I loved The Hunger Games books, despite the fact that they're not exactly the pinnacle of literary achievement. While Susan Collins's writing is a bit sloppy in my opinion, the story is strong and it's the perfect series, tailor made for the screen. While box office dollars are not the best gauge of cinematic achievement, the first Hunger Games film, directed by Gary Ross (Seabiscuit, Pleasentville), maxed out at about $700 million dollars world wide, which is quiet an achievement. $700 million that was well deserved.
The real star was clearly Jennifer Lawrence who, more than any other person involved in the franchise, has made the Hunger Games explode. I love Jennifer Lawrence. She's my favorite. Not just because of her genuinely quirky charm, but because she is an incredible actress with a wide range of skills. She has a bravery and an integrity not seen very often in the young and super famous. She's the actress who dives right in without abandon, with no apologies, and no asterisks. I respect that. The fact that she is so legit has really done wonders for the reputation of The Hunger Games film(s).
If you question Jennifer Lawrence's talent, go watch Winter's Bone. It will blow your mind. It is a film that despite the critical acclaim was still WILDLY underrated. Jennifer Lawrence's acting is just the tip of the iceberg with the film. The written and direction by Debra Granik and cinematography by Michael McDonough, are incredible. It's a beautifully articulated piece of art. It pulls Lawrence out of the Emma Watson/Kirsten Stewart teen romance territory and places her firmly in a much higher class of actress.
Jennifer Lawrence has done Hollywood the old fashioned way with lots of, hard work, talent, charm and a healthy dose of smart-assery. The Hunger Games role was lucky, like Emma Watson's Harry Potter or Kirsten Stewart's Twilight. But Lawrence has proven herself as a quality working actress having achieved an Oscar at the age of 22 for her starring role in Silver Linings Playbook. There are people in Hollywood who work 60 years, star in dozens, if not hundreds of films, and never come close to what Lawrence has achieved before being legally able to rent a car. Let that sink in.
But there are so many other things to appreciate about The Hunger Games besides Jennifer Lawrence. I also happen to be a huge fan of Woody Harrelson, ever since I saw White Men Can't Jump when I was just a kid. He's a damn good actor with a wide range and an interesting perspective. His role as the drunken Haymitch provides dark comedic relief. There is also the adorable Josh Hutcherson, as Peeta Melark, and Elizabeth Banks, as Effy.
There are also lots of new and surprising additions to the Hunger Games cast. The most significant is clearly the brilliant Philip Seymour Hoffman. He, like Lawrence has really upped the legitimacy of the franchise.
When asked why an Academy Award winning actor would get involved in what has been considered a 'teen drama' Hoffman said, "I liked the people involved. It's a great group of actors. It's a great environment. And the character was something I was attracted to. It was an interesting role. He's somebody who's part of the revolution, but you don't know it. The idea that somebody would be risking themselves in such an extreme way to join something that's dangerous because he think it's the future...that's interesting stuff, you know?"
Also joining the cast is Jena Malone who is among my favorite young actresses. My first introduction to Malone was her role in Saved, which is a classic film for anyone in their mid-20's. She also had a very interesting role in Sucker Punch (2011), where she played a concubine/warrior in the sci-fi-esque action movie. Malone usually works in the independent arena, so to see her in Catching Fire is really exciting.
Rounding out the star studded cast is Donald Sutherland, Lenny Kravitz, Stanly Tucci and Sam Claflin.
If you've read the books, you know that Catching Fire is when shit starts to get real. If the slaughter of children for the sake of entertainment wasn't enough, we get to see the Capital's systematic brutality towards the citizens of Panam.
While this was just the teaser trailer, I am a little dismayed that they didn't show any of the tropical area that dominates the story of Catching Fire. The images inside of the various districts are quite compelling, and the fashion is absolutely stunning. But I am hoping we get a glimpse of the arena in the next trailer.
So, here's the teaser trailer. Bask in the glory of Jennifer Lawrence and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire will be released November 22nd 2013
Pictures off of google.