DVD review: 'Hunger Games' a pleasant surprise

Writer/director Gary Ross' adaptation of Suzanne Collins' hugely popular novel — a teen book that crossed over to the adult market — is one of this year's nicest surprises so far. Lionsgate's video release is also a pleasant surprise: They've gotten nearly everything right. There's no commentary track, but that will probably show up on some “super” or “ultimate” edition in the future.

As far as my old home-theater equipment and my even older biological equipment can tell, the video and audio quality is essentially perfect, reproducing the theatrical experience in all ways possible (since size, loudness, and a couple hundred other watchers in the room aren't possible … yet.)

The video quality is presumably in part because Lionsgate has put nothing but the film (and some trailers) on the first disc, making more room for the encoding. All the extras are gathered on the second disc — roughly three hours worth. The longest of these is “The World is Watching: Making the Hunger Games,” which is also accessible as eight separate chapters focusing on specific subjects — casting, design, stunt work and the like. The great amount of detail makes up for the fact that — as in most such “making of” extras — everyone goes on about how wonderful and brilliant everyone else is. Do you really expect that cast and crew are going to dish gossip? Particularly when most of them will be working together on three sequels?

There are also six shorter featurettes, including a 15-minute conversation between Ross and Elvis Mitchell and an isolated version of the propaganda reel that is seen in the film with reaction shots. Best of all, however, is “Letters from the Rose Garden”: Donald Sutherland reads out loud a letter he wrote Ross before the shoot, when he was working on developing his character. It's possibly the most intelligent, articulate piece about the film that I've read.

It's followed up by intercut interviews with the two, discussing the content. Great stuff.

"The Hunger Games" (Lionsgate Home Entertainment, 2-discs; Blu-ray, $39.99; DVD, $30.98)

ANDY KLEIN is the film critic for Marquee. He can also be heard on “FilmWeek” on KPCC-FM (89.3).

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