Over the course of two Hunger Games films, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has been unflinchingly confident. But in Mockingjay – Part 1, the teen heroine suffers a bout of age-appropriate angst as she reluctantly becomes a rebel leader.
“It’s a very confusing, conflicted, complicated time for Katniss,” says director Francis Lawrence, who also directed 2013’s Catching Fire. “Having gone through the games one more time and having lost Peeta and having been run through the wringer, she’s even more damaged. So you find her in a more agitated place. She’s distraught, confused, angry.”
Collins’ final book presents a gritty narrative about Katniss’ role in the rebellion to overthrow the Capitol, with grim scenes of wartime brutality as the teen heroine struggles with the psychological consequences wrought by violence. But, says Lawrence, the upcoming installment won’t be entirely somber.
“There’s definitely some battles. There’s some of the first glimpses of real war in this movie. And the scale gets quite big,” he reveals. “There’s an atonal shift from some of the last movies, but they’re still very emotional, very sweeping, [on a] grand scale with some levity and humor.”
And there won’t be any major changes from the novel—although Lawrence worked closely with screenwriter Peter Craig, producer Nina Jacobson, and Collins to create new elements that will “surprise even fans of the book.”
“Instead of changing the plot and changing characters what we did was have the opportunity to show scenes that could have been happening at different times in the book,” Lawrence says. “For us it’s world expansion instead of changing things. I think it’s exciting for the fan to see certain things. So we’ve been able to open the world up in this and see some new places. We get to see some new districts this time and the scope gets quite large.”
There’s also the addition of cast member Julianne Moore as rebel President Alma Coin, a character whose role has been expanded for the upcoming films.
“What’s interesting is although she’s a huge character in Mockingjay the book, there’s actually very little of her in it,” notes Lawrence. “There’s more of her in this than in the book and because of that, there’s some development.”
But one thing thing that won’t change? That’d be the love triangle between Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), Gale (Liam Hemsworth), and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson).
“With Mockingjay – Part I it’s tricky because Peeta is out of reach for her,” notes the director. “Obviously he becomes an objective for her, but Gale is right there, so that’s always a tricky situation.”
While Lawrence won’t reveal how he divided the final book in Suzanne Collins’ trilogy (“That’s going to be one of the really good surprises,” he says), he shares that the films will have “two different, very distinct stories.”
“Those objectives became the motives for us,” Lawrence explains. “This is where the meaning of the entire series comes into play. The answer to why these books exist exists in Mockingjay, and that’s really been exciting to me. That’s been kind of what I’ve hung on to through these stories.”
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 is slated for release on Nov. 21, 2014.
For more on Mockingjay – Part 1, pick up Entertainment Weekly’s Fall Movie Preview issue, on stands now.