Welcome to The Hunger Games Countdown, our resident expert's continued guide to all things Hunger Games on the way to the film's sequel, Catching Fire.
Your Latest Hunger Games News
Mockingjay Writer Hired
The Mockingjay movies just took a big step forward and up. As reported by THR, Lionsgate recruited Danny Strong to pen films three and four of The Hunger Games franchise. Apparently Strong beat out a number of contenders including Cabin in the Woods’ Drew Goddard and Game of Thrones’ Vanessa Taylor.
While I would have been thrilled had Goddard snagged the gig, Strong is really the prime choice of the names revealed. He’s got quite a few solid writing credits to his name including two that earned him Emmys: Game Change and Recount. Now, isn’t that appropriate considering the focus on politics and government in Mockingjay?
Catching Fire Cast Revealed
Another recent big reveal is the entire key cast of Catching Fire. We’ve been keeping an eye on the official Catching Fire Casting Page as Lionsgate filled in the pieces, but rather than wrap it up by adding the lesser known tributes one by one, the studio simply completed the chart.
No, there’s nothing wrong with the abrupt ending. Diehard fan or not, eventually, enough is enough. However, it is a disappointment that the much-anticipated mystery character was included in the quick finish. Someone who was once thought to be a major player like Alma Coin or Annie Cresta was reduced to being equal to a nameless tribute. Even worse, she’s not even a new character! She’s just Katniss’ mother.
Why make a big stink about a mystery character if it’s just Paula Malcomson? My guess is that the spot wasn’t intended to be for Katniss’ mother. Perhaps it once belonged to Coin and someone thought it’d be revealing too much too soon. Or maybe it was for Annie and she was written out of the script. Sadly, we’ll never know. Nothing to do now but brush this off and move on.
Good, Bad and Tough of Catching Fire
It breaks my heart to think of filmmakers chopping up Suzanne Collins’ book, and my favorite of the series at that, but after seeing the film version of The Hunger Games, it’s easy to pinpoint the potentially good, bad and troublesome elements of Catching Fire.
Warning: Spoilers Ahead!
Good: The Victors Unite
It’s fascinating watching Hunger Games tributes interact prior to trying to kill each other in the arena, but pre-Games mingling takes on a new meaning in Catching Fire. This time around, tributes aren’t just designated weak or strong; they’re assessed based on their abilities, and, despite vast differences, are also presented as equals. No deaths or flashy effects necessary; simply seeing all 24 victors join hands after a proper dose of character development should be more than enough to send a message and give an audience chills, and even more so when that image abruptly goes black.
Bad: Girl on Fire x 2
Oh, come on. You know the Girl and Boy on Fire outfits were subpar in The Hunger Games. Thanks to excellent filmmaking otherwise, Gary Ross got away with it, but still -- it’d be nice to get it right. In Catching Fire, we’ve got the coal dress and the wedding dress, both of which could easily end up looking just as cartoonish as the fire effect in round one. Rather than just putting Katniss in an entirely practical outfit and having the fire as a separate entity, a better blending of the two could make for a more realistic look for the opening ceremony. However, doing so with a white wedding dress that burns away and then turns into one made of coal-colored feathers is going to be quite the feat.
Tough: The Force Field
The VFX involved in creating the force field in the training center and arena could go either way. We need it to be subtle so that it would make sense that only the more intellectual tributes of the bunch -- like the tech-savvy duo from District 3 -- are the ones to spot it. But, subtlety is tough to pull off on the big screen, especially when it comes to digital effects, so we run the risk of either not catching the vibrations between the tributes and the Gamemakers, or having a force field that’s so apparent, it’s an irrational secret weapon.
Good: Jabberjay Attack
You thought the mutts in The Hunger Games were ruthless? Wait until you meet the jabberjays of Catching Fire. One of the most stirring and disturbing differences between the 74th and 75th Hunger Games is the Gamemakers’ use of psychological torture. No elaborate CGI creatures foaming at the mouth necessary. The jabberjay is simply a bird, but one with the wicked ability to mimic human speech, as well as a person’s voice. As far as the quality of Catching Fire goes, the jabberjays can be both a vicious arena threat and a delicate reminder of life outside the arena.
Bad: Monkey Mutations
I imagine the difference between the Gamemakers’ jabberjays and monkeys in Catching Fire to be similar to the depiction of the tracker jackers and mutts in The Hunger Games; one looks nearly identical to an actual animal or insect, while the other is adorned with CGI enhancements, making it less realistic.
While I appreciate the contrast between the initial comfort of spotting the monkeys and then their sudden threat, of all the dangers the Catching Fire arena poses, this might be the one to cut in the feature film. The VFX money could be better spent elsewhere, especially when this is something we’ve somewhat already seen in the first film.
Tough: Katniss Kisses Gale
Gale’s jealousy in The Hunger Games was heavy-handed. Katniss and Peeta kiss in the arena, Gale watches it back home, and cue the sad face. Here, we could either make it worse, turning Katniss’ relationship with the two into a brooding love triangle à la The Twilight Saga, or we could get some honest emotion and romance.
As pivotal as this moment is, it’s somewhat glossed over in the book, a mere memory in a montage and then an event Katniss contemplates after, something we won’t be able to see on-screen. Should this kiss truly affect both characters, the moment has to be bigger, but that’s when you run the risk of making it heavy-handed yet again.
Good: Katniss and President Snow
Clearly Katniss and President Snow don’t see eye to eye in The Hunger Games, but the two butt heads big time in Catching Fire. Right at the start we get a wonderfully unnerving moment between the duo, and it seems to be a guarantee that Jennifer Lawrence and Donald Sutherland will deliver nothing less than overwhelmingly powerful performances so that, just like in the book, the moment will back the punch to reverberate throughout most of the story.
Bad: Scenes Out of the Arena During the Games
The Hunger Games in The Hunger Games is far more about the Games itself than in Catching Fire. We needed glimpses of life outside of the arena both to better understand the Games and to break up the monotony of watching Katniss run around the woods. In Catching Fire, on the other hand, showing what everyone is up to while the Games are in progress could actually reveal too much too soon. Plus, Katniss is in good company this time around, and in order to sell that relationship, the group is going to need as much of the film’s running time as possible.
Tough: Annie Cresta
I know many will be disappointed if this happens, but I get the feeling Annie Cresta might not make it into Catching Fire. How many of Katniss’ relationships get the attention they deserve in Hunger Games? Peeta is #1, but Ross splits time between Haymitch, Cinna, Rue, Gale and more, and, in some cases, there’s just not enough.
Not only do we need to maintain a number of those relationships in Catching Fire, but Katniss makes many more. Yes, Annie makes Finnick a well-rounded character, but it won’t be easy to convey his intense devotion to her on-screen via jabberjays and an expositional explanation of who she is from Peeta. Then again, the character of Annie doesn’t only exist to serve Finnick; by including Annie, we see another side of Finnick, a side that deeply affects his relationship with Katniss.
It would be a shame to drop her entirely, but the only way to make Annie worthwhile in Catching Fire might be to add a scene of her and Finnick together. If Annie doesn’t make it into Catching Fire, it’ll be nearly impossible for her to have a presence in the Mockingjay movies equal to the one she has in the book, and that could be detrimental.
The Hunger Games Countdown runs here on Movies.com every other week. There are 409 days until the release of Catching Fire.