The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is the highest grossing film of 2014 (domestically), but as the third entry in an immensely popular four-film series that success was never really in doubt. We still have eight months to wait for the final movie, but Part 1 hits Blu-ray/DVD this week complete with a making-of documentary, featurettes, deleted scenes and more.
Also included on the disc is a feature commentary by director Francis Lawrence and one of the producers. Sure he’s not the flashiest Lawrence they could have wrangled for the track, but he was handed the keys to a massive franchise so he probably knows what he’s talking about.
Keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary track for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014)
Commentator: Francis Lawrence (director), Nina Jacobson (producer)
1. The book opens with Katniss’ thoughts on District 13 as she walks through the ruins of District 12, but the filmmakers realized early on that audiences would need to see the experience instead of just merely hearing about it.
2. Katniss’ meeting in the hospital with Finnick is a scene that actually took place elsewhere at the end of the Catching Fire book. They didn’t think it fit the second film but wanted to include it here.
3. The production designers used battleships and aircraft carriers as inspirations for the design of District 13.
4. The Harrier-like hovercraft introduction was filmed inside a large warehouse in Atlanta. They were filming in winter, and the poorly insulated building meant the cast were quite cold to the point that the production was actually shut down for a couple days due to sharp temperature drops.
5. The ruins of District 12 were actually a factory outside of Atlanta that was scheduled for destruction. The production was given access to the property and permission to mess with it as much as they’d like.
6. The white rose is CGI. They wanted a “perfect” rose but were unable to find one, so they just made their own.
7. The scene where Katniss sees Peeta onscreen for the first time – and see him telling the resistance to lay down their arms – was shot several times in multiple locales including the commander’s office (which is where it occurs in the book). They finally settled on the cafeteria because the multitude of everyday resistance fighters surrounding here highlighted just how alone and lonely she really is.
8. CGI was used to create/enhance Peeta’s growing gauntness in his televised interviews. They considered having Josh Hutcherson lose the weight, but the film schedule – both Mockingjay films were shot back to back – made that difficult to do. So like the rose above, bam, CGI.
9. The dream sequence where Katniss asks Peeta to stay with her always was shot exactly as the real incident occurred in Catching Fire. We used “the same lenses, same angles, same cutting pattern,” says Lawrence.
10. Katniss’s list of demands was tweaked to offer the film a rare moment of levity. “Jen was great that she could use some of her comic timing,” says Lawrence, “because Katniss actually isn’t very funny.”
11. Plutarch Heavensbee’s (Philip Seymour Hoffman) assistant in the book was a character named Fulvia Cardew – of course it was – but the filmmakers wanted to keep Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) around. It took some convincing for series author Suzanne Collins, but they eventually won out.
12. Francis says Effie’s line about President Alma Coin – “You know what could use a revolution? That hair.” – was improvised by Banks.
13. The scene where Effie shows Katniss the drawings in the cafeteria was supposed to feature Plutarch instead, but it was shot the second day back after Hoffman’s death. They had roughly 80% of his scenes completed at the time.
14. They wait 33 minutes before mentioning Hoffman’s death. They never mention it again.
15. A scene was shot where Katniss and Gale exit a building into a meadow to find Beetee (Jeffrey Wright) studying hummingbirds. It’s on the DVD as part of the deleted scenes, and Lawrence says the meadow will be in part 2.
16. Liam Hemsworth snapped his ankle while filming the bombing of District 8 so the entire sequence had to pause for a month while he recovered. They picked the scene back up again about a month later.
17. Parts of the District 8 bombing, basically the bit where Katniss takes down the Capitol ship with an explosive arrow, was filmed in Berlin at the same location where Quentin Tarantino filmed the theater burning in Inglourious Basterds.
18. They tried having the District 13 crowd hiss when they disagreed with something President Coin said, but it sounded “creepy” so they reverted back to chants.
19. The scene where Katniss and Gale take aim on an elk before deciding to let it live was interrupted when a nearby wasp nest was accidentally disturbed. Both Lawrences were stung along with several other members of the cast and crew.
20. The melody for the folk song that Katniss sings at the quarry was written by The Lumineers, and it’s a live recording by Jennifer Lawrence (as opposed to a pre-recorded bit).
21. Lawrence crafted the look of the bombing drill sequence in District 13 after Wolfgang Petersen’s Das Boot.
22. They had two Buttercups on set, one that was active and another that never felt like moving. The scene where the cat chases the flashlight beam was actually done with a laser toy which they then digitally removed.
23. The fast rope descent into the tribute tower was filmed at Atlanta’s Marriott Marquis. The stuntmen actually slid down fifty stories through the center of the darkened hotel.
24. They considered ending the film at the moment the screen goes black after Peeta gets hit with a fire extinguisher. “We were all really hot on the Breaking Bad endings,” says Lawrence. “We’d all been watching Breaking Bad religiously at each other’s apartments… but then we realized people would probably riot.” Katniss waking in the hospital was originally going to be the beginning of Part 2.
Best in Commentary
- Jacobson: “Jen felt really guilty putting that cat in the bag over and over again.”
It’s probably evident in everything above – especially the fact that there’s only one entry under the “Best in Commentary” section – but this is not a great commentary track. Both Lawrence and Jacobson are talkative enough, but the information they share is far from exciting. Even the anecdotes, of which there are a few, are mild in their entertainment value. Still, it’s a competent track with some interesting information.