Now that he's the chosen one and has been offered the gig by Lionsgate, though, we think the selection makes a whole lotta sense. Hear us out.
First of all, there are some serious time constraints to be considered with "Catching Fire." The very reason Gary Ross declined the job of helming the film, he said, was that he wouldn't have enough time to properly prepare the movie to his liking.
"Catching Fire" has to begin production this August to accommodate potential actor scheduling conflicts and to meet the Nov. 22, 2013 release date scheduled by Lionsgate.
For Gary Ross, the idea of readying the film for production would likely include a heavy re-drafting process on the script – which was originally penned by "Slumdog Millionaire" and "127 Hours" writer Simon Beaufoy – before moving forward on anything else. That's because Ross is even more accomplished under his screenwriting hat than behind the lens and always has a major hand in the scripts he shoots from.
Not so for Francis Lawrence. Unlike Ross, Lawrence isn't known for his screenplay-writing acumen and would be more likely to work from Beaufoy's script; this leaves plenty of time to economize on the other pre-production efforts which will be involved – casting, set-scouting, and production design to name a few. In other words, the span between now and August looks a lot more supple when you've got a working script at the ready rather than just a first draft.
A second major consideration is the visual and creative palette Francis Lawrence brings to the table. So far, he's directed three motion pictures - "Constantine," "I Am Legend," and "Water For Elephants" – each of which was based upon a book. All three movies were semi-large productions with complicated visual aspects.
Whether it was a Keanu Reeves versus the heavens fight scene, Will Smith hunting deer with a red Mustang in Manhattan, or Reese Witherspoon dancing atop a giant elephant, Lawrence added weight to the moments with excellent set selection. Put simply, the man knows how to create a backdrop.
And this will be mighty important for "Catching Fire," as the film will introduce a few new landscapes - Victor's Village, some of the as-yet-unseen Districts, and an all-new arena (which just so happens to be twelve times as complicated as the first). If there's anything we can be confident about with Francis Lawrence in charge of the film, it's that these new settings will be stunning.
The Twitterverse seems to agree that his former work is encouraging for "Catching Fire."
@ggetters - Ah I like Francis Lawrence, Catching Fire will be as good as it deserves to be if Water For Elephants is anything to go by
@frannieees - Oh my god. Francis Lawrence directed I Am Legend. I approve of him for Catching Fire.
@MayNadalxx - Catching Fire will be directed by Francis Lawrence, who directed I Am Legend. It's okay. It's all good.
The bottom line is that in the unfortunate task of replacing Gary Ross for "Catching Fire," Lionsgate was probably looking for a journeyman director who also has finesse with visual dynamics and book-based material. Ross set a more-than-adequate stage for the franchise with "The Hunger Games," and in the wrong hands movie two of the series could wind up looking and feeling extremely different than the first, which is most certainly not the goal here.
A director like Francis Lawrence can ably step in and work within the built-in parameters, juice up the settings and action sequences, and ultimately yield a decent sequel. A win for everybody, all things considered.
So, what do you think of the choice of Francis Lawrence for "Catching Fire"? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Amanda Bell is a young adult book-to-film enthusiast and has made a name for herself as a fan-friendly, informative and dependable source. In addition to being the District 14 columnist for NextMovie, she runs the popular Twilight Examiner column. Keep tabs on her on Twitter.