Hunger Games Film Official trailer–Just Like Cinna Would Do It

So, of course, we have some thoughts here about the just-released full-length official trailer for The Hunger Games. Even though the film isn’t out until March, the Gamemakers are amping up the hype. This trailer will be premiering in theaters with the first half of Breaking Dawn on Friday. This is not an unusual pattern, as Eclipse featured the preview for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows last year. Yesterday, the trailer debuted on Good Morning America with all the razzle-dazzle Plutarch Heavensbee could want. I had the honor of actually watching it for the first time with my ENG 111 students who have read the novel this semester. Join me after the jump for thoughts on the trailer’s best moments, what it bodes for the film, and why this is the trailer Cinna would have made.

I actually tried to watch the trailer just before I left one campus to travel to the main campus for my next class (I teach in two different locations), but my time was short, and the technology was uncooperative, so I only got a few glimpses of the shiny new trailer, with blurry images and garbled speech. So, in that next class, I promised the students a treat (a few had already gotten the word). After handily dispatching our work on outlining an argument-based research paper and some thoughts on semi-colons, we settled back to watch the trailer together (with good technology). The students were floored. They have spent the last 12 weeks with Katniss (we only wrapped up the novel recently), and many are now reading the other books. They gasped, pointed, and reacted openly to the trailer. Perhaps the biggest response came to the image of Katniss going up in her tube, with Cinna’s encouraging nod.

While the experience of watching the trailer with my students was wonderful, I have also, of course, enjoyed carefully working through it (in some cases, frame by frame) to collect my thoughts. Overall, the trailer is breathtaking, with gorgeous scenes of my own beloved mountains (hey, I can see your house from here!) contrasted against the dreariness of District 12 and the sleek and shiny Capitol. The music is fantastic, haunting, yet with a sense of urgency, and sounding just Appalachian enough to suit the District 12 culture.

Of course, the trailer doesn’t give too much away ,essentially drawing just from the first section of the story, from the Reaping to the training to the beginning of the Games, ending with the countdown to “launch” of the Tributes . The countdown structure really works nicely. The trailer has some wonderful images that connect beautifully with the book. Here are my favorites, and I hope you will share yours as well.
1. Effie and the Reaping
The gloriously freakily made-over Elizabeth Banks as Effie has a wonderful cadence to her voice, our first hint of what the Capitol accent, which amuses Katniss, actually sounds like. Her chipper speech, contrasted with the dreary expressions of the children being reaped, is fantastic, as is her ridiculous hair and makeup in the blistering North Carolina summer sun. Of course, it does make it less obvious how much the Capitol is like our own world when its residents look alien even to us. (More coming from me on Capitol and historical ideals of beauty).
2. Peeta staring out the train window
I love the image of Peeta staring out the window of the train at the passing scenery, perhaps at the Capitol sliding into view. It reminds me of October Sky and the expression on the face of Jake Gyllenhaal as young Homer Hickham descending into the coal mine and looking up at the sky before he is swallowed by the darkness. I’ve said before that I’d support the casting of Josh Hutcherson if he were 40 and had dreadlocks, due to his passion for the role. This expression makes me even more encouraged about his potential.
3. Range of Tributes
With a voiceover of President Snow reading the Treaty of Treason and its stipulation for the Districts to send “one young man and one young woman, between the ages of 12 and 18” to compete in the Games, we see a quick glimpse of first Rue, and then Cato, showing the range of Tributes. We also see a quick shot of all the Tributes around, presumably, their Trainer, Atlala, who looks like she just transferred from the WNBA. The flash of Rue made my whole class gasp. There is a great shot at the end in which several of the Tributes, including Peeta and Katniss, are seen dashing for the Cornucopia. It looks like some of the Tributes are wearing gold jackets. Put that together with the red and gold we see on Katniss, and our alchemical hat tip is solid.
4. Three finger salute
There is a shot of Katniss, on several screens, giving the salute to the people of 11, and of them returning the salute, presumably after Rue’s death. It looks wonderful, though Katniss doesn’t look nearly beaten up enough for that point in the story.
5. Cinna and Haymitch
We get a couple of great shots of Cinna, including the one of him watching Katniss rise from the Launch room. There is also a super exchange with Katniss, when he tells her his job is to help her make an impression. This emphasis on making Katniss memorable is an echo of the book, and gets another reference in Haymitch’s trailer reminder to Katniss to make the Gamemakers “remember” her. The theme of memory, which closes Mockingjay, is already in place.

