With the theatrical release of ‘Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ a scant nine months away, director Francis Lawrence (‘I Am Legend,’ ‘Water for Elephants’) is keeping momentum at a feverish tracker-jacker pace and looking ahead to the adaptation of ‘Mockingjay’ for the big screen.

As seems to be all the rage these days, the third-and-final book of the series will be split into two parts, following the lead of action-packed ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’ and brooding-montage-packed ‘The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn.’ Lawrence (not to be confused with lead actress Jennifer) took the directorial reins from Gary Ross, director of the first ‘Hunger Games,’ and will be directing the final three installments.

Helga Esteb / Shutterstock.com

Word has it that Lionsgate approached screenwriter Danny Strong back in October to pen ‘Mockingjay, Part 1,’ and they seem to have liked it so much, they’re bringing him back on board for ‘Part 2.’ Strong, fresh off the heels of an Emmy win for his adaptation of HBO’s ‘Game Change,’ has a long-standing place in the hearts of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ fans as the sometimes misguided but always hilarious Jonathan Levinson.

The question on the minds of every fan of the series is: where will the final book be divided into two separate films? Some have called ‘Mockingjay’ the weakest book of the series, and although book length usually translates poorly to movie length, each ‘Hunger Games’ book has roughly the same number of pages, whereas ‘Harry Potter’ was known for its exponential rise with each subsequent tale. Others worry it will suffer a similar fate to ‘The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn’ which drew out Part 1 in favor of a final film with comparatively more action.

Considering the difficulty in discussing ‘Mockingjay’ when ‘Catching Fire’ hasn’t released yet, there are some spoilers ahead, so be forewarned!

Fans of the series know ‘Catching Fire’ throws us into yet another Hunger Games called the Quarter Quell, the morbidly special 75th year of the Games. In true “second-in-a-trilogy” fashion, this installment pulls an ‘Empire Strikes Back’ and ends with the fate of our heroes hanging in the balance. ‘Mockingjay’ opens in a world where the Capitol is even more evil than previously imagined, and the civilians’ only hope for survival is the rallying cry of a single girl.

The popular theory on the street is that ‘Mockingjay, Part 1’ will end after Katniss’ propaganda efforts are deemed not enough and the only course of action is to attack the Capitol. Without putting too fine a point on the fact that the book is structured well enough to be one film, since that’s not to be, this seems like an appropriate stopping point.

If ‘Part 1’ got too much into the heart of the attacks, it might feel top-heavy and abrupt, leaving a shorter, though action-packed ‘Part 2’ with a sacrificed story-arc. Fans have speculated that the beginning of Peeta’s storyline might be a good stopping point for ‘Part 1,’ but that doesn’t leave a lot of meat for the first 120 minutes of the film. And there are no scenic ocean vistas or luxurious cabana scenes set to up-and-coming indie music, so it doesn’t seem appropriate to take a page from ‘Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn’ and lengthen it via melodic reverie.

Snark aside, with the powerhouse combo of Francis Lawrence’s directing, Danny Strong’s writing, and the brilliant acting chops of Jennifer Lawrence, Stanley Tucci, and the rest of the cast, this series is positioned to exceed expectations for cinematic excellence.

‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay: Part 1’ is scheduled to hit theaters in 2014, with ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay: Part 2’ sailing smoothly behind in 2015.