The Hunger Games: Catching Fire marks the latest chapter in Lionsgate’s film adaptations of Suzanne Collins’ novels, and for the most loyal fans of the books, that may be all they need to know before purchasing their tickets. But this first sequel may also mark a slightly new direction for the movie franchise, one we’re now only seeing for the first time in this supersized “teaser” trailer, which debuted during last night’s MTV Movie Awards.
First, the series has been handed over to a new director, Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend, Water for Elephants, Constantine) who takes the place of Gary Ross (Pleasantville, Seabiscuit). The first film was a monster hit, so of course Lionsgate isn’t likely to let anyone change things up too much. Still, I’m relieved to see that Ross’ distractingly jittery camera appears, at least mostly, to have been done away with.
And then there’s Philip Seymour Hoffman, who arrives in the series as the delightfully named Plutarch Heavensbee, taking the place of the delightfully bearded Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley). Heavensbee is the new gamemaker—though the trailer wisely chooses to leave some surprises, there will of course be another Hunger Games—and Hoffman, who pretty much never phones it in, is apparently having some fun, deadpanning lines like, “I agree, she should die.”
The trailer ends with the four-note whistle of the first film, in a gesture surely meant to also evoke the way the successful Harry Potter films ended their trailers—but the new installment presents itself as more political than all those films. “From now on your job is to be a distraction so people forget what the real problems are, ” Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) tells Katniss (the now Oscar-winning Jennifer Lawrence). Of course, in our world, even entertaining distractions have their place—that’s all I’m expecting from this film—but we’ll see whether Catching Fire chooses to be anything more on November 22.