One of the greatest things about Movies.com’s Countdown series is that you really get a sense of what it takes to develop a feature. In 2011 alone, we watched as Lionsgate settled on a rating and a release date, followed by a casting director who helped narrow down a stellar list of potential leads to land on Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth. Shortly after, images were altered and a slew of fan-made posters hit the web, as did a number of other Hunger Games-inspired items like jewelry, quilts and more, adding to the already massive amount of Hunger Games devotee art.
The month of April basically became the month of the Hunger Games Tributes, as day by day we met the innocent faces who’d eventually have to head into the arena and fight to the death. Simultaneously, Lionsgate continued casting the adult roles, naming Elizabeth Banks Effie Trinket, Stanley Tucci Caesar Flickerman, Woody Harrelson Haymitch Abernathy and more. Even after casting was complete, the hardcore fans and curious moviegoers continued to keep a close eye on the production, eating up every set photo and video that came in.
Sure, The Hunger Games was solidifying itself as potentially being one of the biggest films of 2012, but it really sealed the deal with its promotional campaign. First the Entertainment Weekly covers made waves and then the country practically shut down to watch the debut of the teaser trailer on the MTV Video Music Awards. From then on, the material continued to flow in – the motion poster, the character posters, TheCapitol.pn – and with each new piece, Lionsgate amassed more troops.
Now with just under three months to go until the film’s release, The Hunger Games following is stronger than ever. To round out the year, let’s take a look back at some of the events that put the odds in The Hunger Games’ favor. From our fabulous crew of fandom contributors, here are the Hunger Games highlights of 2011.
Savanna of The Hunger Games Fireside Chat
As far as sheer hype goes, the premiere of the teaser trailer at the MTV Video Music Awards back in August probably takes the cake. Up until that point, the only glimpses of the movie we had seen had been in the form of still images, and everyone was desperate for more. And, unlike most of the other big Hunger Games-related events of 2011, we knew about the debut of the teaser well in advance, so rabid fans (myself included) had a lot of time to get excited and form expectations. Regardless of whether or not these expectations were met, the teaser's impact can't be denied. It convinced naysayers that Jennifer Lawrence could actually pull off the role of Katniss, showed us that the love triangle would NOT be a focal point, gave us our first taste of the film's overall tone, and introduced Rue's whistle. Too short? Maybe. Monumental? Absolutely.
Adam of The Hunger Games Fireside Chat
As interest in The Hunger Games swelled and scorched, the inevitable comparisons to Harry Potter and Twilight ensued, with many people wanting The Hunger Games to stand alone on its own two feet. I never disliked those comparisons because more than anything, I wanted The Hunger Games to be incredibly successful; what better model than to be considered in the same league as the two most successful YA franchises? (And come on; who doesn't love Harry Potter?) Still, it was refreshing to see Lionsgate do something so creative and clever when they unleashed the motion poster. Between the lovely music, crackling of fire and the fact that it MOVED, it was a smorgasbord of sensory innovation. It was an amazing concept, and it was carried out exquisitely. Nice work, Lionsgate!
Michelle of The Hob
I think it's safe to say that when the big three were cast, not everyone was convinced. Jennifer Lawrence was too blond! Josh Hutcherson wasn't blond enough! The grievances went on, which is expected when bringing such beloved characters to life, but Entertainment Weekly did something that changed us as a fandom for good. Their issue with Jennifer in full Katniss-mode was released and the Internet caught fire. Jennifer was Katniss, our Katniss, from her braid to her boots to that stoic expression. Then there was the matter of the boys - Peeta, namely, who I was most anxious to see realized. And not that I remember where I was when EW revealed their Men of the Hunger Games issue (a Macy's dressing room), but it was a BIG DEAL. There they were, Josh and Liam Hemsworth, looking just like the Peeta and Gale in our heads. Those EW covers proved that we could take a deep breath. Jennifer, Josh and Liam would do our favorite characters justice.
Amanda of The Hob
I had high hopes for The Hunger Games once Jennifer, Josh and Liam signed on. When you bring an Oscar nominated actress to the cast, it's hard to have doubts. But then with the casting of Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks and Donald Sutherland, I was blown away. I had, of course, fan casted for each of these roles, and assumed the actors I chose to represent those characters were the best option. Boy was I wrong, because the supporting cast members Lionsgate chose were beyond my wildest dreams and truly cemented this film as one to watch. Each actor brings such additional talent and power to the film. Even though some of them won't have large roles in the movie, I have no doubt their impact will be huge with whatever screen time they have.
Melanie of HungerGamesMovie.org
My favorite Hunger Games moment of 2011 was the release of the Hunger Games character posters, not only because it gave us a look at how the characters would appear on the big screen, but also because it provided us with the reactions of the fans. The poster for Haymitch created a lot of talk regarding his long hair and whether or not it suited his character while Effie's poster caused quite a stir as fans questioned the pinkness of her hair color. It was amazing to see how the characters would appear in the movie, but it was equally amazing to see the passionate reactions from the fans.
