Even though the release of the film adaptation of the next Hunger Games installment is over six months away (9 November, 22, to be precise), the Hollywood stylists are already pulling out all the stops on the teaser posters and other publicity tools in their arsenal to ensure that the 75th Hunger Games will be, shall we say? smoking hot. What is particularly fascinating about these images is how they tie into the text, history, the trilogy’s metanarrative and, yes, the sick, sad, real Hunger Games we call Hollywood. So let’s take a peek at the shiny film posters and those fascinating (and still coming) “official” Capitol portraits, at least one of which was foreshadowed on the Oscar red carpet.
It should surprise none of our regular readers that I am very intrigued by films, generally analyzing them, and even their posters and trailers, with a magnifying glass of epic proportions. So, upon the emergence of our first real posters, there is much fodder for analysis. The teaser poster, with just the iconic pin reshaped into the jabberjay (like the novel jacket) was revealed in the coming attractions for Breaking Dawn Part 2, but the new posters give us much more to talk about. The “big one” is that imposing blue-gray number that, in the franchise’s typical marketing strategy, is designed to look like a promo poster for the Victory Tour for our 74th Game Victors, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark. That’s a nice touch, of course, though it once again casts us, the readers and the viewers, as the audience for the Games of the novels. At various points, we are treated like Capitol citizens, pandered to with ridiculous marketing tie-ins like nail polish and Effie Trinket false eyelashes. At other times, we are clearly cast as the Districts, sheep who must be told what to watch as we are shuffled along on the bandwagon of popular culture. As I teach the novel with my students, I always ask them to consider their own roles, as readers, as spectators. It is not always a comfortable observation for them.
The poster, though, is also stunning visually. The full-size version, against a background of on-coming clouds that threaten to eventually block a searing sun, features a massive, abstract sculpture (and I could use some help from any of our readers who are art experts. I am a Pre-Raphelite-type art fanatic, so this just looks like a big metal shape, to me) that dominates the entire poster. Its gleaming, metal surface evokes the cold, glittering power of the Capitol, particularly our icy dictator, the riveting President Snow. The arms of the statue reach out like pincers, perhaps a reminder of the Capitol’s grasp or the claws of hovercraft. There are also three dominant sections, emphasizing the triptych structure of the story and its characters (which will be spoiled by a two-part Mockingjay movie, alas).
Completely dwarfed by this monstrosity are the two tiny figures down in the left-hand corner. As if to remind us of how puny are the district citizens, even the Victors, the poster makes Katniss and Peeta, the Victors whom the “Tour” supposedly celebrates, look like afterthoughts on the poster. It’s a powerful statement about Capitol power and control, perfectly in line with the novel’s reminder that no one, not even supposedly “safe” Victors, is free of the Capitol’s ability to grasp and destroy.
In a close-up version, however, we can see Peeta and Katniss nicely, and their pose is fascinating. Reminiscent of the iconic Aryan youth bedecking a Nazi athletic propaganda poster (in fact, while looking for illustrations, I googled “nazi propaganda posters olympics,” and one of the first images to pop up was this Catching Fire one. Like the film played during the first movie’s reaping scene, the poster is a clear allusion to the horrors of Hilter’s Germany), Katniss and Peeta stand proudly, staring off into the distance. The pose is also reminiscent of Soviet propaganda, although it’s District 13 that generally gives us that “Back in the USSR” groove.
They are dressed entirely in white, a foretaste of Catching Fire’s themes of snow and funeral/weddings, and their features have been airbrushed so much they glow, probably a result of that full-body polish, though I would not disregard a beauty-obsessed graphic artist who just wanted the actors to look good but had no clue of the eerie appropriateness of this artistic choice. In the close-up version, it is easier to see their wonderful expressions, which look stylized, aloof, professional, like models, but also connote just enough unease to be perfect for this story.
