Several weeks ago an elite commando unit was framed of a crime they didn’t commit. These men promptly escaped and were presumed dead. Today, still wanted by the government, they attempted to trade off the public buzz about another upcoming movie release based on much more well-known source material. If you have the hankering for an action movie with a light comedic touch,…if no other movie this summer has helped you scratch that itch…if you can find this movie…if you can afford this movie…maybe you can see…The A-Team.
Yes, I’m talking at first about The Losers, a movie which seemed to tell a similar story and be based on a similar presence to The A-Team. But now we have the big-screen adaption of the original, the big-screen adaptation of the popular ’80’s TV show that helped turn Mr. T into a household name and “I pity the fool” into a schoolyard taunt.
The movie has the same basic outline as the source show: A group of special forces operatives (updated from Vietnam to Iraq) has been falsely accused of a crime they didn’t commit. Seeking to clear their name they escape custody and become mercenaries of a sort, helping the wronged and evading the authorities. Known for their impossiblely risky missions, this group eventually must concentrate on finding the real perpetrator of the crimes they’re accused of. Led by Hannibal (Liam Neeson), a master of putting together outrageous plans, the group includes the charismatic Face (Bradley Cooper), mechanic and munitions expert B.A (Quintin Jackson) and pilot – and nutjob – Murdoch (Sharlto Copley).
The teaser poster took one of the first publicity stills that had been released and essentially moved the actors around. The four members of the team are arrayed on a mountain to, most of them sporting heavy weaponry and easily recognizable based on the way they’re dressed. So Face is sporting a stylish suit, Murdoch has on his signature red ball cap and so on. At the top the tagline for the movie “There is no Plan B” is spelled out in very military type lettering with the film’s title at the bottom.
It’s not the most terribly original poster in the word but it accomplishes what it needs to, which is show the audience what these nostalgic characters look like in their new incarnations.
A later series of character-centric posters was released that featured extreme close-ups of each actor with their character’s name at the bottom. Fun and striking, these are, again, all about making the audience feel comfortable with this new version of the story and does so pretty well. The individual posters were eventually combined into this quad image that put the movie’s title in the middle of the group.
The first trailer is an interesting mix of sizzle and steak. While the visuals are certainly meant to entrance you with how awesome they are there are other elements that give the spot a little more depth, at least for fans of the series.
The footage included in this first spot is pulled from all over the movie. It opens with shots of the team being sent to prison and then escaping en route. Once they’re free and acting as the avenger of the little guy there are plenty of explosions, airplane chases and even a tank firing on a fighter jet as it – the tank – falls from the sky. So it’s all about action and adventure. This being the first real look at the actors in character it also elicits quite a few “Hey, he looks kind of cool” moments from the audience, with all four guys being shown as inspired by the original portrayals while not slipping into imitations.
What’s really cool, though, is that as all this footage is unspooling the voiceover narration is taken straight from the opening sequence of the TV show. “Elite force…sent to prison for a crime they didn’t commit…if you can find them…” etc. For people like me who watched it when they were younger that alone is kind of cool, even if the younger generation that is being targeted with the visual look and feel will have to have that explained to them.
The second trailer starts off with more of the scene of the team’s court-martial before giving way to their escape. It spends a bit more dedicated time on introducing the four main characters as well…look, it doesn’t matter. What the trailer has in spades is fun, action and attitude. It doesn’t matter that the scene of the tank on a parachute shooting down a fighter jet is absolutely ridiculous…it’s fun. The frequent scenes of the cast laughing to each other about this, that or the other thing along with shots of Jessica Biel and lots of things going ‘splodey is all you need to know. You either enjoy the trailer or you don’t
The official website opens with the second trailer playing and links to the movie’s social network profiles below it.
Once you enter the site there are four main content sections, each one designated by one of the characters in art that’s reminiscent of the teaser poster. Each section also has a character “Dossier,” which includes the character-centric TV spot we’ll talk about later as well as a couple of sound clips you can listen to and share on twitter or Facebook.
Hannibal has “About the Film,” which is where you’ll the Story synopsis – which is pretty good and gives good background on the plot outlines – as well as Cast and Filmmakers profiles.