Shylah of Down With The Capitol
For me, the best Hunger Games moment of 2011 was definitely the casting of Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen. While a lot of fans were concerned about her blond tresses and curvy figure, all I could see was one thing - her Oscar nomination for her role in Winter's Bone. Yes, I knew it was important for Katniss to, well, look like Katniss, but it is even more important that the actor tasked with playing the girl on fire can cover the range of emotions from strong to vulnerable to charming as a dead slug; and Jennifer Lawrence can do all that (plus skin a dead squirrel). With Katniss in the commendable hands of Jennifer, fans can rest easy knowing that our favorite heroine will be handled with the depth and care she deserves.
Theresa of Down With The Capitol
Ok, I admit it; I wasn't always a card carrying member of the Josh Hutcherson as Peeta club. Before his name was announced as being in contention for the role, I had no clue who he was other than a vague memory of clips of him in Firehouse Dog. My heart was actually set on Hunter Parrish for the "boy with the bread" and I didn't keep it under wraps either. So, how did the casting of Josh as Peeta become my top 2011 Hunger Games moment? Well, after his name was listed as one of the top contenders, I did research and more research and the more I saw, the more I liked. Only hours before his casting was officially announced, Admin Arianna was working on a post about why Josh would be a "Perfect Peeta" and I think at that point, most of us on staff had realized he was in fact a "perfect" fit. So, when the press release came and it was "officially official" I think we all breathed a sigh of relief and knew they had made the right decision. I honestly had never been happier to be "wrong" about something. Josh is charismatic, self-deprecating, humorous, basically everything Peeta is, and I know my favorite character from the series couldn't be in better hands.
Sheila of HG Girl on Fire
The best Hunger Games moment of 2011 for me was the debut of the first full theatrical trailer. It was the culmination of months of anticipation, speculation and worry about whether the movie would fit the images in my head. After getting up early to watch the trailer, I found myself getting goose bumps and teary-eyed seeing my favorite book come to life. The Reaping, the train ride to The Capitol, the tributes training and the final chilling countdown all lived up to my expectations and I couldn't have asked for anything more.
Tanvi of Hunger Games Network
From the very moment we heard that The Hunger Games was going to be adapted into a film, we were all curious to know who'd play Katniss and the rest of the beloved characters. But, more than that, I was very worried about how the world of Panem will look - the Districts, the Capitol, the Arena. We've seen magnificent worlds translated beautifully in Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Eragon and more, and I really wanted The Hunger Games to look as good. The first set of photos of District 12 including the coal train, the first look at characters and their props, really made the book come alive. The initial look at Pisgah National Forest, which was the location of some of the Arena filming, also looks very authentic. I just hope they translate as well on the big screen as they did in stills.
Crystal of Mockingjay.net/Fictional Food
When we were asked to take part in the Poster Puzzle Hunt 100, we were very excited and yet skeptical at the same time. Would they really be able to successfully coordinate 100 people into releasing a puzzle piece for their poster? And what would it look like? As the puzzle pieces poured out into Twitter and I started to piece it together, I got so excited. I remember when I first realized that there were two, and then three, and then four faces of Peeta, I was so, well, puzzled! It was such a bummer to see it completed before I had a chance to finish, but that feeling was quickly squashed when I saw how awesome the finished poster was! It made me wish they would start making and selling puzzles of the poster for real!
Kait of Victor’s Village
What a photo shoot! It was great to step back from the movie set and see the tribute actors looking sharp. The group shot was great and one photo of Jennifer, Josh, and Liam probably spawned some inappropriate fan fiction. We've got fuel for Hunger Games themed graphics for months thanks to Vanity Fair, not to mention cool new information on the auditions and the actors!
Perri of Movies.com
Get ready because I’m about to get all mushy on you. My top Hunger Games moment of 2011 was most certainly being assigned Movies.com’s Hunger Games Countdown. I’ve been lucky enough to keep up a steady workflow over the years, packed with a wide array of assignments, but this one has proved to be one of the toughest, but also the most rewarding. Similar to how Lionsgate must feel handling a beloved series (or at least how I hope they’d feel), the pressure is on when writing about The Hunger Games on a bi-weekly basis. First off, I was absolutely terrified I’d make a fool out of myself, perhaps missing a minor story detail and becoming unworthy of writing about the books many hold so near and dear. Then there’s the challenge of coming up with talking points every other week. I’m always thrilled to post a new edition, but soon there after, I panic that I won’t be able to come up with another topic. Sure it can be tough, but boy does the challenge make this gig all the more rewarding. Some good old-fashioned brainstorming has resulted in collaborations with Mainstay Productions, The Girl Who Was on Fire and Panem October in addition to astute lists focusing on favorite districts, quotes and more. But, of course, there’s no way the Countdown would be what it is without the stellar team of contributors. Perhaps one of the best parts of writing this column is getting to work with The Hunger Games fandom. Not only are the writers and administrators of the fan sites particularly smart and insightful, but they’re all wonderful people, too, and I’m endlessly honored to be working with them. Thank you to my Movies.com editors, thank you to my fandom contributors and thank you to all the readers for making 2011 a fantastic inaugural year for The Hunger Games Countdown. High hopes for many more to come!
The Hunger Games Countdown runs here on Movies.com every other Wednesday. There are 85 days until release.