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The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes

4K Ultra HD

Blu Ray

  • Score
    89
    from 5 reviewers
    Review Date:
  • A polarizing yet technically superb prequel that leaves fans wanting more.

    The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes 4K UHD Blu-ray Front Cover

    Disc Release Date:

  • Video
    97
  • The Hunger Games prequel shines in 4K UHD, with rich colors, sharp details, and a mood-enhancing visual style, making every scene strikingly immersive.

  • Audio
    96
  • The Dolby Atmos tracks across these films deliver an immersive, consistently active soundscape with precise placement, deep bass, and magical atmospherics, enveloping viewers in the vibrant world of Panem.

  • Extra
    87
  • The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes release features a rich collection of extras, with a detailed documentary, audio commentary, and special bonuses for fans, across both physical and digital formats.

  • Movie
    82
  • The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes explores young Coriolanus Snow's complex journey amid political intrigue and a nascent Hunger Games, blending ambition with a descent into darkness.

    Video: 97

    The 4K UHD Blu-ray presentation of "The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes" showcases a refined and visually captivating experience, standing out with its meticulously rendered details and a nuanced color palette that enhances the film's dystopian aesthetic. Shot on Arri Alexa cameras and boasting a native 4K digital intermediate, the clarity and depth of the image are exceptional. Textures, from the intricate costumes to the vivid natural landscapes, are sharply defined, making full use of the ultra-high definition resolution. The HDR/Dolby Vision grading significantly contributes to the visual depth, with contrast levels that present deep blacks without sacrificing detail in darker scenes and highlights that offer a subtle yet realistic glow, particularly noticeable in natural light scenes.

    Color reproduction is another standout aspect of this release. The film's thematic tones are underscored by a color grading that shifts from sepia undertones in some sequences to cooler blues in others, accentuating the storytelling with visual mood shifts that are more pronounced than in the standard 1080p version. Despite a muted and stylized approach consistent with the filmmakers’ vision for a dystopian world - one that appears both faded and dusty yet surprisingly vibrant at times - the HDR brings a dynamic range to the colors, adding a layer of richness to the visual experience. This presentation captures the artistic intent accurately, with no detraction from the intended atmospheric effects.

    Moreover, this 4K UHD release excels in demonstrating refined textural details and an impeccable balance of brightness and shadow, making every scene a spectacle of visual precision. Whether it's the intricate designs of the sets and costumes or the natural beauty of the forest scenes under radiant sunlight, every element is rendered with outstanding clarity. Special mention goes to the film's representation of black levels and depth, which maintain integrity even in low-light scenes, ensuring a crisp and immersive viewing experience. The Dolby Vision HDR presentation not only elevates the visual narrative with its splendid color rendition but also highlights the meticulous care taken in transferring the cinematic visuals to home media with no loss in quality, maintaining a clean and artifact-free image throughout.

    Audio: 96

    The audio presentation of "The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes" on its 4K UHD Blu-ray release delivers an exemplary Dolby Atmos surround mix that is both rich in dynamics and immersive in its execution. The blend of atmospherics, discrete effects, and active height channels crafts an enveloping sound stage, making full use of the format's capabilities. Notably, scenes such as the rebel bombing and various combat moments throughout the film showcase the mix’s ability to transform the listening space into a multi-dimensional environment. This is coupled with superb clarity, firm bass, and a sound design that smoothly integrates Michael Kamen's score and the folksy vocal performances of Zegler. The surround sound presentation consistently engages, with the surrounds and height channels delivering a range of sounds from the raucous Capitol to the tranquil District 12, enhancing the film's overall sensory impact.

    In terms of fidelity, this sonic experience maintains a consistently immersive Dolby Atmos track across its runtime. Environmental effects and ambient sounds are strategically utilized to maintain an integral atmosphere that complements both action-packed sequences and quieter moments alike, ensuring that dialogue remains clear and discernible throughout. The mix excels in its subtlety, particularly in scenes set in echo-laden chambers and sylvan settings, where discrete channelization and directional effects come to the forefront. The soundtrack leverages every dimension of its Dolby Atmos mix to great effect, from the overhead flying drones to the meticulous placement of sound that pulls the viewer into the heart of Panem's arenas and urban environments. This precision in sound design, along with a rich tonality that amplifies the emotional stakes, solidifies "The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes" as a paramount example of aural craftsmanship in home theater.

    Audio specifications include primary delivery in English Dolby Atmos, alongside Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 5.1, French (Canadian) Dolby Digital 5.1 options, with subtitles available in English SDH, French, and Spanish. This array provides a broad-reaching appeal that transcends linguistic barriers while maintaining the artistic integrity of the film’s auditory landscape. The utilization of height channels conjures an active mix that enhances the action on screen, with the low-frequency extension delivering ground-shaking bass from opening credits to final scenes. Dialogue reproduction stands out for its clarity and perfect placement, underscoring the technical prowess behind this film's audio engineering. Through and through, "The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes" offers a reference grade audio experience that marvelously complements its visual splendor, setting a high benchmark for immersive audio in cinematic home releases.