I do have a few questions that I expect the film will answer
1. Morphing of Avoxing scene with hunting/run away scene.
The opening moments of the trailer indicate that the capture of Lavinia the Avox, which Katniss only relates later in the story, may have been blended in with the pre-Reaping Gale and Katniss episode. This may show that, like Darius, Lavinia is intentionally turned into an Avox to punish Katniss
2. Prim wearing the Mockingjay pin
In the Reaping scene. Prim, not Madge, is wearing the pin. Madge is not even visible as far as I can tell. So does the pin already belong to the Everdeens? I’m curious to see how that works, and if the Undersees come in at all. How will this work if we see the 50th Games in Catching Fire?
3. Reaction shots.
It looks like we’ll see plenty of footage of both Capitol and District viewers. I’m eager to see how that plays out. I like the little opera glass/ipads/television screens being used by some of the Capitol viewers.
So why is this a trailer Cinna (and Plutarch Heavensbee, for that matter) would endorse? It does what Cinna’s designs do: we are drawn in by the beauty, by the spectacle, and it is a pretty sure bet that Lionsgate is counting on most viewers being as clueless as the Capitol crowd, who worship the image of the Girl on Fire without realizing this image contradicts everything they stand for, everything they love about the Games. This trailer is meant to draw gabillions of people to the theater (and to the wesbite, thanks to another reminder link), to make them buy tie-in books, and, it looks like, officially marketed cosmetic products(shudder!), without ever noticing that they are part of the recipe for Panem, swarming to the Coliseum to watch the Games begin. While some, like most of my students, I think, will watch with careful and thoughtful judgment and evaluate their own roles as viewers and tools, most audience members will just be placing bets and passing the popcorn.

It will be interesting to see how the hype builds, since, just like the Victory Tour and the reading of the card, these trailers and other morsels from the Game makers remind us never to forget the Games.


  1. I wondered about the pin too and had planned to go back and watch it again because I thought “surely that can’t be” – but then, lots of things get changed between books and movies and I shouldn’t be surprised anymore…

  2. “Some thoughts on semi-colons?” Man, I want to party with you guys! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    As for the trailer itself, I just don’t have a lot of enthusiasm for it. I’ve never been thrilled about the movie or filled with a lot of desire to see it. I love the first book, but I just can’t see how I can reconcile the book with the movie.

    Besides Harrelson looks too clean & sober for Haymitch. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. revgeorge – I really dislike the casting of Haymitch – I think he’s the only one I’m still bothered by… though I’m not one waiting on pins and needles for the movie either… only movie I’m really following what bits and pieces are coming out about is the Les Miserables musical with Hugh Jackman (thankfully because I’m not so keen on the rest of the casting in that one either – clearly some subconscious part of me thinks I should have been a casting director!)

  4. I was very impressed with the trailer and how it brought the world to life. For whatever reason, it was the outfits that stood out to me as I watched for the first and second times. I love that the District 12 “formal” dresses for the reaping are highly reminiscent (in my opinion) of the clothing of the Great Depression, while the Capitol clothes have very traditional futuristic styles, if that makes sense. The slightly upturned collars, the bright colors, geometric shapes…

    For whatever reason, the brief one-second shot of where the prep team works, 1:23 I think, really stands out to me. Maybe I’m just being hopeful, but to me it seems like if they really bring that world to life and tell the story right (which I have more faith in post-trailer than I did before), then the message will still be present to those who want to see it, albeit laced with the irony of the medium…

  5. The district 12 scene where they gather for the reaping reminded me, disturbingly, of the concentration camps during WWII when the prisoners had to line up outside for roll call. I do hope the stars get”dirty” as they look too clean- I just re-watched Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry was a filthy mess at the end, scratched, shirt no longer white. That was realistic!