But the highlight of the close-up version (and of both posters, really, though it’s hard to see on that big one) is the bouquet of white roses. In the close-up poster, one can see the rose petals falling around our protagonists, like petals sprinkled on heroes, celebrities, brides, and all the other types of people Katniss and Peeta become in this story. They also convey the sense of snowfall, reminding me of A.E. Housman’s glorious “Loveliest of Tress,” which beautifully blends the images of falling petals and falling snow. Of course, they are the signature white roses of President Snow: “Nothing says perfection like white”; the white roses, which may just seem to be pretty, a bouquet for our Victors, are far more, pulling the story along toward its devastating conclusion in Mockingjay. They also remind us of the power, the beauty, and the danger of the Capitol. Though Donald Sutherland’s Snow appears nowhere on the poster, he is very much present. For more on the novel’s rose themes, which are legion, check out these posts. http://www.hogwartsprofessor.com/mockingjay-discussion-8-blood-and-roses/
That fabulous white rose salute continues in the mesmerizing “official” Capitol portraits that have been released this week. With teasers of empty chairs, the images have been released on a staggered schedule: chair first, along with some hints, then the portrait with the fully costumed, posed actor. To no one’s surprise, the first image released is our fashionista Effie, who red number is a fiery salute to the novel. Her gloves (which Elizabeth Banks probably loved, because she reportedly likes glove days of filming–no crazy fingernails) include nice touches of gold, harking back to the gold tokens Team 12 will wear in the 75th Games. I particularly like the little winged arrow-like piece on her left hand. The nice combination of “froof” and sharp accessories nicely captures Effie’s duality.
Other Capitol denizens are posed, like Effie, on a plush chair. Caesar Flickerman is resplendent in black and gold, making us wonder, again, whose side he’s on. He is one character whose fate I really would like to know, as his interview questions, to me, convey conflicted loyalty. His hair is now a sort of pinky shade, but the lighting in the portraits may be deceptive. We’ll see how it looks on film. Cinna, completely in black leather, looks uber-cool, of course (really, Lenny Kravitz would look cool in a caftan and sponge rollers), but the darkness of the story is contained in the image, with the black sharp against the red of his plush chair (alchemy everywhere!) It’s hard to tell from the picture, but his ring from the first film appears to be absent.
I also like how this costume prefigures Cinna’s Mockingjay designs for Katniss. Interestingly, only these three characters are posed on plush chairs, giving me hope that our costume and props folks are really going to be on the ball in this installment.
Haymitch’s chair is leather, nice, but not as squishy as those of the Capitol citizens. I also love his serious expression and the way his jacket and shirt are in shades of gray, much like his character. The Tributes, by contrast, are all posed on hard, wooden chairs (likely the same chair). To me, it looks like the old electric chair (the wooden one is Tennessee was named “Ol Sparky,” shudder!). Since these characters are slated for execution by the Capitol, that is eerily appropriate. Also super creepy is the fact that each of these characters holds a single white rose. It’s a fantastic unifying principle, much like the way in which all the characters are seated, except Katniss, who stands (probably because of that ungodly dress train, more on that in a moment); in the posters for the first film, Katniss, alone of the profile shots, faced right instead of left. Once again, she is singled out.
Each of the Tributes is costumed gloriously, with wonderful attention to the character. Beetee’s suit looks both technology-forward (what IS that fabric?) and nerdy with the tie and glasses. He holds his rose as if he is barely touching it, an indication of the fact that his connection to the Capitol is not a firm embrace, but a rather clinical, scientific touch.
By contrast, Finnick’s rose stem is held in a pose reminiscent of Valentino, very romantic; I can just hear him saying, “Hello, Ladies…”. He has been intimate, in every way, with the Capitol, but, of course, he and Beetee diverge in their moral stances as the story progresses. I also find Finnick’s costume fantastic. The necklace gives him a bit of surfer-dude swag, as the open shirt emphasizes his sex-symbol status. His trousers also evoke the sultry Valentino’s exotic costumes, as well as that nice fabric contrast that looks like fish skin/scales. I kind of expected sandals for him, but these big boots show he means business. All the characters, in fact, wear pretty heavy-duty footwear; even Effie’s shoes have horse-shoe soles.
