(USA TODAY) One would think winning the survival-of-the-fittest Hunger Games would be all good - presents, fame, celebrity, people feeding you grapes, that sort of thing.
However in the new sequel The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (in theaters Nov. 22), victory in the 74th version of the famous battle to the death just ends up bringing more problems for Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson).
The winds of change are blowing for the Capitol, and the Districts of Panem are not helping things as they see Katniss and Peeta as their revolutionary leaders. Consequently, the two District 12ers from the previous deathmatch are thrown into the thick of things again in the 75th Hunger Games, an all-star edition known as the Quarter Quell where the competing "tributes" are chosen from existing victors.
"You fought very hard in the Games, Miss Everdeen. But they were games. Would you like to be in a real war?" President Snow ominously asks Katniss in a new trailer for the film, based on the second book in Suzanne Collins' series.
The Catching Fire cast went to Comic-Con over the weekend, and here are some tidbits they doled out about what to expect in the upcoming movie.
Katniss is in crisis. The heroine is now living in Victors' Village and struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder from the first Games. And while she doesn't have as many worries as she did, like a dearth of food for her and her family, "that leaves her in a horrible state of not having anything to do," Lawrence says. "She's trying to get her life back together but this is kind of a life she doesn't really recognize anymore.
"It's one of those things where you can't go back to starving and worrying about how you're going to get your next meal, but what do you do when you don't have to do that anymore? She has to be content with this new life and find herself."
Fans will get a fuller scope of Panem. According to director Francis Lawrence,Catching Fire is the movie where the story really starts to open up, the world gets bigger, the stakes get higher and relationships become much more complex.
"Katniss' journey through the trilogy becomes clearer here," he says. "There are different elements now that come into play. You understand what she did in the first one and how it's affecting the entire nation of Panem. You understand what's at stake for her and her character and how she's trying to protect the family and what she's starting to mean for the rebellion."
The Capitol strikes back. The Empire Strikes Back was another little movie about an oppressive authority and a rebellion, and much like the second Star Wars film,Catching Fire is a bit darker than the first, according to Lawrence.
The Districts saw Katniss and Peeta takes a stand after they won the Games, she says, "and it puts her and her family in a lot of danger."
Adds Lawrence: "The movies are actually quite heavy - Suzanne Collins didn't pull any punches and I admire her for that, so we're trying not to as well."
Primrose blooms as a sibling. Katniss' sister Prim, played by Willow Shields, is growing up a bit and plays a more important role in her own family.
"She's definitely falling in her mom's footsteps becoming a healer," Shields says. "Since Katniss is now going back to the Games again, she's the one reassuring Katniss that everything's going to be fine.
"It's a really different character to play. There's not a lot out there like that. It's also really interesting to start with that first movie and grow up and change and have to act differently. I started when I was 10 and I'm 13 now, so it's a big difference."
Beware Johanna. Johanna Mason, a female tribute from District 7, is a lot more dangerous than she looks, and actress Jena Malone connected with her sense of humor - "It's a little bit off the cuff and a little bit strange" - and loves her unpredictability.
"She's a total badass. That's just kind of awesome," Malone says. "No matter what circumstance you throw at her, she's just going to rise above it."
Her role in the 2011 action film Sucker Punch was essential in terms of the actual physicality needed for Catching Fire.
"Muscle memory is key," the actress says, "particularly learning different martial arts and training and building up things I never would have before. Sucker Punch also helped me in knowing my ability. I was like, 'Oh, I can push myself that far before I fall off a cliff and die.' It was good to know my limits."
Peeta gets some extra fight. In the first Hunger Games film, Peeta was a little too weak for Hutcherson's taste, needing help and coddling from Katniss, but in Catching Fire he starts earning his keep.
"Peeta steps it up," Hutcherson says. "As the series goes on, my favorite part about Peeta is the character really evolves in an interesting way and in the third book (Mockingjay) he's brainwashed and trying to kill Katniss so it's a really great arc."
Beetee has some electricity. Jeffrey Wright debuts in the Hunger Games franchise as Beetee, an older tribute from District 3 who is a master of traps that use a whole lot of voltage. "He is a disciple of Nikola Tesla," Wright says. "Not the band."
Cinna continues to lend a fashionable hand. Lenny Kravitz feels that his character, Katniss' stylist Cinna, really believes in the heroine and has had something for this girl since first meeting her, "even though it's not really what he's supposed to be doing," the singer/actor says. "He's supposed to be making her fashion and that's probably about it."
Yet their bond becomes even stronger in Catching Fire, according to Kravitz. "He begins to, in his way and the way he can, rebel by making certain political statements with the clothing, etc, and really having her back."
Our heroine takes a dive. Lawrence goes "kerploosh" into the water as Katniss begins another round of the games, but it's the more conventional stuntwork - like anything over a light jog - that's worse for her than the harrowing stuff.
Running is always just hard for me because I run like an idiot and I hit myself in the face with my 8-pound carbon-fiber bow so hard I flung myself backwards," Lawrence says. "It's never the complicated stuff that you think is gonna get me - it's normally just the basic running that always brings me down."
Brian Truitt, USA TODAY