Pre-Film: Expectations, Marketing, Trailers
It was interesting, in the months leading up to Catching Fire’s release, to hear what people outside the fandom were saying about the upcoming adaptation of what is my personal favourite book of the trilogy. Initially, I was pretty confident about its successful move to the big-screen given just how rich I felt the plot of the second book really was. Seeing other people call it the weakest story of the bunch, however, and derivative of the first book, made me nervous about its reception and exactly how filmmakers would avoid it being too repetitive of the first movie.
Quite frankly, I feel that the marketing lead-up to Catching Fire, which by virtue of the space between the two movies ultimately had to stretch out to 18 months, with most of the work done in the last three months, was one of the most well-thought-out, clearly planned and successful campaigns I’ve ever seen a film studio do for a movie, with nary a misstep.
Stills released highlighted the more vibrant colours of the next instalment as well as its improved aesthetics and new cast members while still being married to the character arc and journey of Katniss Everdeen. Nothing ever felt like it was giving away too much of the movie. I’m not an art-lover, but even if I didn’t particularly like the style of the Capitol portraits, or the style of that one poster with Katniss on a cliff, I felt that it was a bold move for the marketing team to make, and something that made these images stand out and seem even more caricature-ish as developed by the Capitol. I liked seeing the arena outfits simply because I was worried about how they would look and these showed me that they had made them look futuristic and functional, exactly how they should look. Finally, I especially loved the look that they gave Katniss in a lot of their posters — fiery with her hair down. My sister said they, in a way, sexualized Katniss. I disagree — I feel like it highlighted her vulnerability and her more chaotic and scary environment. Turns out, from an interview with Tim Palen, that it was to signify her becoming more of a warrior. Nevertheless, I love the visual and I feel like it helped draw casual fans to the movie.
Likewise, I felt like the trailers worked equally as well — I loved that the last line always pointed to the less black-and-white reading of the stakes, alliances and revolution at the centre of the series (“remember who the enemy is”).
That being said, the whole “meta” element of the marketing of these movies, while undoubtedly true, also makes me uncomfortable because, in a way, I feel that it is highly untruthful to the reason why these tie-in product placements are made: profit. For me, I understand it. I don’t always like it — there are certain things which I will buy into (shirts) and others that I will never approve of (theme park), but I understand that the reality is that movies are money-making ventures. Even those vaunted indie films that actors seem so high up on want to make money — if they could sell products along with these movies that would bring them high profitability, don’t think that they wouldn’t do it. Catching Fire and the Hunger Games series in general is not immune to this desire, regardless of its very apt and strong commentary against this kind of consumerism of celebrity culture. While I love everything about how the studio has marketed this franchise, I wish they were slightly more honest on this regard.