  6. Louise M. Freeman says

    I think the 3-fingered salute was district 12 bidding farewell to Katniss. Overall, very impressive trailer.

  7. I’m pretty sure that in an early interview with Gary Ross and Suzanne Collins where they talked about their collaboration on the script, I read that the pin would already be in the Everdeen family and that Madge character would not be in the film at all. As there is no larger involvement of the Undersee family with the larger revolution later in the series, it was one area where it was deemed possible to simplify the storyline for the film.

  8. If true, sans Everdeen twin sister, the movie folks are going to have to come up with a reason for Haymitch to be the anti-Gamesmaker and rebel he is.

    Then again, I have to doubt the absence of a compelling reason beyond sympathy for the good kids (which everyone in the theaters will be feeling) will be noticed.

    On with the show…

  9. Indeed, John. And I am sad to see the Undersees go. I love the twin motif and the possible Haymitch backstory. Collins has also hinted at a possible prequel, which might involve Haymitch’s Games. They may have spliced together the salute scenes, Louise, at least for the trailer. I can’t tell if Katniss has the bread from 11 in this scene, but those look like District 11 folks.

  10. John,

    At the symposium you recently held at JMU, you briefly applied the Soul Triptych idea to Hunger Games, but didn’t have time to flesh it out. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on it, or if someone could direct me to a place where it already exists on this site I’d be grateful. Thanks!

  11. John contends that the triptych in Hunger Games is Katniss (will/mind–she’s such a planner!), Peeta (heart), and Gale (body) (Please correct me, if I’m wrong, Headmaster!) I agree, mostly, but I tend to believe that the body piece is not Gale but Haymitch. After all, he is only concerned with the physical, and you don’t get much more body-oriented than an addict!
    Even if Gale is the original body piece, I think he is supplanted by Haymitch. After all, that puts our trio together at the end: will and heart married with body living next door. Katniss realizes that she needs Peeta, as he completes the puzzle for her, but she also, whther she likes it or not, needs Haymitch. She cares about Gale, but she has outgrown him by Mockingjay’s end.

  12. For my discussion of this — much improved by Prof. Baird-Hardy’s addition of Haymitch as the body-transparency, I think; he’s more of the story really than Gale — see the Mockingjay round-up for a gaggle of posts.

  13. Less sleepy now I was able to find the article that discussed the elimination of Madge Undersee from May 2011.

    Although reported as a rumor, Madge does not appear in a full character/cast list released on IMDB, pretty much confirming this rumor.

    Just warning you all so you have time to wrap your heads around the changes this might make in the overall story as I’ve been trying to do before we see the movie.

    Also was able to look up the 3 finger salute, and as Louise mentions above, it did come originally from district 12. The district 11 folks just use it to thank Katniss in a powerful way and with disastrous results in Catching Fire. Maybe the salute in the trailer is showing district 12 to demonstrate that it is an important part of district 12 culture to set the stage for Catching Fire.

    Thanks as always for the great discussions I get to read here!

  14. The trailer gave me goosebumps! When Katniss screams that she will volunteer as tribute, in particular. I’m very excited to see the book come to life.
    I had compared ourselves to the Capitol’s citizens while reading the book, but I hadn’t compared us watching the movie to spectators of The Hunger Games. It will be very interesting to see how many people catch onto the real meaning behind this movie and not fall into the trap of being just like the Capitol. Thank you for the new perspective.

  15. The one thing that,to me,made this trailer represent the haunting beauty of the books was the four-note whistle at the end. It’s Rue’s,and she happens to be one my favourite characters.

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