Another Lawrence

Originally Written by Anthony Fertino

"Hunger Games: Catching Fire" Knoxville Screening

With a new director confirmed, we have two Lawrences on the job for Catching Fire. Now I’m going to do what everyone else probably is, and that is analyze him by his previous films, which bear many similarities and thus renders my analysis useful.

Now, Until Water for Elephants, I would have thought Francis Lawrence to be entirely satisfactory to our sequel. After all, even being primarily a music video director akin to Michael Bay, I Am Legend managed a remarkable film without strong CGI, which was used profusely anyways.

Of course, it wasn’t just the powerhouse performance of Will Smith’s reminding us he isn’t rocking beats with Jazzy Jeff anymore. The direction was fairly interesting, particularly in the dark. Where Constantine was lacking, another heavy dose of CGI storytelling, Lawrence advanced visually into forming murky unknowns with the end of the world.

So this is a person who cannot seem to handle drama very well and of course worked with Robert Pattinson—therefore associating himself with Twilight. Still, he is clearly someone who has a good head on their shoulders for suspense and action and CGI, all of which will be significant for the second novel’s adaptation.

Because let’s face it, very little happens in that novel which simply rounds off the first story with yet another hunger games. If structured as parts one and two, the Katniss story as a whole would have been more taut and successful, and what’s worse is we appear to have lost Suzanne Collins for the script of Catching Fire.

But the arena was certainly more intriguing than a square of woods, and there’s plenty of CGI to be needed for it, especially the invisible shields and electricity involved. Fortunately, they’ve nabbed a director that can work his way around a green screen well.

If you doubt it, consider the scene in I Am Legend in which Samantha the dog runs into the dark apartment, and the rabid humans are huddled together. The most redeeming scene of the whole film, and he did it with minimal lighting and entirely CGI aggressors.

Personally, I would have selected Danny Boyle, who worked many times with Simon Beaufoy, chosen for the sequel. In fact, I’m sure the studios indeed considered him initially. There could have been a scheduling conflict, but IMDb lists Trance as being in post-production, which the director has nothing to do with.

So I suppose he simply doesn’t want the genre, even though he can really wreak bloody havoc, as seen in 28 Days Later, and consider what makes us human in 127 Hours (which was a motion picture made about a guy who doesn’t move, so tip of the hat to both he and Simon for excelling there).

Francis Lawrence hasn’t made a good film for five years, but he hasn’t got very large shoes to fill. I’m not sure why people are impressed with Gary Ross, who was the only weak point to the first novel’s adaptation and clearly had too much caffeine every morning.

So Lawrence has every opportunity to improve the series, by continuing with the Science Fiction genre, heavy load of CGI, and action-suspense styles he is accustomed to. I think it’s a decent fit, and if he pulls out, then the studios will have to beg Danny Boyle, because if the studios are going to make a decent film these days, they have to do it the way of Paul Sheldon of Misery.