What made The Hunger Games stand apart from many sci-fi movie adventures was that while it gave plenty of thrills and eye-popping scenes, it also had fine performances from Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland and Jennifer Lawrence.
And it had a heart.
You not only root for its teenage heroine but also want to adopt her. It was a story of loyalty, commitment and sacrifice.
"If we must watch teens fight to the death in a sick competition staged for national television, at least we have a cool reluctant heroine to root for,' wrote a prominent Midwest newspaper, The Plain Dealer. 'Even better, stalwart Katniss Everdeen is played by a terrific Jennifer Lawrence, an Oscar nominee for Winter's Bone and every fanboy's dream girl. And her Katniss is a feminist action figure, a lethal archer with enviable survival skills.'
Winter's Bone, a favourite with many critics, was made on a shoestring budget of $2 million and grossed a decent $20 million worldwide but The Hunger Games which came for about $78 million is the real breakthrough film for her.
The movie, which grossed a strong $410 million in North America (it is still showing in some 100 theatres) and about $270 million abroad, is now dominating the DVD and Blu-ray market, offering extras that are among the very best.
Set in a future nation of Panem in North America whose Capitol is surrounded by 12 outlying districts, it takes the viewers to the times when the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, The Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.
The protagonist Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence), 16, volunteers to take her younger sister's place in the games. Joined by her district's male tribute (Josh Hutcherson), she travels to the Capitol to train for the games under the guidance of former victor (Harrelson). She knows from the beginning that the terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed. But she is undaunted.
Among the best of the bonus features: The World is Watching, an eight-part, two-hour documentary tells the fascinating story how a small studio Lions Gate won the rights to the movie from Suzanne Collins bestseller even as the major studios were fighting to get hold of the movie rights. It also talks about the casting, and the look of the film. Game Maker: Suzanne Collins and The Hunger Games Phenomenon goes into the buzz for the film and the reviews the adapting process.
Hutcherson in promoting the DVD said the film becomes even more intimate in one's home. 'The media and reality TV is a huge part of our culture now and we're seeing that extrapolated to the most extreme in the future (in the movie)... and the idea there are movements all over the world now,' he said in an interview. 'People are coming together and standing up for something they believe in and I think that's what this story is all about. More than ever, people have this power and feeling they need to do right and rise up and speak out.'
He also said he was 'curious to see how a book can turn into a movie and on the DVD there's an eight-part mini series basically going through the whole process of book to film and that's really cool. Within that you see a lot of our training and the writing process... even though I lived it, I'm excited to see it on the DVD and see what it's like from set to finish.'
A Conversation with Gary Ross and Elvis Mitchell offers plenty of insights into how a relatively little known director in Hollywood ended up directing a phenomenally successful film.
The only exclusive extra on the Blu-ray, Preparing for the Games: A Director's Process, is a three-minute featurette in which Ross describes the adapting process, the shaping of the script and the overall look of the venture.