Movie Marketing Madness Special Edition – Hero

Ryan Anderson posted over on his site:

Is it me or is the plot for HERO (as described by the reviews) completely different than the one in the previews? Thilk, please look into this.

Never being one to shy away from special requests, here goes.

The trailers for Hero present the film as being very much in the tradition of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Jet Li is shown in high-wire kung-fu action, CGI arrows rain down destruction on villagers and mass armies await orders to march. Both of the trailers I viewed were strikingly similar – almost to point I began to question why there were two versions cut. They contain almost the exact same shots, with one running about 20 seconds longer than the other. Honestly, though I couldn’t tell you what was different about them even after repeated viewings.

Both play heavily on the point of Jet Li’s character, referred to in press accounts as “Nameless” (bringing to mind Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name), seeking revenge. He has been wronged, his people wiped out and no seeks to fight his way through a series of enemies before getting to Bill.. err… the leader who ordered the massacre. For a mainstream audience, this is an easy sell.

The problem is, this plot has almost no relation to that presented in reviews and other media coverage of the film. Almost universally Hero is described with some variation on “Rashomon like” and attention is paid to how beautiful the visuals are. Specific mention is made in most coverage of how the telling and retelling of stories are designated with different color schemes.

So why willfully mislead the public? To sell tickets, of course. Heady (sorry, that’s Hedley) examination on perceptions of truth and vague and unclear motivations are not seen as appealing characteristics for a film to have when it’s being marketed to googleplex goers. Marketers are going to ask two questions of a movie: 1) Does it have a romance?; and 2) Does it have any fighting? Those two points are seen as what will attract young woman and men, respectively. Play this up as something that requires thought and you risk only bringing in older people and they don’t have the disposable income the younger folks do.

The problem with this strategy is that marketing campaigns are, with the exception of the biggest tent-pole releases, designed for opening weekends. Ticket sales beyond that are based ever increasingly on word-of-mouth. When you falsely portray your movie you run the risk of alienating those opening weekend moviegoers. They, feeling betrayed by the campaign, will then not recommend the movie to their friends. Worse, they may actively discourage them from going to see it.

I can’t fault them for the campaign they put together. It makes the movie very attractive to what I call the “second-tier” moviegoer (more on these levels at a later time). I can bring my overall opinion of it down for the complete misrepresentation of the movie’s structure, theme and plot.

MMM – Open Water

You can read my full recap of the marketing for Open Water at Film Threat.

Let’s review the campaign for Open Water, the recent release from Lions Gate. The movie revolves around two scuba divers who become stranded in the ocean after being separated from their tour group. Opening on 47 screens – an extremely small number in comparison to the thousands that major studio releases such as Collateral or The Village are released to – “Open Water” grossed around $24 million in its first weekend.

MMM – Alien Vs. Predator

You can read my full recap of the marketing for Alien Vs. Predator at Film Threat.

And now 20th Century Fox takes two sci-fi films and asks a screenwriter whom they may have found by literally throwing a rock out a window to put them together. The result? “Alien vs. Predator”. Admittedly, based on Internet news coverage of this it may be a highly anticipated film but it’s been a long time since either of these characters graced (?) the big screen: “Predator 2” (featuring Danny Glover as he bided his time before “Lethal Weapon 3”) was in 1990 and “Alien 3” was in 1992 (some people claim there was an “Alien 4”, but I’ve seen no proof of that).

Movies on the Brain: Hidalgo

WATCHED: 8/5/2004

00:00 – Nice forest. I think I see Richard Dreyfuss and Audrey Hepburn discussing how to get rid of Brad Johnson in the background.

00:01 – C. Thomas Howell! His career really did peak at Soul Man, didn’t it. “Mom! Dad! There’s something I have to tell you… I’m black. ”

00:04 – Date stamp on the movie says it’s December 29th. Day after my birthday. Cool.

00:07 – The army is massacring a Native American tribe and, as unfortunate as this may be, I can’t help but think I’m only going to be happy if they also shoot Kevin Costner and Mary McDonnell. Sorry.

00:09 – Nice train. I think it’s the same one Doc Brown to push the DeLorean in Back to the Future III.

00:11 – Is that the accountant from Bowfinger? Yep.

00:13 – Hey I just realized the guy playing Buffalo Bill Cody is J.K. Simmons. As much as everyone (justifiably) loved him in the Spider-Man flicks I’ll always see him as the psychiatrist on Law & Order.

00:16 – “A man drink like that and he don’t eat, he is going to die.”

00:19 – Is this guy’s name Bertold? Isn’t that Eric Idles’ character in Adventures of Baron Munchausen?

00:20 – Nice shot here of the Statue of Liberty but I can’t help but wait for Charlie Chaplin to pop up on deck.

00:21 – I just watched The Company. I’m reminded of this because Malcolm McDowell just showed up on screen.

00:23 – Pretty sure Bob Hope and Bing Crosby are somewhere in this Arab bazaar scene. It’s too bad the Road Shows are split up between different studios. That means there won’t be a comprehensive box-set of DVDs of the whole series.

00:25 – What’s the list of all time best character introductory entrances? Indiana Jones turning around against mountain backdrop has to be on there. Ursala Andress in Dr. No absolutely. Anyone else?

00:28 – Viggo is looking at this stone pillar with a metal cutout that I think is actually just an old “You Are Here” sign.

00:30 – Cool. Here’s the comic relief Arab sidekick. I was wondering when he was going to show up.

