Ear-splitting white drumming by men in white heralded the start of the “Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 2” panel at Comic-Con. Footage showing the new trailer—which won’t be shared with the world quite yet—followed, along with piercing screams. The trick with the finale is that the reluctant heroine Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence)—garbed in resplendent red with a long bow over her shoulder against all her white rebel warriors—gets to become an active leader, hell-bent to destroy Panem’s despotic President Snow (Donald Sutherland). She’s goes into total warrior mode in this one, which finally delivers some action to the fans of the Suzanne Collins novels and the “Hunger Games” series.
The trailer showed plenty of bloody battles, as the movie opens out of dank underground depression and out into open vistas shot in Paris and Berlin. Clearly, everyone enjoyed moving into resolution mode. “The world opened up for us and the characters,” said director Francis Lawrence on the panel. “This is more an interesting journey. Exploring with Katniss the idea of the consequence of war and violence, to be able to sit with her and watch her put herself back together, as best she can, was interesting and satisfying, more fun.”
Lionsgate was one of the few studios at Comic-Con, because it’s in their interest to bring in their stars and ignite fan passion for this finale–and work the emotions at their possible upcoming loss. No more “Hunger Games.” Lionsgate want to get the most out of the ultimate “Hunger Games” movie. I was sitting right behind the company’s motion picture team, lead by one-time Summit partners Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger, who sat with their production chief Erik Feig.
They may be plotting some mischief ahead of their most-lucrative series coming to an end: Josh Hutcherson hinted at a possible spin-off during Team Mockingjay’s TV appearance with Conan O’Brien. (See videos below.) (I hear that Lionsgate has nothing in the works at this time.)
Lawrence was as self-deprecatingly charming as ever, constantly making fun of her lack of public speaking skills. She wiped her nose with the black dias tablecloth. She admitted she didn’t know how to braid. Lawrence lectured O’Brien on the difference between a cross and a long bow (which is much harder, and shared intel on all the different bows she uses, real and camera-fake). “If you have learned anything,” she asked the adoring crowd, “what have we learned about me and public speaking?”
Her two male co-stars Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth played along, covering the mic and trying to build up her confidence. She’s clearly closer to Hutcherson, but they have their group patter down. (Meet Lawrence and you will know that she does not lack confidence in her abilities as an actress; making oneself human and relatable is a major skill in a star’s arsenal. Her instincts are flawless.) None of the cast could manage the Mockingjay whistle. “It sounds like ‘X-Files,'” they agreed, and devolved into making bird calls.
READ MORE: Breaking Down How ‘Catching Fire’ Became A Record-Breaking Blockbuster
For producer Nina Jacobson, who has shepherded the series and protected Collins’ vision from the start, delivering the emotions, politics and what Collins wants to say about our future was the goal. “This is the story where [Katniss] finally takes control of her own story and destiny and makes decisions she makes for herself,” she said. “We’re watching a woman come into her own and make a decision to set her own course. That to me feels very satisfying.”
This movie is about the idea that “the power of the future is with you and in your hands,” said Lawrence. “These issues are very real. [Katniss] took things into her hands, she knew she could die.”
During the film Peeta Mellark “takes a long road to recovery,” said Hutcherson, “with bumps along the way. We pick Peeta up trying to get himself back and they’re trying to rehabilitate him to use him as a good guy and help the cause.”
Gale Hawthorne is back at the center of the action, leading the District 13 uprising. “He’s been on the sidelines and he’s finally in the mix, part of the uprising and military operations,” said Hemsworth. “He’s part of the plans and ideas on how to attack the capital. He teams up with Geoffrey Wright’s character Beetee to find ways to ambush and trap the enemy. We get to kick ass.”
Another recurring theme familiar from the Comic-Con panel for the last “Twilight” installment was everyone saying good-bye. The cast recalled how they all came together on the last day of filming in Berlin. Lawrence and Woody Harrelson gave moving speeches, while the young trio hugged and wept. “That night we held each other an slept like puppies,” said Lawrence, who hasn’t faced the end of the series. “I don’t feel like its happened yet. These movies are a big part of my life, they changed my life, these guys changed me…I love you. The changes that happened are so permanent and with me that I don’t think I’ll ever say goodbye to her. It feels like a part of me.”
Following the buzzy Comic-Con panel, Lawrence, Hutcherson, and Hemsworth made a stir on “Conan,” belting out Cher covers and cursing up a storm. (Watch clips below.) During the show, Hutcherson hinted that after “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 2” hits November 20 in 3D IMAX, we may see more of Katniss and the Districts from Lionsgate down the line. CEO Jon Feltheimer has teased further expanding the franchise with prequels and sequel possibilities before.
Lawrence has also been tapped to star in Sony’s romantic drama “The Rosie Project,” about a socially awkward genetics professor who figures out how to find the perfect mate, but is disarmed when he meets Rosie Jarman, a woman who possesses the opposite qualities. It’s written by “(500) Days of Summer”‘s Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber from a book by Graeme Simsion.
Originally “Lego Movie” directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were circling the project, but they’ve moved onto Disney’s Han Solo “Star Wars” spinoff. Matt Tolmach and Michael Costigan are producers. Lawrence is in pre-production on Sony’s “Passengers” opposite Chris Pratt, and will be seen in David O. Russell’s “Joy” this Christmas.