With The Hunger Games: Catching Fire just around the corner this November, the new installment of the series looks and feels like a reboot rather than a sequel. Although the cast is the same—aside from new additions like Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jena Malone, and Jeffery Wright—the film picked up new writers Simon Beaufoy and Michael Arndt, as well as a new director with Francis Lawrence, who brings a whole new look to the franchise.
Lawrence replaced the first film’s director Gary Ross, who co-wrote the adaptation, but left the series to pursue other projects. Lawrence did such a good job with Catching Fire that Lionsgate brought him back for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Parts 1 and 2, which are now in production. In fact, Catching Fire is so different that it doesn’t include one of the signatures from the first movie, the shaky cam. The sequel will emphasize an element that Ross glossed over, the love story.
In an interview with New York Magazine, the 42-year-old director talked about what makes Catching Fire different from The Hunger Games. The first film featured a herky-jerky style of camera movement that was recently popularized by Paul Greengrass with films like Bloody Sunday, The Bourne Supremacy, and The Bourne Ultimatum. It’s a stylistic choice that owes a huge debt to the cinema verite of the 1960s.
The style creates a sense of confusion and excitement, while at the same time fitting action sequences together. When done correctly, the result can be visceral and thrilling. If wrong, the audiences will get nauseous. For The Hunger Games, it was the latter, so when Lawrence was asked if Catching Fire will have the same sort of style, the director responded, “No! [Laughs.] No shaky cam. I think a lot of people will be happy to hear that.”
This is a refreshing move. Many critics believed that Ross used the technique too much in odd places in the film. When you consider that The Hunger Games was also an IMAX release, the quaking frame was too big and distracting at times to enjoy the film. Catching Fire will likely benefit from a more traditional approach. Imagine it like the Star Trek reboot films without J.J. Abrams’ trademark lens flares.
Lawrence also talked about the love story. During the first film, audiences were somewhat confused with Katniss Everdeen’s (Jennifer Lawrence) motivations in falling in love with Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). Lawrence says that Catching Fire will remedy story elements and return the film series back to its roots from Suzanne Collins’ books. The Hunger Games “skimped a little on showing us the strategy behind the Katniss-Peeta love story,” the director explained, “I felt the same. I felt the love story in general was, um, a bit buried in the first one. I wanted to bring the love story to the surface. And when I say love story, I mean the triangle.”
The underlying motivation with Katniss and Peeta’s relationship is not romance, but rather survival. That really didn’t come across so clearly in the first film. At its center, The Hunger Games series is a tale of perseverance and rebellion, so it’s good to see that Francis Lawrence will keep this in mind while making the films.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire hits theaters on November 22nd.