After a strong showing at Comic-Con International, the odds are ever in Lionsgate's favor thanks to The Hunger Games: Catching Fire's charismatic cast and dramatic first-look footage, and a peek at the heroic modern Prometheus of I, Frankenstein.
With I, Frankenstein up first, director and screenwriter Stuart Beattie was joined on stage by Kevin Grevioux, who wrote the original graphic novel upon which the movie is based, Aaron Eckhart, who stars as Frankenstein's monster Adam, and Yvonne Strahovski, who plays a scientist confronted with the impossibility of a reanimated being.
Beattie began the panel by saying that, although Adam is faced with some violent conflicts, I, Frankenstein will have a different feel to it than many blockbusters, as he looks to establish "a new language of action sequences." He said there will be "no fistfights, no shootouts," and confrontations will instead take other forms.
One such form, seen in the brief trailer, is Filipino kali stick-fighting, which Eckhart said he'd never heard of before taking the role. "It was very, very difficult to film," he said. "It was very physical, so you had to be in good shape."
Speaking to the origins of I, Frankenstein as a comic, Grevioux said, "I was looking to bring a new monster to life in a modern context," and hit on "Frankenstein as action hero." "Lionsgate snapped it up before it was out even," the writer said.
Strahowski said her character is skeptical of the existence both of Frankenstein's monster and the gargoyles and demons he supposedly fights. "When you first meet my character, she's reanimating a dead rat," she said. Discovering that a scientist accomplished what she's done nearly two hundred years ago, and on a much larger scale, both intimidates and intrigues her. So when confronted with the monster, who calls himself Adam, "she describes him as 'it' — and she's looking at 'it' very scientifically." The tension in her character, then, is evolving her idea of what makes us human.
In response to a fan question about I, Frankenstein's relationship to the original story, Beattie said, "Our story begins where Mary Shelley's ends," with Adam burying his father, but then jumps forward to modern times. It was clear from the footage, of course, that this will be quite a new take on the character.
Another fan asked why Adam doesn’t have as many scars as do traditional representations of the character. "There's only so much you can do to make Aaron Eckhart ugly," Beattie joked. He added, however, that the scars have faded over the years, and Adam will have a very different look in the flashback sequences.
Transitioning to The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, a sequel to the 2012 blockbuster based on Suzanne Collins' bestselling sci-fi novel, director Francis Lawrence walked to the stage along with stars Willow Shields, Lenny Kravitz, Jena Malone, Jeffrey Wright, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson and, drawing massive applause, Jennifer Lawrence.
Jennifer Lawrence began by describing how Katniss' life has changed since her victory in the Hunger Games. "Her life is very different now," she said, explaining that although she's been inducted into a life of luxury as one of the victors, Katniss is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and "feeling useless" because she doesn't have to work. She's also reached a point when Peeta, her co-champion in the Games, "understands more of her than Gale," her closest friend from before the competition.
"Peeta has such strong feelings for Katniss," Hutcherson said of his character, "then he finds it was just an act."
"It's complicated," Lawrence said.
"It's an act," Hutcherson added.
Speaking of Gale, Hemsworth said his most challenging days on set were those spent filming the torture scene. "It's interesting when you're going into work and just getting whipped for three days straight," he said. "On the one hand, you're acting, but you get for three days with anything, it's going to hurt."
For Jennifer Lawrence, however, the biggest challenge was a bit more straightforward. "I had a lot of archery training. And running training, because I'm not a very good runner," she said. "I run weird.
"The hardest stunt is probably still just basic running. There's a scene where I'm running up a mountain, and I'm running up this mountain all day and trying not to hit myself in the face with my bow."
The new trailer debuted, beginning with Katniss assuring her young sister Primrose, "You understand that whatever I do, it comes back to you and Mom." But Katniss' rebellious behavior in the Games — including forcing a joint victory with Peeta — have sown unrest throughout the 12 districts, leading to open revolt and making Katniss an enemy of the state. That leads President Snow to declare that, for the 75th Hunger Games, "competitors are to be reaped from the existing pool of victors," creating a deadly all-star match. Intercut with Katniss and the other contestants training for an even more intense battle, we see scenes of riots in the streets, a police crackdown, and Gale's torture.
After the preview, Francis Lawrence spoke about the scope of the Hunger Games sequel. "I'm really pleased with the emotional feel of the movie and how the world came together, [with] the different districts," he said. "And the cast was fantastic."
Jennifer Lawrence, who won an Oscar for her performance in The Silver Linings Playbook, was asked how Katniss' victory tours compared to her own experiences after the Academy Awards. "The stakes weren't as high," she said. Lawrence added that, like Katniss, she wasn’t necessarily accustomed to the elegant dress expected for the red carpet, but the public persona "becomes a part of you."
Kravitz, who’s better known for what he described as his "day job" as a rock star, said The Hunger Games has brought a new dimension to his career. "It's great having little kids wanting to meet Cinna — they have no idea who I am," he said.
Hutcherson and Lawrence joked about the romantic scenes, with Lawrence recounting one in which Katniss is resuscitating Peeta. Katniss is crying and "there's all this snot and it's dripping from my nose down to his mouth." Lawrence described just how messy that got before concluding, "So yeah, it's going to be really hot."
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire opens Nov. 22, while I, Frankenstein premieres Jan. 24.