This whole “Hunger Games” strategy of releasing a new movie every year seems fine in theory, but that’s a really long time between films. Diehard readers of the book series may not have trouble distinguishing a Plutarch from a Beetee, but for casual fans who saw “Catching Fire” immediately after it was released last November, it’s tough to remember the details.
So, as movie No. 3 (“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1”) hits theaters this weekend and you probably don’t have time to re-watch all two and a half hours of movie No. 2 (“Catching Fire”), we’ll help you out. Assuming you know the basics, here’s a guide about what you need to remember.
The Hunger Games (in which 24 kids hunt each other down and try to be the last one alive) started because the leaders in the capital of post-apocalyptic America — in the nation of Panem — were afraid that there would be another uprising. So they started the Games to show people that the Capitol was really in charge.
At this point, President Snow is in charge and really, really hates Katniss, the feisty competitor who jointly won the last Hunger Games after a stunt involving poison berries. Thanks to this and her general fiery demeanor, people in Panem view her as a symbol of hope. They also really adore her love story with fellow victor Peeta.
Either way, Snow wants to beat that optimism out of people. Therefore, he teams up with new gamemaker Plutarch for a twist on the 75th anniversary of the Games — previous victors will be forced to re-enter the arena and try to murder each other. That way, they figure Katniss will definitely die.
For her second round in the arena, Katniss still wears the pin that her sister, Prim, gave her in the first movie of the mockingjay bird. That has also become a symbol for freedom among the Panem citizens and something that President Snow hates. Obviously, it’s a big part of the third film.
Katniss’s stylist (Lenny Kravitz) makes a very special gown for the second Hunger Games pre-interview ceremony; the dress has wings so she looks like the aforementioned mockingjay. Guess who doesn’t love that? President Snow, which is why Cinna is beaten up in front of Katniss moments before she enters the arena.
Woody Harrelson plays Katniss and Peeta’s boozy mentor, who won the Games when he was younger and collapsed into a life of intense alcoholism.
Played by Philip Seymour Hoffman (the film is dedicated to the late actor), Plutarch is the new gamemaker. The old one, Seneca Crane, met his demise when he proved to have a conscience and let both Katniss and Peeta win the Games in the first movie — the only the time there were ever two winners.
He won the Games at age 14 and is great at combat — and even though Katniss is pretty mean when they first meet, he teams up with her and Peeta. Finnick is also deeply in love with Annie, a former victor who doesn’t get a chance to play because Mags (a much older former victor) volunteers in her place. It’s implied that Annie went a bit off the rails after her time in the arena.
A science and electricity genius, Beetee is a former victor who won his Hunger Games by electrocuting six tributes.
The District 7 tribute who immediately strips naked in an elevator when she first meets Peeta and Katniss, who later become her allies. The stripping proves irrelevant to the story but is just a way of showing her, uh, personality.
The Katniss/Peeta/Gale love triangle
Although Katniss has a thing with Gale, her best friend from her hometown of District 12, she is forced to enter into a fake relationship with Peeta to stay likable — and therefore, alive — during the Games. It’s crucial to keep up the ruse after the Games as well, so they even get engaged during their victor’s tour to stay on the good side of the capitol. Peeta even lies on TV and tells everyone Katniss is pregnant in hopes of getting her out of the second round of games. It doesn’t work.
The twist ending
During their second time in the Games, Katniss and Peeta team up with Beetee, Finnick and Johanna. Beetee the genius rigs up a plan: They can electrocute the other tributes by dragging a wire along the arena and configuring it with a lightning bolt that hits the arena every night at midnight.
Swell plan, but it’s actually all a ruse: Unbeknownst to Katniss, Plutarch is actually working with a small group (Haymitch, Beetee, Finnick and some other tributes) to bring down the Capitol. Anyway, Katniss plays right into their hand when she shoots an arrow up into the sky during a bolt of lightning, which rips a hole in the arena and causes a massive power outage in Panem.
Katniss is then airlifted by a mysterious airplane, where she wakes up next to an unconscious Beetee. Stumbling into another room, she sees Plutarch, Finnick and Haymitch, who tell her the fun news: They’re all going to District 13 to start a revolution against the Capitol.
The fate of Peeta
Naturally, Katniss freaks out when Haymitch and the gang tell her that unfortunately, they weren’t able to rescue Peeta or the other tributes: The Capitol took them away, which can’t be good news for anyone. Katniss is devastated.
The fate of District 12
Eventually, Katniss runs into the arms of Gale, who is also headed for District 13 and the uprising. He tells her that her mother and sister were safely rescued from District 12, which by the way, was taken over by the Capitol after the surprise ending of the Games.
“There is no District 12,” he tells her. “It’s all gone.”