The rash of comic book adaptations in the last decade has been focused mainly on, to quote Chasing Amy, the “big pecs, big guns, big tits” part of the comics industry. Occasionally something like Ghost World will sneak through but if you told the average member of the audience that movie was based on a graphic novel they might look at you funny. There was nothing comic-y about it, at least not in the traditionally understood way. It was simply a story whose creator decided to tell using the medium of comics since it best fit what he was trying to do. There are other examples, but most people here “comic adaptation” and they start thinking about superheroes and spandex.
Opening this week is another movie based on a comics series that a lot of people might not realize is based on a comics series. Whiteout tells the story of U.S. Marshal Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale) who is called to a remote U.S. outpost on Antartica to investigate a murder. When she gets there she discovers a surprisingly complex web of cover-ups and mystery that complicate her investigation, which is additionally hampered by the onset of the Antartic winter, which causes massive snow storms and cold, which add to the danger she’s already facing in trying to track down the killer or killers.
The first teaser poster for the movie actually debuted at Comic-Con 2007, when it was expected it would be released in 2008, which is why it sports that year on the one-sheet.
There’s not much to it, mostly just the face of Beckinsale Photoshopped into a parka, an image that recreates the cover to one of the source comic’s covers, something that was obviously meant to get the fanboys in attendance excited and talking about the movie.
After that, sometime in 2008 when it was becoming clear the movie wasn’t coming out that year, a second poster was released that took the perspective of an extreme close-up on Beckinsale’s sunglasses, which reflected a plane coming in for a landing on the snowy landscape. Above and below her face there’s type like what you’d expect on a telegram that hints at the movie’s plot, with “killer,” “reward” and “identity” clearly readable and therefore letting the audience know that there was going to be a murder investigation.
The final theatrical poster continues using the “See your last breath” copy that was begun two years ago on the Comic-Con poster but now more clearly uses Beckinsale’s face, which looks like it’s behind a piece of frost-covered glass or something similarly icey. This kind of looks like the marketers are deciding it’s just too difficult to try and sell it as a murder mystery and so are hoping it’s mistaken for Underworld 4 or something like that. She looks other-wordly and beautiful and they’re hoping people see it based solely on that and not because of what the movie’s actually about, always a recipe for disaster.
The first – and only – official trailer for the movie (there was an unofficial version prior to this) spends its initial minute or so establishing Antarctica as a character itself before getting into the plot. That transition is marked primarily by the appearance of Beckinsale naked in the shower before getting the call that she’s being sent on an investigation. From there on out it’s all characters racing around or being pulled backward while snow blows intensely around them. There’s a bit about the team at the base discovering something unusual but, honestly, it winds up looking more like an X-Files episode than the murder mystery investigation that, as far as I understand, the source comic deals with. It’s an alright trailer but plays as a straight “something spooky” action flick and there’s not much to really make an impression other than the special effects-driven snow.
The movie’s official website opens, as many do, with the key art as the site’s background and the trailer playing.
After you Enter the Site you get to the site’s content, with a snowstorm occasionally blanking out the scene of the base where the movie’s set. If you let the page sit long enough a figure begins walking across the screen, but there’s nothing about that in terms of unlockable bonus content or anything. It’s just a dude walking across the snow.
Diving into the Menu that’s sitting on the right side of the page, first up is the “Synopsis” that lays out the film’s plot pretty well. It also dispenses the notion that’s conveyed in the trailer that there’s something extra-terrestrial about what’s found out in the ice that has everyone in the movie either investigating or covering up.
There are about 18 stills in the “Gallery” that you can check out for yourself. “Videos” should, in all truthfulness, drop the plural since it’s really just one video, the Trailer. There are three Wallpapers, four Buddy Icons and the final theatrical Poster under “Downloads.”
The movie’s Facebook page has much of the same content, the final poster, the trailer and some photos that people can grab.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
For a movie that got moved around more than once and seems to have a rather oddly timed release date, there was plenty of advertising support for it, especially in the final weeks before that release. I saw a ton of online ad units around the internet and there were at least four TV spots in rotation beginning around the last week of August or so.
I don’t see any promotional partners on the official site or in any of the stories that have been written about the movie.
The studio did try to muster up some buzz and show people portions of the film by releasing seven clips to the internet that came from various parts of the movie.
Media and Publicity
Beckinsale did the talk-show circuit and the movie is certainly not flying under the radar of the entertainment media, but it’s mostly being mentioned (at least right now) in general month/season wrap-ups of upcoming movie and isn’t being given a lot of ink of its own.
Some of what press there was focused not so much on Whiteout – though it was mentioned – as it did reports that Beckinsale was or wasn’t going to return to the Underworld franchise.
Does anyone else get a sense of whiplash from the sudden left turn this campaign took? The poster portion of the marketing starts things off strong but then there’s just one trailer, a website that is sort of lackluster and not much in the way of press or publicity. There was a bit stronger push to on the advertising front but I’m not sure that it was enough to get any sort of momentum around the movie back up and running. That’s unfortunate and would have probably turned out differently if the original release date had been stuck with and the original buzz built upon. But after so many stops and starts it’s just hard to to get that back.