I think I’ve said this before, but I have lots of fond memories of watching the original Clash of the Titans when I was a kid. Not only was it in regular rotation on HBO or Cinemax in the mid-80s but my grandparents, with whom I spent many afternoons and summer days, also had it on VHS (taped off one of those airings) so I could watch it on-demand as we’d say now. The movie remains for me and many others of my generation the gold standard when it comes to mythology-themed action adventures. Each generation, I’d wager, gets the mythology-themed action adventure movie it deserves, which has me seriously bummed out right now because…
…it’s time to talk about the marketing campaign for Gods of Egypt. The plot has to do with the claiming of Egypt’s throne by the evil god Set (Gerald Butler). He has stolen away the girlfriend of Bek (Brenton Thwaites), who has sworn to rescue Zaya (Courtney Eton) and stop Set’s tyrannical reign. To do that he’ll need the help of Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and the whole thing sets up a clash of the gods who are all jockeying for their place atop the pecking order of the land. That plot, though, is just a loose hook on which to hang all kinds of low-grade special effects that, as we’ll see, are being sold to the audience as the latest swords-and-sandals epic.
The first posters released were a series of character one-sheets that, honestly, aren’t great. They show off each character but the overall look and feel of the posters were so gaudy and bright that this looked more like promotion for a Vegas stage show than a real movie. There’s a high amount of camp here that may or may not be present in the film itself.
Another poster was released later that showed a single figure – presumably one of the gods, though I don’t know enough about the story to be sure – floating in mid-air. This just makes me think of the “I AM A GOLDEN GOD” scene from Almost Famous, if I’m being honest.
It’s hard to figure out what’s going on in the next poster. Two golden creatures are attacking each other, but with so much flotsam flying around them it’s kind of hard to see what the creatures actually look like. But I guess we’re supposed to get that it’s an epic battle between the two and that’s supposed to be the draw here.
A theatrical poster pushed all the characters together into a design that really, really wants you to think about how it resembles a Star Wars one-sheet. The Stargate forms the focal point of the design with the hero and the love interest holding up Happy Fun Ball while a cast of characters is arrayed around it and the two big powers at the top, looking down or at the camera menacingly. A few pyramids are scattered around the bottom of the poster just to make sure you know where the movie is set.
What the heck is going on in this first trailer? Apparently the rightful king of Egypt has been overthrown by his evil brother but now someone has discovered the key to righting that wrong and restoring the true king, something with involves stealing the eyes that were taken from him. That’s…yeah, that’s about it.
If ever there was a trailer that looked like a collection of video game cut scenes, this is it. Follow the hero as he runs, jumps, collects special coins and so on. There’s no character development here, it’s all about the spectacle, which is surprising considering some of the effects in the trailer look less than final.
The second trailer is no more clear than the first. It’s still a lot of gobbledygook about the people of Egypt needing protecting, but it’s impossible to tell who it is that’s doing the protecting and who the normal people are being protected from. There’s a lot of sequences on display that would look cool if they featured better effects or didn’t look quite so much like they were being put on by a community theater troupe.
Online and Social
The official website opens with full-screen video that’s basically a silent version of footage from the trailers. It’s telling that you can get just as much of an idea of the story from this silent video as you can when there’s dialogue you can hear.
“Video” has both trailers as well as the “Big Game spot” TV commercial. Considering how poorly the characters are sold in the trailers it’s somewhat helpful that the “Characters” section of the site includes not only their names (and those of the actors playing them) but also explains who they are and what their motivations in the movie are. Though I’m guessing those one to two sentence descriptions are as or more substantial than the insights we get in the movie itself. Same with “Story,” which shares a paragraph’s worth of plot synopsis. Finally there are about nine stills in the “Gallery.”
The movie’s Twitter page was mostly concerned with counting down to the release date, using a number of images and GIFs to try and show the audience the look and feel and scope of the story. There was almost no fan engagement that I’ve seen, though it did RT some of the cast here and there. It’s telling, I think, how often they reuse the same half-dozen stills and promotional images here. Same goes for the Facebook page.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
The first TV spot for the movie debuted at the Super Bowl. It’s just as unconcerned with story as the trailers, providing only the barest outline of some sort of conflict brewing before it just gets on with the monsters and other big visuals, selling the movie as a special effects epic. It’s not even clear who the good or bad guys are here.
There was also plenty of online advertising I came across as well, most of which used the movie’s key art in one way or another. Twitter videos ads were run as well using one of the trailers or a 30-second TV spot.
Media and Publicity
Unfortunately for the movie some of the first publicity that started after the marketing began was when the director and studio caught enough flack they had to apologize for a cast roster that not only wasn’t ethnically diverse but also not exactly representative of the region the story takes place in. Unfortunately that would continue to be much of the focus as it and other movies came under fire for “whitewashing” casting of major motion pictures.
Outside of that the press was mainly made up of a few talk show appearances by members of the cast, coverage of the release of clips and other marketing materials and other planned events along those lines. This doesn’t seem to be a movie generating a lot of word-of-mouth, which I’m guessing won’t change drastically after it’s released.
I know I’ve taken my fair share – maybe more than that, I’ll even concede – of pot shots at the ludicrous nature of the movie above. Some of those may be deserved, some may not, I haven’t seen the final movie and don’t believe it’s been screened for critics at this point, which may be a strong direction indicator in and of itself. But whether or not I overdid it in context is beside the point right now: The marketing campaign here sells an extraordinarily silly movie. And I don’t even mean that in a good way.
The trailers set up a story that’s not only hard to follow but seems to be be largely inconsequential to the movie itself. Very little of who all these beautiful white people jumping around Egypt in their shiny finery are or what their motivations can be divined through the vast majority of the campaign. The website has some good information but the trailers are largely useless in this regard. They can’t even be bothered to provide the character’s names. All that adds up to a campaign that’s only interested in selling the spectacle – which doesn’t even look all that great compared to some of Hollywood’s more recent efforts (or even the original Jurassic Park) – and not the characters we’re theoretically supposed to care about. It’s a superficial, empty campaign that looks to be selling a superficial, empty movie.