Of course, we can’t see Johanna’s shoes under that monster dress train, which manages to look like leaves, perfect for our lumberjack. The bodice and single sleeve are constructed of a fabric that looks like bark, and her one bare arm, contrasted with that very elaborate single sleeve, is both Amazonian and emphasizes her complex duality. Her hairdo evokes the old rhyme “There once was a little girl/with a little curl/ right in the middle of her forehead/And when she was good, she was very, very good/ But when she was bad, she was horrid”: Johanna to a T. I also like how she holds that rose, as if she really can’t be bothered.
Speaking of bothered, I really don’t know why we’ve bothered with Gale, who isn’t a Tribute; as most readers here know, Gale is an interesting character, but not part of the trilogy’s soul triptych. I enjoy horrifying my Gale-fan students by telling them that he is just a utilitarian character, not that important except as a plot tool. I do like his pose, which conveys his discomfort with that stiff chair. Of course, he’d rather sit on a log, or on the ground.
Of course, the Tributes everyone wants to see are Katniss and Peeta, whose portraits are fascinating. Since, as Effie says, “Ladies first,” the Katniss portrait went up before Peeta’s. However, I want to cover his first. Peeta, our knight in shining armor, is all in white, with a turtleneck that is the reverse of Finnick’s “I’m sexy and I know it,” look, while somehow managing to look very alluring. The huge boots are interesting, especially since film Peeta didn’t lose his leg. (Apparently, the designer is a big deal. I wouldn’t know; I shop at the Salvation Army.) I particularly like his hands: he fearlessly grips the rose in one, and holds on fiercely to the chair with the other, a preview of his coping technique at the end of Mockingjay. I also notice his hair is teased up, perhaps in an attempt to make him look a bit a taller next to Katniss (as if those Gene Simmons boots, wouldn’t do the trick).
And of course, there’s Katniss. Her image is absolutely riveting. I can only speculate if this is the “wedding” dress for the film (it could be combustible, hard to say), but those front and back pieces that look like wings are possibilities. In fact, when Lawrence turns, it will be clear that the silver mesh construction on her dress forms a Mockingjay! That little tuft of feathers (yep, feathers!) on the right actually forms the head and beak of the bird. Her hair, white patches on dark, also evokes the pivotal bird that is symbolic of so much in the trilogy. Though the rest of the dress is mostly tulle, it still looks feathery, which is a very nice touch. The dress is also remarkably similar to the show-stopping one Jennifer Lawrence wore to the recent Academy Awards ceremony and upon which she famously tripped (all while still looking incredibly poised). Of course, she had to have known that her dress looked like the one in the then-unreleased Capitiol portrait, which leads us to consider, as we often do here, the degree to which life and art is connected in these film adaptations. This list of “reasons we love Jennifer Lawrence,” and Lawrence’s charming acceptance speech for her Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook are, to me, at least, almost creepy in their similarity to Katniss’s experience. The Hollywood Gamemakers love her now, just as the Capitol crowd is consumed with Katniss, but, as life and art weave in and out of each other, let’s hope that Lawrence, who seems to be a very smart person, will be ready when the mercurial Captiol finds another Victor to adore. If she is as clever as she seems, she will adapt, like the jabberjays, rather than, like so many bright young stars, burning out to an ignominious end.
This just in–President Snow’s portrait, the only one wearing the rose instead of holding it, features the fabulously chilling Donald Sutherland in a chair that, of course, looks like a throne. The chair legs are ornately carved, including a classical bust that is totally appropriate for the story’s many classical allusions and for a man named “Coriolanus.” I love the shawl that reminds us of his “chilly” visit in the snow at the beginning of the novel, and with the gloves, hardly any skin shows at all. His face is ridiculously airbrushed, adding to the sense of “tinkering” that we have in political ads and posters.
More portraits are, hopefully, on the way, and I look forward to conversing with you about what you see and what you suspect!