00:33 – I keep expecting this scene inside the Sheikh’s tent to somehow include Charlton Heston being asked to pick a wife.

00:37 – Ahh… the married potential love interest finally shows up.

00:39 – The racers better be careful going across the desert; the Nazis have been digging all over the place and who knows where they forgot to clean up after themselves.

00:41 – Some guy is giving a final inspirational farewell speech and I just keep waiting for him to say, “Where’s your Messiah now, heh??”.

00:43 – Very John Williams-ish score to the movie. In fact the whole movie is playing like something Steven Spielberg would have done about 12 years ago.

00:44 – Who started the golf tradition of replacing divots? I have a hard time believing it was the golfers themselves seeing as how they’re too lazy to even play a real sport.

00:47 – The one racer with the eagle is making me think of Spirit from the old G.I. Joe toys and cartoon. The eagle was one of the better accessories to come with a figure.

00:49 – Aren’t these the same ruins Humphrey Bogart and Walter Huston hid out in Treasure of the Sierra Madre? If not, does it matter?

00:51 – Unfortunately filmmakers can’t do a CGI sandstorm without bringing back violent flashbacks in viewers minds of the Mummy remake staring what’s his name George of the Jungle. There’s a career path that went wildly off-course.

00:53 – How much more would, say, soccer be in the U.S. if 40 percent of the participants didn’t live to see the end of the season. Talk about a ratings draw.

00:56 – Interesting that part of this race goes through Iraq. Wonder if Halliburton existed in 1890?

00:58 – Ahh, dick jokes. The hallmark of lazy writing.

00:59 – Do you think during the sandstorm Viggo got sand in his pee-pee? (See what I mean?)

1:04 – Russian interrogator: Every minute you don’t tell us why you are here I cut off a finger.
Emmett Fitz-Hume: Mine or yours?
Russian interrogator: Yours.
Emmett Fitz-Hume: Damn!

1:07 – Note my restraint in any Lord of the Rings cracks, observations or asides? This may cause a vein to pop in my head, but I feel it’s worth it.

1:09 – All the insults being lobbed at Viggo and yet no one has called him a son-of-a-motherless-goat.

1:13 – The balcony scene in Star Wars: Ep. 1 between Darths Sidious and Maul hinted at something so cool and yet that hasn’t even been touched on yet. Maybe in Ep. 3 but I’m not going to hold my breath, just to be on the safe side.

1:15 – I watched Gladiator and Best in Show on the same day a few years ago and came away thinking Best in Show was the better flick. Can’t say as I’ve changed my opinion of that any.

1:17 – Jules: Pigs are filthy animals. I don’t eat filthy animals.
Vincent: Bacon tastes gooood. Pork chops taste gooood.
Jules: Hey, sewer rat may taste like pumpkin pie, but I’d never know ’cause I wouldn’t eat the filthy motherfucker. Pigs sleep and root in shit. That’s a filthy animal. I ain’t eat nothin’ that ain’t got enough sense enough to disregard its own faeces.

1:18 – OK, hammering home the Indiana Jones theme, where does Sean Connery’s introduction in IJ & the Last Crusade rank on the list? I mean, he hits Harrison Ford over the head with a Ming vase (which turns out to be fake thank goodness).

1:22 – Of course the daughter of the Sheikh is going to be romantically interested in Viggo’s character; She’s on the DVD cover!

1:24 – Is the English chick’s presence serving the plot at all? If not could she, I don’t know, get dragged out into the middle of the desert and be left for dead? Great, now I’ve got that quote from Christmas Vacation in my head: “Can I refill your eggnog for you? Get you something to eat? Drive you out to the middle of nowhere and leave you for dead?”

1:27 – I’m watching this movie on the train ride home from work and in the parking lot of the station we’re stopped at there’s a car with the license plate “PACKRS 1”. In a Chicago suburb! There’s a Packers fan flaunting his allegiance! There’s never a cop when you need one.

1:32 – As long as Sebulba isn’t racing here everyone should be fine.

1:35 – Jazira told Viggo’s character not to fear the locusts but she offered no guidance on frogs falling from the sky or rivers of water being turned to blood.

1:41 – Uh oh. Sandpeople. Or worse.

1:42 – I bet the guys crawling around the rocks are just there to ambush Indy if he should try to reclaim the Ark of the Covenant.

1:43 – Viggo’s screwed. There are too many marauders. He’ll never get across the river with Frodo in time. Better call Liv Tyler. (I’m very sorry. The pain was becoming so great I was beginning to look like Verbal Kint.

1:50 – This is such a desert wasteland I think I see Clark Griswold in the background looking for a gas station.

1:57 – No way Viggo wins this if Toby Maquire were riding one of the horses.

2:05 – Anyone else catch Open Range with Kevin Costner. That was a good flick, especially Robert Duvall’s performance.

2:08 – So he’s won the race, come to terms with his past and let his horse run wild once again. Now Viggo can go back to plotting to kill Gwyneth Paltrow.

MMM – Little Black Book

You can read my full recap of the marketing for Little Black Book at Film Threat.

“Little Black Book”… look – I’m not really going to try to provide any meaningful commentary on this one. It stars Brittany Murphy. Let me just say that again: It stars Brittany Murphy. I sat through “Uptown Girls” and have never quite been the same since. Whenever I turn on a movie since then I have a vague fear Murphy and Dakota Fanning are going to pop up. I know it’s irrational, but still I can’t shake it.