There have been more than a few movies based on hugely successful Young Adult fantasy books where the plucky heroine is in a love triangle between two hunky guys. But there's a difference between having feelings for someone, and being ready to take a bullet for them.
"The Hunger Games," the screen adaptation of Suzanne Collins' young adult bestseller, was one of 2012's biggest box office hits, and even though the first sequel, "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," isn't being released until November 22, it's already among this year's most eagerly anticipated films.
So it's no surprise that the debut of the first "Catching Fire" trailer was more eagerly awaited than most of the awards at the 2013 MTV Movie Awards Sunday night, and the preview did not disappoint, making it clear that heroine Katniss Everdeen (played by reigning Best Actress winner Jennifer Lawrence) will be torn between her own safety and those of the people she loves in this next installment. And while Katniss openly declared her love for fellow competitor Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) in the first film, this one has her standing between her old flame Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and a pistol-brandishing executioner.
Watch the first trailer for 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire':
As the trailer opens, Katniss (Lawrence) and Peeta (Hutcherson) are being presented to hordes of adoring fans after being declared the victors of the 74th Hunger Games. However, it soon becomes clear that President Snow (Donald Sutherland) is not happy with Katniss's new popularity among the citizens of the Twelve Districts. "She's not who they think she is," Snow says to Plutarch Heavensbee (newcomer to the series Philip Seymour Hoffman) in his office. "She just wants to save her skin simple as that. But she has become a beacon of hope for them."
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Heavensbee replies, "Katniss Everdeen is a symbol. We don't have to destroy her, just her image. Show them that that she is one of us now. Let them rally behind that." As he speaks, we see footage of the ragged cities and anti-Capitol graffiti sprayed on the walls.
One of Katniss's supporters is dragged from the crowd, beaten and then shot by Capitol guards, while Heavensbee smirks, "They're going to hate her so much they might kill her for you."
After witnessing the murder, a horrified Katniss begs Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) for help, but he tells her, "From now on, your job is to be a distraction, so people forget what the real problems are."
These moments of violence and desperation are a stark contrast to the decadence of the lives of the Capitol rulers, who are seen enjoying their wealth as police quell rioting and Caeser Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) continues to whip up the TV audience.
Katniss's old pal Gale (Liam Hemsworth) tells her how much she means to the people. "You've given them an opportunity," he says. "They have to be brave enough to take it."
Katniss's sister pleads with her, "You saved my life. You gave me a chance … a chance to do something."
And as Gale is dragged to a public square and faced with a whipping by Capitol forces, Katniss steps in, demanding to take his place just as she did for her sister in the first story.
Finally, we return to the office of President Snow, who declares that Katniss and the other victors must be eradicated. "Because of her, they all pose a threat. Because of her, they all think they're invincible."
The "Catching Fire" trailer suggests that the political subtext of the first film will be brought forward in the second, and that the relationship between Katniss and Gale will gain more screen time. It also looks as if new director Francis Lawrence has given the film a look as memorable as "The Hunger Games" while raising the emotional stakes of the story.
While "Catching Fire" is already a pre-sold commodity thanks to the success of "The Hunger Games" and Collins' novels, this film may gain even more attention thanks to Jennifer Lawrence taking home an Oscar for her performance in "Silver Linings Playbook," significantly raising her profile. The addition of another Oscar winner to the cast, Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee, won't hurt, either. And though this two and a half minutes of footage can't tell us everything, it sure looks like "Catching Fire" will be every bit as compelling as the first film, making fans all the more hungry for the finished product. Which is certainly just what Lionsgate has in mind.