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.