invictusThere’s a lot of good stuff in Clint Eastwood’s film history. He’s been especially active the last couple decades as a director and, while everyone’s going to have their opinions on which ones were more interesting or successful artistically than others, there’s no denying that his legacy is secure not only as an actor but in that role as a director. Some films have had him merging the two jobs but a strong argument could be made that the director part of his career is equal to, if not possibly surpassing, the portion as a pure actor.

His latest effort behind the camera is Invictus. The movie tells the story of the days immediately following Nelson Mandela’s, portrayed by Morgan Freeman, release from the South African jail he’d spent decades in. Coming out of that prison and seeing the racial divide in his nation, he begins to look at the South African rugby team as a way to bring the country together and so pushes them to make a play at the World Cup. To put this into action he approaches the team captain, played by Matt Damon, and convinces him to push the team toward that goal and therefore begin to heal the country.

The Posters

Just one poster here but it’s a good one. In the forefront is Damon, smiling and triumphant as the soccer team captain standing in front of a roaring crowd. Above him is the image of Freeman – or Mandela himself, I honestly can’t be sure from the angle he’s presented at – who’s kind of looking over and past the scene as if he were some form of benevolent deity.

Not only does the image present the characters very clearly in addition to a quick glimpse at the plot, the design also just works in terms of selling the movie as an inspirational and uplifting story. That’s not just from the smiles on both actor’s faces but also from the stature with which they’re carrying themselves

The Trailers

The one trailer is, to say the least, dramatic. We open with a voiceover by Freeman, beginning with a shot of his prison and then going into the fact that he’s now free. But as a news announcer proclaims he’s taking office as President, his motorcade passes a group of children being told by their coach that “this is the day our country went to the dogs,” a shorthand for the racism that was prevalent in South Africa.

But then we transition to the story that includes Damon as he’s brought in to Mandela’s plan to unite the country through a rugby win. We get a few shots then of Damon’s white team playing with black children and whites and blacks cheering together. As it shifts into montage mode we get plenty of footage of rugby being played in a variety of locations, Damon and Freeman shaking hands and such and overall a very triumphant tone is what it ends with.

Eastwood’s involvement at the director level is not a major theme of the trailer, with his name not appearing until halfway through the spot and then again in the ending credit block. That says to me that they’re not pegging on his name being a major draw for the general audience but instead are selling it as an inspiring true story with two fine actors. Take that interpretation for what it’s worth, but that’s my read of how it’s presented.

Online

The movie’s official website opens up with a recreation of the poster art on the left as pull quotes from early reviews of the movie scroll on the right, a scroll which eventually gives way to the film’s trailer, but you can alternate between the two by clicking on the quote that appears at any given time along the bottom strip.

Accessing the Menu, the first section is a “Synopsis” of the story, a synopsis that gives a good overview of the film before segueing into the credits of the actors and filmmakers.

Those individuals are the subject of the next section, “Cast and Filmmakers.” While the only cast members to get the spotlight are Damon and Freeman, there are a number of the behind-the-scenes folks, starting with Eastwood, that are have their profile shared here.

“Videos” has the trailer and four TV Spots, while “Photos” just has about four or five stills from the film. You can grab any of the three Wallpapers or three Buddy Icons from “Downloads.”

Rounding out the site is a section devoted to the music featured on the film’s “Soundtrack” that’s complete with prompts to buy the album on iTunes or Amazon and “Sweepstakes” section that links to the sites who were running contests in conjunction with the movie.

The Facebook Fan Page for Invicutus contains a good stream of updates with links to reviews, the trailer and TV spots and other information to keep people engaged.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A surprising number of TV commercials were created and then aired in heavy saturation. I say “surprising” simply because the movie isn’t exactly a Michael Bay blockbuster with unlimited franchise potential. So the fact that there were four spots pushed out – and that even with my limited TV watching I saw them pretty regularly – says something about Eastwood’s power both within the studio and with the audience.

There was also a fair amount of outdoor advertising done. Again, in my limited travels I saw billboards which re-purposed the key art for the film pretty regularly along major highways and other high-traffic areas.

Aside from the substantial paid media support there was also a 35-DVD box set (Variety, 12/4/09) of Eastwood’s films, right up to last year’s Gran Torino, put together by Warner Bros. that celebrated the actor/director’s entire history with the studio.

Media and Publicity

Of course the release of a new Eastwood film wouldn’t be complete without multiple tributes to the actor/director, including a batch of endorsements from actors he’s worked with (Variety, 11/30/09) and other collaborators (Variety, 12/2//09)

Of course there were plenty of other stories in and around the movie, including the requisite Oscar buzz for Eastwood and Freeman in particular.

Overall

Hard to complain with the campaign as it exists. The tone is appropriately earnest and inspirational – in keeping with Eastwood’s reputation and the subject matter. And the reach of the marketing, especially in the unexpected paid advertising campaign shows the studio isn’t slouching on trying to sell this to the public as a serious movie this Oscar season.

I like the trailer and the poster and while I feel the online component is where it begins to fall down a little – why not include more biographical information on Mandela and the history behind the true event – that’s not a big thing I’m going to harp on. A good effort for a movie that’s certainly going to be making a mark this week.