Many people live in someone else’s shadow. We’re either not noticed by people who matter to us because they cast such a presence everywhere they go or we wind up living their lives vicariously for them for some reason. Sometimes that’s fine and it’s all for the best but at some point the stress of constantly having to live up to everyone else’s expectations of who we’re supposed to be and how we’re supposed to act becomes too much and we finally want to burst out and do our own thing.
Based on a true story The Fighter, the new movie from director David O. Russell, tells just such a story. Brothers Dicky Ecklund (Christian Bale) and Mickey (Mark Wahlberg) Ward are both aspiring boxers in Boston, but it’s Mickey that is able to hone his talent and not get sidetracked by getting into trouble with the law. But with the help of a new love (Amy Adams) and the determination to get out from under his brother’s control not only does Mickey wind up with his big break but also with better relationships with everyone in his life.
The movie’s first and only poster is pretty simple, with just an image of Bale and Wahlberg leaning up against the ropes, with the latter wearing his boxing gloves and both of them looking around the ring. Other than that the only elements to the one-sheet are the title with the three lead’s names along side it, a credit block and the announcement that this is “Based on a true story.” I’m more than a little surprised there isn’t a reminder of Russell’s previous movies but perhaps most of them aren’t mainstream enough for them to be considered strong motivators for the audience, despite Flirting With Disaster being one of the last half of the 90’s.
The trailer opens by establishing the relationship between Bale and Wahlberg, as well as showing how the latter is trying to achieve some sort of success in order to play more of a role in his daughter’s life. But he’s not a very good fighter, apparently, and is disappointed in one of his big breaks. But then we see the upswing of the arc as the love of Adam’s character and the appearance of some professional trainers/promoters give him another chance at glory.
It’s a pretty sweeping trailer thanks largely to the music that’s played and shows the characters going through rough, raw emotions as they deal with disappointment and try to pick themselves back up again. It may be a little too generic for some people since it doesn’t then have a strong hook that will land with one particular audience or another. But it’s well edited and will appeal to some who see it as a triumph of the spirit type of story.
The first section of the film’s official website is “Story” which contains a decent synopsis of the film and lays out the relationships that are going to be portrayed and which are obviously going to provide the emotional drama for the movie.
“Videos” just has the one trailer despite the fact that many long-form TV spots and extended clips were released elsewhere. “Images” has 14 stills from the movie to view. Biographies and film histories are all under “Cast/Crew’ for the major players.
There’s also a link there to the official website of the real-life Dicky Ecklund, the character played by Bale in the movie.
The film’s Facebook page has updates on the film’s marketing and publicity as well as a few photos and videos. There’s also the Tale of the Tape, which allows you to upload your photo into a vintage boxing promotional poster to make it look like you’re going up against Wahlberg.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
An extended TV spot appeared during the season finale of “Mad Men” that feels like a trailer. This one focuses on how Wahlberg’s character lives in the shadow of his older brother and has been used by him – or so people keep telling him – over the years. It’s the conflict between those brothers that is the central focus here, though the other relationships are given time as well. Another long-form TV commercial was more well-rounded, showing more of the interplay between all the characters and how they relate to each other and how they all relate to Mickey as he goes for his last and best shot at making something of himself.
I think there was some online advertising done as well that utilized video units and included clips taken from the trailer.
Media and Publicity
Despite it being completed and seeming like a natural for the festival circuit, the movie was held back in a move the studio positioned (The Hollywood Reporter, 10/7/10) as one designed to give it maximum late-year buzz momentum as awards nominations were being sorted out.
The movie was announced as a last-minute addition (Los Angeles Times, 11/9/10) to AFI Fest, something that served as the film’s unofficial coming out party and which was sure to get some buzz started around it.
Press coverage for the film included profiles of Adams and her approach to the role, particularly in terms of how she tried to match the extravagance of her co-star’s performances. There were also looks at Wahlberg and Bale (New York Times, 12/5/10), who each had the spotlight shone on them in a way that looks at their particular reputation in Hollywood, as a “bad boy” and “reluctant promoter” respectively and their approaches to the characters they play. Along those same lines was a look (LAT, 12/6/10) at how Russell was able to work with his pair of eccentric and serious actors.
In a lot of senses the campaign that’s geared toward the general audience is overshadowed by the buzz that has been following the movie since shortly after production that it could wind up a major awards contender, something that I don’t get into here but which has been pervasive. That has significantly added to the volume of buzz around the movie but, and this is the reason I didn’t write about it here, how much that is going to impact its box-office performance is probably marginal since much of that was industry echo-chamber chatter.
In regards to this more consumer-facing campaign, though, there’s a lot to like. The poster is simple but effective as is the trailer, while the two long-form TV spots that were run (in addition to any others that may have appeared) gave different aspects of the story the spotlight while not making it feel like they were advertising two completely different films. Add in a bit of positive general publicity and you have a nice solid campaign for a movie that will likely benefit most greatly from whatever appearances it makes on awards or year end best-of lists.