HungerGamescoverGrade: B+
Entire family: No
2012-15, 548 min., Color
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images, some language, some suggestive elements, and thematic material
Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
Featured audio: Dolby TrueHD Atmos / Dolby TrueHD 7.1
Bonus features: B+
Includes: 6 Blu-ray discs, Digital HD
Amazon link

If you don’t already have the 15th highest grossing film franchise of all time, read on.

The Hunger Games movies are based on the young adult novels by Suzanne Collins, whose inspiration for her teen heroine Katniss Everdeen was probably Thomas Hardy’s Bathsheba Everdene, the strong main character of Far from the Madding Crowd—a young woman who also finds herself torn between different admirers.

In the movie version, Jennifer Lawrence stars as Katniss, an accomplished archer from the coal-mining District 12 in the futuristic dystopia of Panem, which is run by an autocratic president-slash-dictator named Coriolanus Snow (Donald Sutherland)—a name derived from Shakespeare’s tragedy of Coriolanus, about a Roman general who rises to political leadership after successfully quelling uprisings against Imperial Rome. Teens won’t know or get any of this, but it does make the series a little more literate than most.

HungerGamesscreen1Mockingjay Part 2 (included here) is the climax of a series that began with Katniss taking her younger sister’s place in nationally televised “tributes,” in which two teens from each district fight to the death in a broad, natural arena in a futuristic and more violent version of Survivor. She distinguishes herself and, with fellow District 12 acquaintance-turned-friend-turned-love-interest Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), finds a way to beat the “only one winner” rule.” On their victory tour Katniss senses revolution brewing, and Mockingjay Part 1 finds her being recruited by the underground movement to be their PR heroine. Though Part 2 begins with her accompanied by a film crew advancing to the district closet to Capitol to make another rouse-the-rebellion film, Katniss has other ideas. Liam Hemsworth stars as Gale, who complicates Katniss’s emotional terrain, and a star-riddled cast includes Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Julianne Moore.

Hollywood expanded Collins’ trilogy into four installments, and fans that faithfully purchased the previous three films in HD can pick up The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 on Blu-ray, while The Hunger Games Complete 4-Film Collection seems geared for people who were waiting for the series to conclude before adding the films to their collections. The wrinkle is that the 4-Film set contains a bonus disc that includes exclusive features that haven’t appeared in earlier releases. Is it be enough to entice real fans to double-buy?

HungerGamesscreen2Maybe. But The Hunger Games Complete 4-Film Collection is a great set except for one thing: to package the six discs so that they overlap, Lionsgate had to go with DVD packaging. That’s right. If you’ve adjusted your shelves to fit Blu-rays only, this one won’t make it . . . as is. But if you buy inexpensive replacement double-disc Blu-ray cases at Amazon and photocopy, then cut out, your covers from the previous three releases, it works pretty well: The Hunger Games consists of two discs, like the first release, and they fit in one case; Catching Fire was a single disc, but if you switch to a double disc case you can put that film plus the bonus disc for this collection in that case; and that leaves The Mockingjay Parts 1 & 2 for the third case. Then you can take your first three Blu-rays to the local second-hand video store to get a few bucks for them.

Wait, you’re thinking. That’s a lot of work. Are the bonus features worth it? Well, that can be confusing, because the bonus disc also contains previously released material. But new to this release are “Stories from the Tributes,” an 18-minute feature on the actors and clips from the film; “Casting the Tributes,” an 11-minute behind-the-scenes look; “Tribute Video Diaries,” which is 17 minutes of just what it sounds like; a photo slideshow that runs about 3 minutes; a 15-minute feature on the stunts; an 18-minute feature on the costume design; a 7-minute short on the weaponry; a 10-minute feature on the visual effects; a 7-minute look at the food created for the film; a 5-minute clip of the premiere; a 14-minute look at the returning cast members for the second film; an 18-minute look at new cast members; two 3-minute shorts on the production design of the second film and the Quarter Quell cast; a five-minute look at the weapons of Catching Fire; a 5-minute location tour of Hawaii; a Coldplay music video; another 5-minute foodie feature; a 2-minute look (fast) of The Hob; a miniscule scene that was deleted early in production; a “Battling the Clock Arena” feature that runs 5 minutes; a catch-you-up 9-minute summary of Mockingjay; a 13-minute look at the Mockingjay art design and set decoration; a 12-minute feature on “The Propos Team”; a 12-minute look at the broader war that emerges in the series; and a “Picturing Panem” photo gallery that runs around 8 minutes.

Uber fans will probably want to upgrade, because the additional bonus features are indeed substantial and worthwhile, but if your family is only into the films, there’s no need to buy this collection if you already own the first three films on Blu-ray—the only way to watch this series, by the way. The Hunger Games 4-Film Collection is solid sci-fi entertainment that does what all good fiction attempts: it appeals to more than its intended audience, and offers a compelling plot and cast of characters, some great action and CGI special effects, along with some pretty good messages for teens and anyone else who will listen.

Language: No swearing in the first installment, but a few bleeped-out f-bombs and lesser curse words pop up in the second film
Sex: In the second film the side of a bare breast is glimpsed as people watch a woman undress
Violence: People are killed, but in the first film the crucial moment is either so brief or the camera quickly cuts elsewhere to avoid reveling in violence; the violence is more on-screen and increases in intensity as the series goes on
Adult situations: In Catching Fire one character is often drunk, but there are also plenty of emotional scenes all through the series; in Mockingjay reference is made to a character being forced into sex slavery and that character is traumatized by it
Takeaway: Sorry Divergent and Maze Runner fans, The Hunger Games is the superior young adult novel-on-film, and a rousing finale puts the exclamation point on that