Francis Lawrence is no stranger to weighty expectations.
Whether directing a commercial (he’s done spots for such global brands as Coke, Pepsi, McDonald’s, and Gap), a music video (for Britney Spears, J-Lo, Gaga, no shrinking violets they) or a studio movie (Constantine and the not-modest-sounding I Am Legend), Lawrence has worked against a level of anticipation that might have felled a weaker man.
In other words, he was the perfect candidate to board The Hunger Games series midstream. Lawrence gamely grabbed at the task when Gary Ross, director of the first Hunger Games movie, withdrew from the second feature. Rumors swirled but Lawrence kept his head down and focused on tackling part two of the best-selling book series, by Suzanne Collins.
The first film took in $408 million, and that’s just domestically. For the follow-up, Lawrence was tasked with continuing to please fans of the books (and now the movies) while balancing the grit of the games and the glitz of the series’ fictional Capitol.
And then there’s Katniss. The rebellious, tortured heroine, played by Jennifer Lawrence (no relation), is the heart of the series. The director needed to support his leading lady in living up to the promise of her recent Academy Award–no easy task when her costars include poisonous fog and shrieking monkeys (no, we don’t mean the Hollywood press).
Judging by early word, and our own opinion, Lawrence (both Lawrence’s, actually) has succeeded. The bleak portrayal of a totalitarian regime on the brink of rebellion is more confident, more accomplished than the previous film. That’s a good thing, since there are two more movies–and ever-growing expectations–still to go.
Here, the fast-talking director reflects on his childhood adventures in filmmaking, taking on a blockbuster mid-franchise and the challenges of going handheld with the cumbersome IMAX cameras.AK