Fans of The Hunger Games series will be jumping back into the world of Panem with the Nov. 21 theatrical release of “Mockingjay -- Part 1.”
The first movie of the series, “The Hunger Games,” hit theaters in March 2012 and made $152 million on opening weekend, according to imdb.com. Its sequel, “Catching Fire,” debuted in November 2013 at $158 million.
“Mockingjay -- Part 1” is expected to perform similarly. “Part 2” is scheduled for November 2015.
For those who may not be as familiar with Suzanne Collins’ book trilogy, here’s what you need to know heading into the first leg of the two-part finale.
Katniss Everdeen, who just escaped the Quarter Quell (her second time in the arena where “tributes” are forced to fight to the death) at the end of the film “Catching Fire,” discovers the mystery behind District 13, which was long thought destroyed, and suits up as the symbol of rebellion against the oppressive Capitol. Fellow tribute and (somewhat) love interest Peeta Mellark is now being held captive by the Capitol. New characters such as President Coin, Boggs and members of Squad 451 are introduced in “Mockingjay -- Part 1.”
In the post-apocalyptic nation of Panem, the citizens are divided among 12 districts and controlled by a central Capitol. The Capitol is home to superficial, futuristic citizens who live extravagant lifestyles, made possible by the labors of the districts’ citizens. Each district is in charge of a specific industry, such as textile, technology or agriculture. President Snow runs the Capitol and controls the districts.
In the past, the districts’ citizens revolted against the Capitol and the annual Hunger Games was created as punishment. In the Games, 24 tributes -- one boy and one girl from each district -- are “reaped” from the 12 districts and sent to an arena created by gamemakers to fight to the death. The Games are aired on television as sport for the Capitol citizens. District citizens are also forced to watch as a reminder to be obedient. Only one victor comes out alive.
Book 1: ‘The Hunger Games’
Katniss Everdeen volunteers as tribute for the 74th annual Hunger Games when her younger sister, Primrose, has her name drawn from the reaping pool in District 12. Katniss goes to the Capitol with fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark, where she prepares and trains for the Games. Her years spent hunting in the woods -- critical for her family’s survival -- gives her the advantage with a bow and arrow.
Upon entering the arena, Katniss fights alone, but soon teams up with Rue, a young tribute from District 11 who is eventually killed. Meanwhile, the rules of the Games are changed: tributes can now team up with their fellow district tribute. Katniss finds Peeta and the two fake a romance to win favor with the viewers.
When Katniss and Peeta are the only two tributes left, the rules change again: there will only be one victor. Rather than killing each other, the “star-crossed lovers” spontaneously decide to both eat poisoned berries, threatening to upstage the Capitol. Gamemakers decided to let the two survive because they must have a victor. This act of defiance marks Katniss as a symbol of rebellion.
Book 2: ‘Catching Fire’
Katniss and Peeta must go on a Victory Tour following the 74th annual Hunger Games. From the Capitol, President Snow warns Katniss that he is watching her. In order to protect herself, she must continue to fake her love affair with Peeta, and the two become engaged. However, Peeta’s romantic feelings towards Katniss are genuine.
During the tour, the citizens of District 11 demonstrate their allegiance to Katniss, which looks like another act of rebellion against the Capitol. District 8 is also on the verge of rebellion. Katniss’ mockingjay pin, which she wore during the Hunger Games, becomes the sign of rebellion.
When Katniss returns to her home district, she sneaks out into the woods and comes across a boy and a girl in search of District 13. This is the first time Katniss learns of District 13’s continued existence. It was supposedly destroyed in the first rebellion.
For the 75th Hunger Games, a Quarter Quell is announced -- a special version of the Games where the reaping pool is made up of past victors. This means Katniss and Peeta (who volunteers in place of Haymitch, their trainer and the only other living victor from District 12) will re-enter the Games. Katniss and Peeta are advised by Haymitch to select allies.
In the Games, the duo teams up with victors Finnick, Mags, Johanna, Beetee and Wiress. The group discovers the arena is a giant clock full of danger zones that go off at certain times. Beetee and Katniss destroy the arena by strategically conducting lightning with a coil of wire. A few of the surviving tributes are picked up in an aircraft, where Katniss is confronted with a rebellion against the Capitol. The Capitol has taken Peeta, and Katniss finds out that her home district, District 12, has been destroyed.
Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence): Known as the “girl on fire,” Katniss mastered her skills with the bow and arrow over the years as she hunted in the woods surrounding District 12 with her best friend Gale to provide food for her family. Her alliance with fellow District 12 tribute Peeta and an act of defiance against the Capitol to win the 74th games makes Katniss appealing as a leader of the resistance.
Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson): Peeta is District 12’s male tribute and joint victor of the Hunger Games. He was born to the son of a baker but is known for his loyalty, strength and artistic talent, which helps save his life in the 74th Games. Peeta exhibits strong feelings towards Katniss and commits his life to saving hers.
Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson): Apart from recent victors Peeta and Katniss, Haymitch is the only other District 12 victor still alive. He is a helpless drunk but becomes a key character as he mentors Katniss and Peeta through the Hunger Games.
Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth): Gale is Katniss’ best friend and hunting partner from District 12. Katniss and Gale often escape to the woods to hunt and share dreams of escaping the districts, but Gale changes his mind about escape as he becomes involved in the rebellion and decides he wants to stay and fight.
Primrose Everdeen (Willow Shields): Katniss’ younger sister, Prim, was reaped in the 74th annual Hunger Games but stayed home when Katniss volunteered to take her place. Prim, a gifted healer, is the reason Katniss fights to survive.
President Snow (Donald Sutherland): Coriolanus Snow is the leader of Panem and oppressor of the districts. Snow becomes closely involved in spying on Katniss as she becomes a threat to his ruling system.
President Coin (Julianne Moore): Alma Coin is the president of District 13 and leader of the rebellion. Katniss and President Coin do not always see eye-to-eye.
Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman): Plutarch is the head gamemaker who replaced Seneca Crane after the 74th annual Hunger Games. However, he is secretly aiding President Coin in leading the rebel forces.
Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin): A District 4 victor who won at age 14, Finnick is a heartthrob beloved by the Capitol citizens. His true love is Annie Cresta (Stef Dawson), a District 4 tribute who won a few years after Finnick. Finnick became a key player in the rebellion when he joined Katniss’ team in the Quarter Quell. Like Peeta, Annie is in Capitol custody.
Beetee (Jeffrey Wright): Beetee is the District 3 victor who teamed up with Katniss in the Quarter Quell and helped destroy the arena. He helps the rebels hack into the Capitol’s system.
Boggs (Mahershala Ali): Boggs, a military leader in District 13, becomes a close friend of Katniss as well as her personal bodyguard. The two are part of Squad 451 with a mission to take down President Snow and the Capitol.
Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks): Effie, a citizen of the Capitol, is Katniss and Peeta’s escort leading up to the Games. In a departure from the book, she remains with the rebels in District 13 and continues to assist Katniss in becoming the face of the rebellion.
Cinna (Lenny Kravitz): Cinna was Katniss’ stylist for the Games. His fire-themed outfits presented Katniss as “the girl on fire” and help her get support and sponsors from the citizens of the Capitol. Cinna is murdered in front of Katniss before she enters the Quarter Quell in the second book, but his designs live on as a symbol of her influence.
(Amber Clayson can be reached at email@example.com.)