Lionsgate's YA novel adaptation, The Hunger Games, played well with critics and pulled in massive box office numbers last year, and the sequel, Catching Fire, could match or exceed that accomplishment. Picking up not long after Katniss and Peeta's victory in the Games arena, the story reveals what happens when the Capitol and President Snow (Donald Sutherland) tighten their grip on the citizens of Panem, in an effort to choke the revolution inspired by the young District 12 tributes and their (unintended) act of defiance.
Once again starring Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) and Josh Hutcherson (Red Dawn) as Katniss and Peeta, the cast includes returning actors like Elizabeth Banks and Woody Harrelson, in addition to franchise newcomers like Oscar-winner Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master) as the new Gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee. Meanwhile, Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend) has replaced Gary Ross in the director's chair on the second Hunger Games movie, and will remain at the helm for the finale(s) The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 and 2.
The Catching Fire trailer teases how Oscar-winning screenwriters Michael Arndt (Star Wars: Episode VII) and Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) handle President Snow's plotting and scheming behind closed doors, which is something you never get to see in Suzanne Collins' source material, since it's told entirely from Katniss' point of view. Ross added similar material in Hunger Games, but the scene glimpsed between Snow and Plutarch feels more necessary, in terms of plot exposition and character development.
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It appears the Catching Fire marketing campaign is going to follow the precedent set by Hunger Games, where the actual Game (or the "Quarter Quell," in this case) won't be shown in advance. I expect many people will find Lawrence's approach to filming action to be an improvement on Ross' method, and so far the dramatic moments look to be as emotionally-intense as those from the first movie. So, all in all, things are looking good for this sequel right now.
For a sneak peek at other familiar players and new Hunger Games cast additions (like Sam Claflin as Finnick Odair), check out the Catching Fire character portraits.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire opens in regular and IMAX theaters on November 22nd, 2013.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 releases on November 21st, 2014, while Part 2 opens November 20th, 2015.