Much like the final novels in the Harry Potter and Twilight series, the conclusion to author Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games book trilogy Mockingjay is being stretched out into two separate films. The task of scripting both movies has fallen to Emmy-winner Danny Strong (Game Change), who's now become the latest in a string of decorated screenwriters to contribute to this young adult franchise - following in the footsteps of Hunger Games director Gary Ross, Billy Ray (Shattered Glass), Simon Beaufoy (127 Hours), and Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3).
However, Lionsgate won't be likewise alternating who sits in the director's chair on the third and fourth Hunger Games film adaptations - as Francis Lawrence (who is currently filming the second installment, Catching Fire) has been confirmed to return for the two-part Mockingjay.
Catching Fire features surviving Hunger Games players like Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson and Lenny Kravitz (among others); however, there are also going to be several new faces appearing onscreen, including Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jena Malone, and Sam Claflin. Moreover, Lawrence is collaborating behind-the-camera with such people as director of photography Jo Willems (30 Days of Night, Limitless) and editor Alan Edward Bell (who worked with Lawrence on Water for Elephants and cut this past summer's Amazing Spider-Man).
That eclectic mix of lauded thespians and cinematic craftsmen can be attributed to one important factor: Lionsgate knows the Hunger Games brand name sells itself. So, from a business standpoint, it makes sense to recruit the best of the best and then carryover the personnel from prior installments into Mockingjay (so long as they have proven reliable, of course). Thus, in the process, Lionsgate maintains a cohesive artistic vision, rather than hiring on an untested filmmaker with a different take on the property (ie. a 'riskier' one). Ross was originally supposed to fill that architect position, before he withdrew due to the short turnaround planned between films.
Point being, if Lawrence is locked down to come back for Mockingjay already, that must mean that studio executives approve of how he's handled the task of bringing the expanding dystopian setting to life in Catching Fire; not to mention, Lawrence's approach to putting his own spin on the continuing story and universe, without also abandoning all aspects of Ross' interpretation. Whether or not the Hunger Games fanbase and general audiences will be equally receptive to Lawrence's work, well... we'll have an answer to that question when the film opens a year from now.
For those who are curious, here is an official synopsis for the two-part Hunger Games finale:
THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PARTS 1 & 2 make up the third and fourth installments of heroine Katniss Everdeen’s journey as she leads the districts of Panem in a rebellion against the tyrannical and corrupt Capitol. As the war that will determine the fate of Panem escalates, Katniss must decipher for herself who she can trust and what needs to be done, with everything she cares for in the balance.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire opens in regular and IMAX theaters on November 22nd, 2013. Mockingjay - Part 1 releases on November 21st, 2014, while Part 2 opens November 20th, 2015.