.  Josh Hutcherson in his limited appearance is terrific and makes you miss his presence so damn much.

Watching Mockingjay Part 1 this time, I realized ultimately what this is and why it really isn’t working.  Its only not working in a big budget theatrical experience.  What this first part really relates to with me is a 2-3 episode run of a television show after November or February sweeps.  Or in premium TV terms, those episodes leading up to the final couple of a season.  Its all reactionary to a big event, while providing nothing eventful in itself.  The film is standing in place and waiting.  Characters are dealing with matters between one another but things aren’t really going anywhere.  There’s even a big rescue sequence in the finale, but even that doesn’t seem interested in itself.  In episodic sense, this movie does make sense, but ultimately as a film you go see in the theater, it fails as you just can’t tune in this week and have next week waiting.  These films have years to see them, and you’re forking down money for each escape and experience.

When I saw the film for the first time, I was severely disappointed in it.  I couldn’t believe how dull and treading water a big spectacle, event film from the leading original franchise could be.  A big let down.  Its an obvious attempt to keep Hunger Games going for just a little longer to make a little more money.  And they did, so props to Lionsgate for doubling down.  But for a viewer and a fan, we deserve better.  This was just a really long Act 1 and placeholder til the real event happens.  Which, in reality is a waste of a film.  With this being the first time I watched the film since the theater 2 years ago, I wasn’t as harsh on it.  The film does provide some iconic series moments and does continue its trend of providing some nice sets and vintage science fiction throwbacks to go along with some great dialogue scenes with some of the best character actors around.  I’ve bumped by original score slightly as it still is entertaining enough, but from the franchise that brought on the first two entries, I expect so much more.

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Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Layers: BD-100

Clarity/Detail:  The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 features a solid uptick from its previous release in this debut on the 4K UHD format.  You’ll notice some more fluid, solid movements from characters in what appears to be a more confident image.  Characters look more well rounded, full and solidify their place on the screen.  This is a movie draped in military establishment and rubble, but there are good HDR moments that emanate from lights in the film.  Computer monitors, like radar screens and machines give off some really good colors.  Flashlights, red lights from weapons and other things really show off the HDR capabilities on a rather green and gray film.  Details improve, too, as you can see dirt and scum on tiled wall, as well as punctures and such on floor tile from some lengthy distances.  I also noticed a piece of fuzz on a pillow sheet that was pretty cool.  This is one where the hardcore home theater enthusiast is going to notice the difference, but folks with casual knowledge aren’t going to tell much.

Depth:  This film features some really good examples of its three dimensional feel.  Outdoor sequences in rubble aftermath feature some great foreground and background relations with good detail and space away from each other and even more from the sky.  Interiors in the underground facility prove pretty decent, better scene in shots with the barracks.  Overall, its a pretty good 2D experience that feels loose, free and gives smooth movements and nice alotted details to the background.

Black Levels: Considering a lot of this film deals with an underground military facility, nighttime attacks and wiping out the power from the capital…a lot of this one revolves around blacks and darkness.  It handles them very well, with shading enhancing scenes featuring shadows in the nighttime.  Impressively, dark hair like Lawrence, Wright and other manage to keep detail on individual follicles looking discernible.  No crushing occurs in the image at all.  One of the biggest visual highlights of the film happens in one of the darkest lit moments in the film, which I’m referring to the bombing of the damn, which along with the HDR resonating on the lights in that sequence make it quite the treat to see.

Color Reproduction:  This movie deals in a lot of darkened areas and rather color-free military establishments or post bombing rubble.  Coloring comes strongly in the form of room lighting with green being a stronger filter.  Late in the game there are red lit sequences finding a strong, rich, vibrant performance that is one of the better HDR moments in the film.  Blue skies look quite rich in some outdoor daylight sequences.  A lot of the stronger color elements result from the previously mentioned light coming off of the computer monitors and buttons on machines in the background.  I also enjoyed looking at the different strands of grey, silver and white in Julianne Moore’s awesome looking hair.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and maintain that consistent look no matter the environment, throughout the film.  Getting a leg up on its Blu-ray counterpart are the appearance of more blemishes with a little more pink and red in the faces.  Dampness, sweat, wrinkles, freckles and such are all much more apparent in this image than they were before.  Its also visible from any distance.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

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

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics:  Mockingjay Part 1 features its fair share of new action to add to the series.  You get great effects work with jets and guns now being a part of the mix.  Its a full realized Atmos mix that utilizes all channels in play.  While the film is light on the traditional action sense, there are moments in play and its them plenty right.  There’s also some singing in the film that comes across quite well.  Vocals are a bit higher in the mix, but that works out fine as its never distracting or out of place. There are also a lot of low sounds involved in this film due to the nature of the majority location.

Height:  Your ceiling gets to add to the experience with stuff like overhead bombings, jets flying above, bullets whizzing by and more.  There are also environmental sounds and collaborative efforts on explosions and the crushing of buildings.

Low Frequency Extension: The subwoofer gets plenty of work in Mockingjay Part 1.  In the underground base, there tends to be a nice hum or slight rumble both consistently and intermittently.  The film also features some explosions, buildings crashing down and heavy bullet spraying that keeps the LFE busy.  Also, rushing water is given a nice explosion depiction.

Surround Sound Presentation:  Every environment feels fully realized in this mix.  There are good echoes, creeks, cracks and computer sounds coming from every angle withing the underground base.  Outdoor scenes feature insect noises, gravel being stepped on and full on place noises.  Movements prove accurate, but sort of pedestrian in their nature.  Rear speakers provide some jet movements, gunfire, and full on unique battle noises or things that happen in a given place like whispers, and such.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is very loud, clear and features some good bass on those whose voices will emit such deep qualities.

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I comes with the Blu-ray edition and an UltraViolet digital copy of the film.  Additional bonus materials (Found on previous releases) are on the Blu-ray version of the film.

Audio Commentary

  • With director Francis Lawrence and producer Nina Jacobson

The Mockingjay Lives: The Making of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (HD, 2:14:19) – Here’s another outstanding feature length documentary that, like the rest, features all important parties in the film discussing every avenue of the adventure of the film from concept to screen.  This one focuses on splitting it into to  and the challenges of shooting 2 movies back to back.  The funny part to me was the section where they spend time trying to convince us that this decision to make 2 movies was due to being able to do the material justice, not just the extra dollars.

Straight from the Heart: A Tribute to Philip Seymour Hoffman (HD, 11:03) – The cast and crew pay tribute about the brilliance of Philip Seymour Hoffman. They share what it was like to share a scene with him, but as a person as well.

Songs of Rebellion: Lorde on Curating the Soundtrack (HD, 8:10) – The artist goes over her experience with the books, how she came on board, her song and the dynamic and character of her music video for the film.

Deleted Scenes (HD, 11:18) 

Lorde “Yellow Flicker Beat” Music Video (HD, 4:05) 

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, while the most unique film in the series, is nothing more than a bridge between two films, or more like the running in place while waiting for the real event to happen.  This 4K UHD Blu-ray debut is a solid improvement from the previous edition, with very good video and equally good audio.  I’m not sure casual buyers are going to note a lot of the difference, but they are there.  If you’re a fan of the series, this is definitely a good enough upgrade.

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