    Extra: 87

    The 4K UHD Blu-ray edition of "The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes" offers a notable collection of extras that enhance the viewing experience significantly. With the audio commentary, viewers gain deep insights into the production from the seasoned perspectives of producer-director Francis Lawrence and producer Nina Jacobson. The highlight is undoubtedly the "Predator or Prey: Making The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes" 8-part documentary, an exhaustive and engaging exploration into the filmmaking process, covering everything from casting to post-production. Rachel Zegler’s rendition of "The Hanging Tree" adds a touching audio supplement, while Suzanne Collins' letter to fans offers a personal connection to the series' dedicated audience. Furthermore, the inclusion of high-definition theatrical trailers exclusive to the 4K UHD disc rounds out a well-assembled package, ensuring that this edition is a must-have for collectors and fans alike, offering both a comprehensive insight into the film’s creation and additional digital bonus features for an expanded experience.

    Extras included in this disc:

    • Audio Commentary with Producer-Director Francis Lawrence and Producer Nina Jacobson: A conversation providing insights into the series and film's production.
    • Predator or Prey: Making The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes: An 8-part documentary on various aspects of production.
    • The Hanging Tree Song by Rachel Zegler: An audio supplement featuring Rachel Zegler's rendition.
    • A Letter to the Fans: Text frames featuring a letter from Suzanne Collins to the fans.
    • Theatrical Trailers: High-definition trailers exclusive to the 4K UHD disc.

    Movie: 82

    "The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes" revisits Panem's dystopian world, but with a narrative twist focusing on Coriolanus Snow’s ascendancy against a backdrop of political maneuvering and societal upheavals. Standing at the precipice of his family's legacy, young Snow (Tom Blyth) finds himself mentoring Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler), a tribute from the impoverished District 12. Their alliance, shaped by necessity and strategic sagacity, endeavors not just to navigate but to manipulate the cruel machinations of the 10th Hunger Games. This addition to the Hunger Games universe, while attempting a fresh perspective by drawing from Suzanne Collins's novel, struggles to weave its ambitious plotlines into a cohesive narrative tapestry.

    Visually, the movie excels with its meticulous production design and Jo Willems's cinematography, offering a compelling glimpse into Panem's reconstruction era. However, this prequel frequently succumbs to pacing issues and an overextended runtime that dilutes its dramatic potency. The film's focus on Snow's moral ambiguity and eventual descent into villainy presents a theoretically rich vein of character development that remains largely unexplored, leaving viewers wanting for a more nuanced exploration of his transformation. The introduction of Lucy Gray adds complexity - her strength, vulnerability, and musical talent offer a semblance of depth, yet her relationship with Snow feels hurried, undermining the emotional stakes of their intertwined destinies.

    Moreover, "The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes" grapples with its thematic ambitions, casting a critical eye on the spectacle of violence and the commodification of human suffering through the lens of the nascent Hunger Games. While it hints at resonant parallels to contemporary societal issues, these themes often get lost amid the film's circuitous plot and the pressure to align with the franchise's legacy. Although Blyth and Zegler deliver commendable performances alongside a stellar supporting cast including Viola Davis and Peter Dinklage, the film's attempt to blend political intrigue with a personal narrative of ambition and survival only sporadically coalesces into compelling storytelling.

    Total: 89

    Drawing from the array of insights provided on "The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes" 4K UHD Blu-ray offering, a discernible picture emerges of a release that, while not without its cinematic flaws, offers an enriching home viewing experience. This prequel, although not echoing the box-office dynamism or the charismatic pull of its forebears, manages meticulously crafted production values and a stirring narrative that keeps audiences engaged. The 4K/Blu-ray/Digital release, as heralded by Lionsgate Home Entertainment, boasts superior audiovisual elements notably illuminated by a reference-quality Dolby Vision HDR presentation coupled with an atmospheric Dolby Atmos audio. However, despite these technical accolades and some dynamic performances notably by actors Blynth, Dinklage, and Davis, the film’s expansive runtime and occasionally underwhelming narrative exploration do temper overall enthusiasm.

    Supplementary materials provided with this release, whilst considered adequate, might leave an enthusiast craving more albeit their quality is undeniably appealing. These features, alongside the film's earnest attempt to delve into the antecedents of Panem's authoritarian regime through a mix of captivating performance and technical brilliance signify a packaged experience that oscillates between cinematic aspiration and tangible execution. The thematic ambition of the prequel, interspersed with moments of narrative introspection and an overall fascinating portrayal of a dystopian prologue, showcases a balanced affair of form and substance bolstered by its home release technicalities.

    In conclusion, "The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes" in its 4K UHD Blu-ray avatar commendably upholds the franchise's visual and auditory benchmark albeit treading through a narrative terrain that might not satiate all appetites. While it excels in visual and auditory delivery and provides sufficient allure through its performances and high production value, the film invites a tempered recommendation — a stellar demonstration of home cinema technology accompanying a narrative voyage that, though occasionally meandering, ultimately enriches the Hunger Games lore. For aficionados of the series and collectors of 4K discs alike, this release stands as a worthwhile addition, albeit with measured expectations on the narrative front.