At the conclusion of 2012’s box office blockbuster The Hunger Games, we left our beaten but not broken heroine, Katniss Everdeen, to bask in the glory of her traumatic triumph over evil. Little girls the world over had gained a new fictional hero, and audiences had found a new sweetheart in lead actress Jennifer Lawrence.
Over a year later and devotees can’t wait for the second film instalment of Suzanne Collins’s prolific young adult novels, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. If you’re not already a fan, you should be.
The backstory: (Spoiler Alert: proceed with caution if you don’t want to know the outcome of the first film)
Set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland named Panem, the novels were borne out of a night the author spent channel surfing. Flipping between a reality television competition and footage of the Iraq war, the two concepts “began to fuse together in a very unsettling way,” Collins told her publisher, Scholastic.
The Hunger Games examines the possibility of a future where spectacle trumps morals and socioeconomic disparity is great. Katniss is plucked from the poverty-stricken District 13 and taken to the luxurious streets of The Capitol, where she is then forced to fight fellow teenagers to the death for the entertainment of the upper class. She leaves behind an emotionally unstable mother, an innocent younger sister and her stoic more-than-best friend, Gale (played by Aussie actor and former Miley Cyrus fiancé, Liam Hemsworth).
Needless to say, she wins The Hunger Games. Without stooping to the level of cold-blooded murder, the resourceful Katniss outlives everyone and manages to save her hapless battlefield love interest, Peeta, in the process. The romance in this film is not in her onscreen love interests Peeta and Gale, although they are crucial to Katniss’ survival, it is her strength and stability in the face of a crisis.
Which brings us to Catching Fire:
Following their unlikely victory, Katniss and Peeta (played by Josh Hutcherson) are now enemies of the state; hated by the government for inspiring hope in an otherwise hopeless populace. Panem is on the brink of an uprising and the evil President Snow will do anything to quell dissent. To make matters worse, Katniss is unwittingly caught up in a love triangle with sweet Peeta and manly Gale. Life’s tough when you’re a teen hero.
As can only be expected when you are trapped in the clutches of a systematically abusive government, Katniss and Peeta are thrown back into the fire with the announcement of another Hunger Games, this time with a twist. Contestants will be chosen from a pool of previous victors and, unsurprisingly, our star-crossed lovers make the cut. We won’t give away the end to this one…yet.
The cast and crew:
Catching Fire welcomes a new director and new cast members to the trilogy’s family. Director Francis Lawrence (no relation to Jennifer) of I Am Legend is at the helm and Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman comes aboard as new character Plutarch Heavensbee. The rest of the cast are relative unknowns, but don’t expect their anonymity to last long.
There’s a new heartthrob in the form of English actor Sam Claflin, who plays golden-haired District 4 victor Finnick Odair, a new bad girl in the form of District 7 victor Johanna Mason, brought to life by Sucker Punch’s fabulous Jena Malone, and a new picturesque location in the form of a CGI-enhanced Hawaii.
The scene-stealing Jennifer Lawrence returns as Katniss Everdeen, the girl with the weight of the world on her shoulders. After a dynamic past year, the Oscar-winner can empathise with her character’s journey from relative obscurity to celebrity, telling US Vogue that during the first film she could relate to being “in these weird gowns and listening to people talk about things I didn’t understand. I do know what it’s like to be almost a puppet.” Now that the 23 year-old is a bona fide celebrity and Hollywood has welcomed her with open arms, Lawrence is even more in sync with her on-screen alter-ego.
“When I was making the second film, I had become more acquainted with that world, and I think that’s something that Katniss experiences. She does feel more comfortable in The Capitol; she understands the people more, and it’s not as eerie and scary and unfamiliar. She kind of knows how to work the system.”
Production and changes:
Clearly aware of the crazed fandom surrounding the film, Francis Lawrence has already warned audiences of the alterations he and Collins made when bringing the second book to the big screen. Die-hard fans will notice the absence of minor characters Darius, Bonnie and Twill, plus an emotionally beefed-up Peeta.
“We made some changes to Peeta’s narrative,” Lawrence told Entertainment Weekly, “We manned him up a little.”
Like the last film, moviegoers can again expect a killer soundtrack. When you’re the hottest ticket in town, it’s not hard to convince some of the most sought-after music acts to climb aboard. Alexandra Patsavas is the film’s music supervisor and if you remember how fantastic The O.C. soundtrack was, you’ll know what to expect. Patsavas was the music supervisor for the hugely successful teen drama, along with another page-to-screen phenomenon – Twilight. Coldplay’s “Atlas” is the lead single for the film and Christina Aguilera, Patti Smith and Lorde have all provided songs.
The Motion Picture Association of America has given the film a cautious PG-13 rating. For parents, it’s important to know that this isn’t your typical kids movie. Themes include war, government corruption, poverty, violence, love and politics.The trilogy gets progressively darker with each book and Jennifer Lawrence assures fans that the film will reflect that:
“The movies are actually quite heavy — Suzanne Collins didn’t pull any punches and I admire her for that, so we’re trying not to as well,” she told USA Today.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire hits cinemas in November 2013 to the collective elation of its loyal fan base. For all the non-fans, prepare to let the world of Panem pull you in. Form an undying emotional allegiance with Katniss. Feel your pulse rise as she faces obstacle after obstacle. Appreciate the intricacies of Collins’ epic narrative. Pick a team: Peeta or Gale. And once you have polished off all the books and the Catching Fire credits start to roll, start counting down the days until Mockingjay Part 1 hits cinemas.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire will be released on November 21 in cinemas nationally.