After the first three films in the Hunger Games series transported fans to the woods of District 12, two deadly battle arenas, and the grim confines of a subterranean complex, the final installment Mockingjay—Part 2 is taking Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) to areas of Panem’s seat of power that have yet to be showcased on the big screen.
Fans of Suzanne Collins’ bestselling YA series can look forward to an up-close view of the Capitol. “This is the most amount of time we’ve spent in the Capitol,” says returning director Francis Lawrence. “So we had to focus a lot on how to accomplish that, especially when we spend most of our time out on the street.”
Here’s how the design team built the blueprint for a city under siege.
The 3-D hologram used by Katniss and her rebel allies to plan their path to President Snow’s mansion may seem familiar to well-heeled travelers. “Anyone who really knows Paris will find quadrants of the map that look very familiar,” director Lawrence says. “It’s a mix up of a layout of Paris and old designs of Germania.” But guided access to the Capitol’s wide avenues and well-defined arrondissements doesn’t mean that the team will find it any easier to track down (and take down) President Snow. Says Lawrence, “The route is severely booby-trapped.” Though the final chapter in the dystopian franchise could easily take a violent turn with graphic scenes depicting wartime brutality, Lawrence says he made extra effort to keep the film teen-friendly. “What I tried to do was focus on the emotional consequences of violence, and not the blood, guts, carnage and shock value of it,” he explains. “A lot of violence is implied.”
For the look of the buildings, returning production designer Philip Messina drew inspiration from the Soviet era. “That architecture was evocative of dictatorial regimes,” he says. “It felt strong and monolithic, but also had a decorative element to it.” His search for suitable set locations took him to one particular Berlin street with a Russian-built military training base. “It was a find of a lifetime,” Messina notes. His crew of construction workers, engineers and set designers put in significant work to make Panem’s seat of power appear war-torn. “We tore up the road, put holes in the buildings, and made it look like fires had broken out,” Messina says. “We were lucky enough to do whatever we wanted there.” Custom-built monuments and street lighting influenced by Soviet urban design made the Capitol look complete. “It felt strong and monolithic, but had a decorative element to it,” he explains. “It adds an artful quality to it, which I felt I hadn’t seen on film before.”
Production of the four-film dystopian franchise has taken place in North Carolina, Atlanta, Paris and Berlin, making these architectural plans for the podium of President Snow (Donald Sutherland) quite handy over the years. The plywood-and-Styrofoam structure has been destroyed after each film. “We’ve built and rebuilt this so many times,” Messina says. “It’s like building a house.” Make that a house with plywood painted to look like textured concrete. Says Messina, “We try to create for maximum impact with the cheapest, most lightweight materials.”
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 2 hits theaters Nov. 20.
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