Is that Katniss Everdeen perched on that craggy peak, or is it Conan the Barbarian? With its vintage, illustrative tone, complete with a crackle finish that suggests it’s been baking in the sun-drenched window of a video store, the new poster for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is singing a completely different tune than its predecessors, linking its heroine to the broadsword-wielding brutes of the 1980s, who often had scantily-clad damsels cowering at their feet (for the breadth of this old trend’s influence, look no further than the one-sheet for National Lampoon’s Vacation, which, ya know, lampooned the design). The message couldn’t be clearer: Jennifer Lawrence’s YA heroine is pushing the muscle-bound boys to the side. She’s no piece of cleavage-flashing eye candy; she’s an armed and armored climber, who may feel lonely at the top, but certainly isn’t being exploited (if the designers wanted to be cheeky, they could have had Josh Hutcherson’s Peeta and Liam Hemsworth’s Gale fawning over the pretty rebel leader, but, hey, this is one buzzy series that doesn’t put its love triangle front and center). Handsome in its borderline-psychedelic, harsh-pastel way, this poster is the best to emerge for this breathlessly awaited sequel.
It surely beats the slew of teasers that rolled out before it, like the bland, carrot-dangling one-sheet with the flaming logo, or the parade of ads that largely contradict what’s inferred in this new one, turning Suzanne Collins’s revolution-laden universe into a dystopia torn from the pages of Vogue. The Hunger Games series has formed a unique marketing strategy in its promotion of the oppressive Capitol’s fashions, presumably a means to catch the eye while skewering the evils of heedless materialism. But, however stunning some of them may look, the inevitable character posters that have been released in recent months, showing everyone from Lawrence to Stanley Tucci in “Capitol couture,” lack the eerie weight they may potentially be aiming for, acting more as come-hither box-office bait than part of the flashy veneer that’s so inherent to this franchise. To be fair, The Hunger Games is a series that’s virtually impossible to market without appearing hypocritical, as it’s all about the destruction of corporate-like power players, yet it needs to be promoted in large-scale, new-Hollywood fashion, wherein relentless, pricey, pristinely airbrushed media heralds the event of the film itself.
There’s also a definite disconnect in the mood Lionsgate is aiming for here, as it’s now changed its marketing aesthetic at least three times. The fashion shots share the crackling finish—or, at least, background—of the new ad, but, as mentioned, they send a drastically different message, and their polish, however cast in shadow, is in stark contrast to Katniss-on-a-Hilltop. Moreover, the second wave of posters released by the studio went for all-out modern sterility, standing as faux ads for Katniss and Peeta’s “Victory Tour,” and maintaining a pearl palette with hard lines, from Hutcherson’s jawbone to the gleaming struts of the “cornucopia” in the background. It certainly shows some daring (and hubris) that these ads don’t even include the film’s title, but its marked departure from all else we’ve seen suggests there’s a whole battalion of designers cranking out trial-and-error variations. Hats off to whomever took the time to craft the latest poster, which, even with its whispy, none-too-subtle, angel-wing clouds (a certain nod to Katniss’s destiny as the messianic “Mockingjay”), is hard to stop ogling.