Gary Ross did not survive The Hunger Games. The director, who earned borderline raves for his faithful film adaptation of Suzanne Collins' hit novel, is abandoning the franchise. "I have decided not to direct Catching Fire," the second installment of the series, Ross said in a statement. "I simply don't have the time I need to write and prep the movie I would have wanted to make because of the fixed and tight production schedule." This leaves Catching Fire — in which Katniss Everdeen deals with fallout after defying a corrupt dystopian government during a lethal reality-TV competition — without a director just three and a half months before shooting is set to begin. (The film will be released Nov. 22, 2013.) How big of a blow is the loss of Ross to the Hunger Games franchise?
It's terrible news: Ross' exit is even more critical than some may realize, says Drew McWeeny at HitFix. He didn't just direct The Hunger Games. He sat down with Suzanne Collins to do the final pass on the script, putting "his fingerprints all over that first film." He also assembled the pitch-perfect cast, and drew from Jennifer Lawrence a steely lead performance as Katniss. This is the second time Lionsgate has parted ways with a director who launched a blockbuster franchise (see Twilight). Why would anyone want to sign on with such a seemingly problematic studio?
"Can Hunger Games survive as Gary Ross officially jumps from sequel?"
Other franchises have survived such a loss: What disappointing news, says Terri Schwartz at iVillage. Ross captured the essence of The Hunger Games novel in a way few thought possible. But this is hardly the first franchise to switch directors mid-course. Twilight has had four directors across its five films, while four different men have directed the eight Harry Potter movies. Assuming producers can find someone whose aesthetic resembles Ross' — somebody like Steven Soderbergh, for example, who served as second unit director on The Hunger Games — Catching Fire will be in good hands.
"Gary Ross won't direct Hunger Games sequel! So, who should?"
This could actually be good news: Ross' exit may actually be a net gain for the franchise, says Kyle Buchanan at New York. A new director might eschew the jittery, handheld shaky camera technique Ross used to film the Games scenes, which many moviegoers found nauseating, and prove more adept at shooting action than Ross, who showed "no particular flair" for shooting the tense battle sequences. And while Ross' fidelity to Suzanne Collins' source material won over the book's passionate fans, Catching Fire may benefit from a director who takes a less literal-minded and more cinematic approach.
"The pros and cons of Gary Ross leaving The Hunger Games"