The Directorial <i>Hunger Games</i>: We Pick Gary Ross’ <i>Catching Fire</i> Replacement

After a few days of "is he in or is he out" speculation, The Hunger Games director Gary Ross finally made it official yesterday: he will not be returning to helm the second installment in the wildly successful YA (and now film) franchise, Catching Fire. This leaves the movie, which is set to begin filming in the fall for a November 2013 release date, without a guiding hand behind the camera. While Lionsgate will move to fill the director's chair quickly, the question of who will and should nab this plum assignment will be bouncing around Hollywood (and Hunger Games fan sites) for the next few days. Personally, we're excited at the prospect of seeing what another filmmaker might bring to the series because while Ross certainly deserves credit for getting the series off the ground -- and bringing the best out of Jennifer Lawrence -- based on what we saw in the first film, there's definitely room for improvement. Here's our own personal wish list for Catching Fire's helmer:

Kathryn Bigelow
Credits: The Hurt Locker, Point Break, Near Dark
Pros: Bigelow's name has already been brought up several times in relation to The Hunger Games series and we completely agree that she'd be a stellar choice. Besides being one of the best action directors around (and, considering that the action sequences were among the weakest parts of the first movie, that's a big plus), she's innately drawn to the stories of battle-hardened soldiers like Katniss or The Hurt Locker's Sergeant James, who never let their personal problems stop them from focusing on the fight at hand.
Cons: Bigelow is in the midst of shooting Zero Dark Thirty, about the Seal Team Six mission that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden, so she almost certainly wouldn't be able to jump aboard Catching Fire by its fall start date. On the other hand, she could potentially be available in a year's time for the two-part finale, Mockingjay, and since that will be an all-out war movie, her Oscar-winning skills in that arena will come in very handy.

Martin Campbell
Credits: The Mask of Zorro, Casino Royale, Green Lantern
Pros: With a short pre-production schedule and a complicated shoot ahead, it helps to have an experienced director of big-budget studio fare in your corner and that's what Campbell brings to the table. And having successfully rebooted the James Bond series not just once, but twice (first with 1995's GoldenEye and then again with 2006's Casino Royale, he knows a thing or two about climbing aboard an already popular franchise.
Cons: He's the kind of director who does his best work only when the script is in good shape. If it's not (as in the ill-fatted Zorro sequel and last summer's superhero bomb Green Lantern) you get a professionally-made, but muddled finished product as Campbell doesn't have a knack for improvising on the fly.

Joe Cornish
Credits: Attack the Block
Pros: Cornish made a big splash in geek circles last year with the marvelous British alien invasion picture Attack the Block, which was a better early Spielberg homage than last summer's Spielberg-endorsed early Spielberg homage, Super 8. But what really distinguished Block was Cornish's deft depiction of a group of tough teenagers that band together to combat great evil, a story point that will play a big role in Catching Fire.
Cons: Block was Cornish's feature debut and its total budget was probably less than half the cost of Catching Fire's costume department payroll. Of course, plenty of other directors have made the leap from indies to blockbusters in the space of one movie (just look at Marc Webb, who went from 500 Days of Summer to The Amazing Spider-Man), but Lionsgate might not want to take that risk with what's now their signature franchise. That's why, as a backup, we'd suggest his fellow Englishman, Duncan Jones, who has already helmed two stellar sci-fi films (Moon and Source Code) and enjoyed a sizeable budget bump in between them.

Lone Scherfig
Credits: An Education, One Day
Pros: With Carey Mulligan as her muse, the Denmark-born Scherfig crafted one of the best recent movies depicting a young teenager's coming-of-age, An Education. That would make her an interesting choice to helm Catching Fire, which continues Katniss' difficult transformation from girl to woman. And Mulligan's star-making performance in An Education demonstrates Scherfig's facility with directing talented young actresses like Lawrence.
Cons: Much like Ross before he landed The Hunger Games gig, Scherfig has never directed an action movie. We're not sure we'd be able to handle another edition of the Games that's marred by poor fight choreography and relentless shaky-cam due to the director's lack of experience.

Spike Lee
Credits: Do the Right Thing, Inside Man, Miracle at St. Anna
Pros: Lee's been very vocal about wanting to be considered for more big-budget projects and the crackerjack 2006 heist thriller Inside Man demonstrated that he's more than capable of delivering great mainstream entertainment that's still filled with his trademark visual pizazz. Let's not forget as well that he's been making movies about characters fighting the powers that be -- as Katniss and a new crop of tributes do in Catching Fire -- as far back as Do the Right Thing. Plus, it would save him from having to go through with that English-language Oldboy remake, which is just a bad idea on so many levels.
Cons: Lionsgate is probably looking for a less combative director whose artistic choices they can more easily control. (That's the same reason they'd probably pass on another one of our favorites, Steven Soderbergh, who shot a few second-unit scenes on the first Hunger Games.)

Bryan Singer
Credits: The Usual Suspects, X-Men, Valkyrie
Pros: His once white-hot career cooled off significantly in the wake of Superman Returns, but Singer's still got tons of fan cred for kick-starting the current comic-book boom with his first two X-Men adventures and has a good decade's worth of experience working within the studio system. And since this would be something of a comeback vehicle for him, he might work harder to keep his prickly personality in check.
Cons: He's still working on the F/X-heavy fairy tale Jack the Giant Killer, which had its release date pushed back to next year and there's also that big-screen Battlestar Galactica movie that he's attached to direct. Much as we're curious about what his vision of BSG might look like, Catching Fire is guaranteed to be a considerably bigger hit.

Lars von Trier
Credits: Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark, Melancholia
Pros: You've always got to have one wild card, never gonna happen pick and this is ours. Think about it: is there another filmmaker working right now who is more adept at depicting a woman's complete emotional and physical breakdown than Lars von freakin' Trier? The guy who turned Emily Watson into a martyr, Charlotte Gainsbourg into a castrating psycho and Björk into a legitimate actress? Considering the heavy toll the events of the next two books take on Katniss' psyche, von Trier seems the best equipped to put Lawrence through her paces. (In fact, we'd be a little afraid about her potentially quitting in between films, in the same way that Björk never acted again after Dancer in the Dark.) And if you're doubting his skill at spectacle, just take a look at Melancholia, one of the most visually rapturous films ever made about the end of the world.
Cons: Von Trier would immediately piss off fans by declaring that he refused to read the books and then screw everything up further by comparing Katniss to Hitler. Oh, and since he's famous;u afraid of flying (and has expressed no interest in ever visiting America), he wouldn't make the trip to North Carolina to shoot the movie in the first place. So yeah, this will absolutely, positively never happen. But man... how amazing would it be to see "A Lars von Trier Film" emblazoned on the posters and trailers for Catching Fire? The thought just makes us cackle with glee.

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