Friday, 17 July 2015

Comic Con 2015: Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 panel

Once the final piece of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 punctuation had been hauled into place, Comic Con's Hall H locked down for a final Hunger Games session and Lionsgate panel. Director Francis Lawrence, his namesake Jennifer, and the rest of his Capitol crew were introduced by a certain US talk show host to a public frenzy that would have lifted the soul of Caesar Flickerman himself.

"My name is Conan O'Brien," said Conan O'Brien after a martial drum parade from Squad 451's Stomp team, "and I'm not in the Hunger Games films." O'Brien then introduced cast members Lawrence, Willow Shields, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth and producer Nina Jacobson. Gale receiving the loudest scream over Peeta, with Jennifer Lawrence bouncing on stage to equal frenzy.

"This is where Katniss gets back into action," explained Francis Lawrence as he introduced a world first look at the movie's new trailer. "She was a bit sidelined last time but now she's going after Snow. She's going into the Capitol with Squad 451." Sure enough, the new trailer showcased plenty of action. The burning Capitol, snowbound (and Snow bound), has turned slate grey, while the occasional interior shot shows that, despite his straitened circumstances, President Snow has lost none of his appetite for opulence.

"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 76th Hunger Games," bellows one of the insurgents. This Hunger Games is low on Tracker Jackers and high on urban warfare. Still plenty of booby traps – "a minefield of traps" – in evidence strewn across The Capitol. "Tonight, turn your weapons to the Capitol!" orders Katniss. "Turn your weapons to Snow." Shades of Downfall (2004), throughout, and a glimpse of Philip Seymour Hoffman's Plutarch Heavensbee hinting at a final gambit from the arch gamesmaker.

With the trailer wrapped, producer Nina Jacobsen addressed the challenges of filling the book's hiatus between the end of the conflict and the epilogue. "We've tried to stay rooted in Katniss' point of view," she explained, adding that "we've tried to balance taking time for real emotion and the propulsion of heading towards the ending. It was a challenge." Her director added: "We're really exploring the consequences of war and violence, so to be able to sit with Katniss and see her put herself back together [in the aftermath] was really interesting to me."

"There's always someone calling the shots for Katniss," continued the producer. "This is the one where she finally takes control of her decisions – and not easy decisions, by any means."

Taking questions from social media and an audience fully briefed on the likely denouement had O'Brien and the cast grasping occasionally for the kill switch, although one snuck through from Liam Hemsworth. If he could meet Gale what would you say to him? "It's alright, mate. Plenty more fish in the sea."

"I hope something of Katniss has rubbed off on me," replied Lawrence to a question about saying farewell to the character. "But nothing about us is similar, because she's brave and I'm... an actress."

"This is my first time playing crazy," explained Hutcherson, "so I had to really let loose. I've never really yelled at anyone before, so I had to go to intense places that I've never really gone to in normal life. It was fun to let the crazy out."

Finally, the Hunger Gamers shared their emotions about bidding a fond farewell to the franchise. "We all wish there were seven or eight books, not just three," said producer Jacobson, "but we really want to deliver for the fans."

Alongside Hutcherson, Hemsworth, Shields and Lawrence, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 stars Julianne Moore, Sam Claflin, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson, Jena Malone and Donald Sutherland.

You can watch the full Comic Con 2015: Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 panel below.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 arrives in the UK on 19 November.

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