Face’s section is, somewhat appropriately, “Trailers and Videos.” This section actually has quite a bit of content, including the two Trailers, the Four TV spots and six music videos featuring various producer/artist remixes of the iconic theme song.
“Downloads” is B.A.’s section and just has a selection of Wallpapers and AIM Icons.
Murdock, finally, has the “Gallery,” which has about 13 stills from the movie.
There’s also a “Assemble Your Team” feature on the site that uses Facebook Connect (or whatever it’s called now) to let you decide which character from the movie you most resemble and then find Facebook friends to round out the team and fill in the missing components.
The movie’s Facebook and Twitter profiles offer very similar experiences to one another with links to updates on new clips being available, new marketing material being released and so on. The Facebook page obviously has more video and photos actually on the page, which is similar to what’s offered on the MySpace page.
An online game let you take control of the team’s iconic van and drive it around Google Earth, unlocking movie clips and other content as you go.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
In what I believe was the first round of TV advertising done for the movie, a series for four character-centric spots were created that, obviously, showcased the cast and attempted to sell each performance to the audience. All of these were just as fun and loose as the trailer and it’s clear that some characters are more well defined – or at least that some actors are doing more with their performances – than others. Bradley Cooper as Face, for instance, may just be the best reason to even consider seeing it.
A few spots during the NBA playoffs had the TNT commentators dressing up like Mr. T in what were jokingly called audition tapes for the movie.
The movie’s one cross-promotional deal was with the Del Taco fast-food chain (MediaPost, 6/9/10), which offered movie-themed drink cups and used some of the movie’s lines in their signage and advertising.
Media and Publicity
Some of the initial media coverage was of director Carnahan explaining very clearly (Los Angeles Times, 1/14/09) just how this movie was both similar and different from the original TV show and how the characters have been updated.
Another common theme of the press coverage was the cast’s memories of and fondness for the source material, exemplified in this story (Los Angeles Times, 4/26/10) about Sharlto Copley.
There was also some coverage in genre fanzines such as Empire, which featured it as part of the summer’s big line-up of hard-hitting action fare.
There were also pains taken to distance the movie from anything remotely resembling a “B” action movie, despite the fact that that’s exactly what much of the paid campaign made it look to be. Instead Carnahan played the movie up (LAT, 5/2/10) as being closer in spirit to Batman Begins, with an updated attitude and streamlined look.
The studio also sought to spur some word-of-mouth buzz about the movie with the release of a number of extended clips that gave audiences a deeper look at the finished product.
Unfortunately not all of the TV show’s original cast were thrilled with the movie. Both Dirk Benedict and Mr. T came out as negative on the film, with Benedict seemingly upset they didn’t give him more face time and Mr. T discouraged by the inclusion of lots of sex and graphic violence into what, on TV, was more adventure-oriented. At least I can kind of understand the latter opinion.
While it doesn’t exactly set the world on fire, the campaign has done a decent job of making the case for the film as one of the action movies people should be sure to see this summer. The trailers are funny and move along at a pace which guarantees the audience isn’t likely to have time to ask many questions about what’s going on, which is good. And there’s a cohesive, consistent brand experience created between the posters, the trailer and the website as well as the advertising that was done.
If there’s a weak spot it’s in the poster campaign, which despite the existence of four character posters seems a bit light without a final theatrical one-sheet providing a capstone to that part of the effort. The combined quad of the four character posters it seems is serving that purpose but it would have been nice to see a unique item here.
Likewise I don’t know that there were other TV spots created other than the four character introductions. I would think there would be at least a couple that were more inclusive and mimicked the trailers a bit but there were none like that to my knowledge.
Still, despite these missing assets, it’s a good campaign for a movie that could wind up being a lot of fun. As a colleague of mine said the other day, there’s an entire generation of guys that is having a Pavlovian response to wanting to see this movie so the campaign hasn’t had to work too hard to convince us. But on the other hand it hasn’t done anything to discourage us from wanting to see it as many campaigns that rely too heavily on the nostalgia factor sometimes do.
PICKING UP THE SPARE:
- 12/16/10 – Director Joe Carnahan throws the movie’s marketing team under the bus, saying they bungled its selling by not adequately explaining what the original TV show was all about and not appealing strongly enough to women, who according to his anecdotal evidence have loved it.