More and more films are being stretched (or post-converted, if you prefer) to fit the IMAX format, in order to offer audiences a literally bigger picture - and of course, to hike up the price of admission. If nothing else though, two blockbuster sequels arriving in 2013 - Star Trek Into Darkness and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire - will at least include certain sequences that are native IMAX (re: shot using the loud, hefty, IMAX cameras).
Hunger Games actor Josh Hutcherson - who is returning as series protagonist Katniss Everdeen's (Jennifer Lawrence) would-be sweetheart, Peeta Mellark - has now spilled the beans on exactly which portions of Catching Fire are being shot in IMAX. Hint: the answer should be the first that comes to your mind.
Here is what Hutcherson told MTV, on the matter:
"They're shooting, I think, all the stuff in the arena is going to be IMAX [in 'Catching Fire']. So when you go see it in IMAX, you'll see the regular movie when we're in the Districts and in the Capitol. When you see us go up in the pod in the games, it will open up into IMAX. It will be amazing. It's very cool."
That approach calls to mind the technique Joseph Kosinski used in TRON: Legacy, where scenes set in reality were 2D before the scenery 'expanded' into 3D once the film entered 'The Grid'; or, perhaps the more appropriate comparison would be in the trailer for Sam Raimi's Oz the Great and Powerful, when old-fashioned B&W Kansas - which is portrayed in a smaller ratio - 'expands' into colorful Oz in the normal frame size.
It's a pretty good use of the IMAX format as a storytelling tool, but you also have to remember: the expansion effect won't be as pronounced for moviegoers who watch Catching Fire in a digital IMAX theater, rather than a 'true IMAX' theater (re: 70 mm) - which, unfortunately, will be the majority of people. Still, the footage in those sequences should be especially crisp and sharp when compared to the rest of the film, even in a digital IMAX theater (a la IMAX footage in The Dark Knight Rises).
Without spoiling anything - for those who haven't read the original book - the new arena in Catching Fire should be more visually-impressive than the forestry arena in The Hunger Games. Moreover, the IMAX format should make the action all the more grand and overwhelming, in terms of sheer scope.
Here's what Hutcherson offered MTV, on that issue:
"They actually built a cornucopia in Atlanta that we shot at, and it looks amazing, and the way that the spokes got out, and the way everyone comes up on the pedestals and the water — it looks incredible," he gushed. "I've seen some of the CG renderings that [director] Francis [Lawrence] has worked on, and they look really, really great."
Catching Fire helmer Francis Lawrence won't be reusing Hunger Games director Gary Ross' frantic shooting style, since it wouldn't thematically-enhance the storyline for Catching Fire. However, the violence in the Arena is still going to be Rated PG-13, so expect similar amounts of cutaways during those moments (like what Ross did) - which, it's worth pointing out, does allow the film to retain the anti-exploitation entertainment angle of Suzanne Collins' source material.
That's all to say: Catching Fire is sure to boast more grand spectacle and eye candy than Hunger Games; whether the artistry of Ross' original vision will be enhanced, retained, or diminished, in Catching Fire and the subsequent Mockingjay installments (which Lawrence is also directing) - that's another matter.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire opens in regular and IMAX theaters on November 22nd, 2013.