You’ve got until November 22, 2013 to finish reading Catching Fire before the big release, but don’t you want to be in-the-know when it comes to all the pre-production madness? We’ve just about wrapped direction selection (Francis Lawrence nabbed that gig), casting will be next, and before you know it we’ll likely start getting glimpses of the set! Regardless of how much you love and how many times you’ve seen The Hunger Games, there are a bunch of things you’ll have to know about Catching Fire in order to truly appreciate all the pre-release hype.
(Spoiler Alert: This article is spoiler-free, but if you’re the type of person who likes everything to be a surprise, read this after reading Catching Fire.)
The Hunger Games Schedule
As you saw in The Hunger Games, it’s pretty hot and arid in District 12 during Reaping time. After the tributes are selected, they’re whisked right off to the Capitol and, mere weeks later, are thrown into the games. Therefore, the Hunger Games are a summertime event for Panem. But, of course, the whole point of the Hunger Games is to remind the districts of and punish them for the rebellion. There’s no way President Snow would let that be a mere once-a-year deal. In Catching Fire, we find out that there’s much more to the Hunger Games than the Games itself.
We reunite with Katniss after the Games as she’s prepping for The Victory Tour. As Katniss describes, the tour is “strategically placed almost midway between the annual Games, it is the Capitol’s way of keeping the horror fresh and immediate.” That means the Victory Tour goes down during the wintertime, which matches Katniss’ wardrobe, as she notes that her prep team only readies her hands and face, “probably because everything else will be covered in the cold weather.”
So now, what is this Victory Tour? It’s basically what it sounds like, a district tour for the victors. The event always kicks off in District 12, but the district the Hunger Games winner (or winners) call home is always saved for last, so this time around, Peeta and Katniss begin in District 11. After hitting every single district, the winners wind up in the Capitol where there’s a big party in President Snow’s banquet room. Last stop on the trip is home sweet home, District 12, for the Harvest Festival. District 12 always celebrates the occasion at the end of the Victory Tour, as much as their means allow, but because the Capitol is hosting the bash this year, “everyone in the whole district will have full bellies.”
Even though the games are still months away, this year it’s a Quarter Quell, so the festivities are amped up quite a bit. The Quarter Quell happens every 25 years and is meant to honor the anniversary of the Hunger Games, and, of course, to ensure the citizens of Panem never forget the bloodshed of the rebellion. So, rather than have your standard Reaping just before the tributes are taken to the Capitol, the reading of the card happens months before the games. In a short ceremony, President Snow takes to the stage, gives a quick speech and then dips his hand into a wooden box, pulls out the yellow envelop for the third quarter quell and reveals what horror lies ahead. For the first quarter quell, districts were forced to vote on who to send into the games and for the second one, they were required to send in double the amount of tributes. Wait until you see what the parameters are this time around.
A New Home and Life
After you win the Hunger Games, you bunk down in Victor’s Village, a little community made up of 12 houses big enough to hold ten people. But, considering Haymitch, Peeta and Katniss are District 12’s only victors, only three houses are occupied. And even then, Katniss much prefers sneaking off to her old house in the Seam.
Another perk of being a Hunger Games victor is that you’re rich. Katniss even notes “she has buckets of money” and much more than she needs to sustain her family.
Plutarch Heavensbee: If you’ve seen The Hunger Games, you know it doesn’t end well for Seneca Crane, so President Snow is in need of a new Head Gamemaker and that’s where Plutarch Heavensbee comes in.
The New Careers: With Marvel, Glimmer, Cato and Clove long gone, District 1 and 2 must send in new tributes who, of course, are destined to form the infamous career pack. In the 75th Hunger Games that group is comprised of the brother-sister duo from District 1, Gloss and Cashmere, and Brutus of District 2, who’s particularly excited about the opportunity to kill in the arena and his co-tribute Enobaria, someone who I imagine to have a pretty wicked smile.
Beetee: When you come from the district responsible for Panem’s electronics, odds are you’re not much of a fighter. However, Beetee’s intelligence undoubtedly makes him a force to be reckoned with. With a knack for manipulating electricity, you'd better mind Beetee’s snares.
Finnick Odair: Talk about a juicy role for a hot young actor. Finnick isn’t only a strong fighter, but he’s “tall, athletic, with golden skin and bronze-color hair” as well as what Katniss calls “incredible eyes.” On top of being the ultimate eye candy, Finnick hails from District 4, so knows a thing or two about swimming, fishing and working with a trident.
Johanna Mason: As charming as Finnick is, is as off-putting as Johanna Mason can be. She’s brash, not inhibited in the least and always says what’s on her mind. She’s from District 7, the one responsible for exporting lumber, so her weapon of choice is an ax, making her quite deadly in the arena.
The Hawthorne Family: This time around, we spend a little more time in District 12 so, naturally, Catching Fire features more Gale than The Hunger Games and that means his family comes to the forefront as well. Gale’s passed his Hunger Games years and that means he works full time in the mines. While that brings in an income, it’s far from enough. His mother Hazelle does laundry to support Gale’s siblings, 12-year-old Rory, 10-year-old Vick and 4-year-old Posy. Thanks to her Hunger Games win, Katniss has more than enough money to sustain her family as well as Gale’s, but Gale “won’t take a single coin.” However, now that Gale’s in the mines all day, Hazelle accepts the game Katniss brings in during her now solo hunting expeditions.
Of course nobody wants any parts of a beloved book to be cut from a film adaptation, but as we saw in the film version of The Hunger Games, it’s necessary and sometimes beneficial. In the case of Catching Fire, I’d imagine one of the first elements to go will be Bonnie and Twill. While their inclusion is key to the transition into the third book, rumblings of the rebellion can be found elsewhere, making their meeting in the woods with Katniss somewhat expendable.
Ripper may be the most important person in Haymitch’s life, but the district booze supplier will very likely go unnamed in the Catching Fire movie, as will Leevy, a former neighbor of Katniss’ who lends a hand during a particularly trying time. There’s also quite a bit of talk about Maysilee Donner, Haymitch’s fellow tribute during his games, and while she does have a connection with a few Hunger Games characters that are already well-established, as far as Catching Fire goes, her influence might not be strong enough to warrant a mention.
Any must-know, non-spoiler Catching Fire facts I missed? Help fill in all the newcomers in the comments section below.
The Hunger Games Countdown runs here on Movies.com every other Wednesday. There are 575 days until the release of Catching Fire.