There’s been a lot of discussion over the last several years, dating back to 2007 or so, about “transmedia storytelling,” or the spanning of a single story over several media platforms. That sort of cohesiveness is rare though. It’s much more common that when a franchise or characters bounce between media that things are just going to kind of start over. So, for instance, a comic based on X franchise might go back to the beginning and ignore what’s come before because, it’s presumed, the story is now reaching and trying to hook a whole new audience.
That’s kind of where we are with Ratchet and Clank. Based on the popular series of video games, the movie doesn’t tell a standalone tale so much as it goes back and tells the origin story of how the title characters met. Ratchet is a frustrated adventurer who can’t quite make the cut into the galactic police force he aspires to. Dejected, he stumbles upon a robotic helper who he nicknames Clank. Despite the rejection, the pair become entangled in a massive plot to destroy the universe.
The first poster doesn’t do much, but it doesn’t really need to. The titular characters are just seen in the center of the image, having just broken through a wall of some sort to, it seems, take on whatever bad guys are on the other side. They are, as the copy at the top says, “Ready to kick some asteroids.” Because puns aren’t terrible. This teaser is all about awareness, though, so it doesn’t matter.
The second poster is similarly simple. It’s just a collection of the characters standing around in various versions of heroic poses. The title treatment is there as is the “Kick some asteroids” copy at the top. Again. there’s nothing about the story here, it’s just another bit of awareness-building for the movie in the audience. Along with that a primary goal here is just to show off the character designs for fans of the games to debate and comment on.
There’s…a lot going on in this trailer. We get the basic plot points, which is that there’s some big threat to the universe that the space police (whatever they’re called) have to deal with. Ratchet wants to be one of them since he has dreams of being a hero but he’s rejected during the evaluations, which only encourages him to strike out on his own.
With the trailer seemingly cutting all over the the movie it’s hard to get a sense of story flow. That’s not going to matter much for the kids the trailer is targeting, though, since they’ll likely just be pleased at all the jokes and one-liners that are thrown in. The running gag of the narrator constantly having to go back and correct or clarify what he just said is mildly amusing.
Online and Social
The official website opens with some full-screen video that you can skip if you want. Once you do that you get a recreation of the key art with the main characters arrayed heroically before us. There are prompts on that splash page to Buy Tickets and Download the Soundtrack.
Scrolling down, the first section of content is “Characters, where you can click through and find out a bit more about each of the characters in the movie. Each section has not only a description but also Wallpapers to download and GIFs to share on other social networks.
“Videos” has the trailer along with a few other clips and short promotional videos. There are four stills in the “Gallery.”
Finally, “About” has a short description of the movie’s story along with a list of the cast and what characters they voice.
I do have to point out that the site has some of the wonkiest navigation I’ve seen recently. When you enter each section you have to also click the little “Explore” button off to the left to actually see anything, otherwise you’re just going to sit there looking at a static image and wondering where the content you’re looking for is.
The Facebook page for the movie has a bunch of promotional graphics and videos, as well as a hefty number of calls to go check out the Twitter profile as a way to enter a sweeps. That Twitter profile has largely the same material along with RTs of fans who are anxious for the movie to finally come out and a bit more to keep the conversation going about the movie. Instagram just has the promotional images and a bit more.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Two TV spots debuted on IGN that are both set to music and work with that, fitting dialogue in on the beats of the tune. There’s nothing about the story in either one, they’re both just about selling the movie as a goofy space adventure featuring some familiar characters.
Plenty more TV advertising was done, with almost a dozen spots being produced in all, with the whole campaign hitting the same “come see a wacky adventure with explosions” message. I’m sure there was online and outdoor advertising done as well, but can’t find distinct examples of that. And the website doesn’t list any promotional partners, which isn’t hugely surprising but I thought there’d be at least something.
Media and Publicity
Aside from the release of marketing materials and general conversations about the franchise there doesn’t appear to be a ton of press activity for the movie. There were a few offhand comments made by the voice cast and it looks like they all appeared at WonderCon, but to minimal press effect.
Before you wonder any further, in case you didn’t see it yourself, the campaign does indeed continue to use the “asteroids as a way of saying ‘ass’” conceit throughout, especially on the web, where they include calls to “get your asteroids” to theaters and such. So, if nothing else, props to the marketing team for owning the fact that someone thought this was a good idea and sticking with it. I’d chime in here with my usual note about brand consistency but what’s the point.
The campaign really does portray a consistent message, though. It wants the audience to know there’s nothing here that will challenge them in the slightest and that it’s instead just about the jokes and the sheep and the space explosions. There’s a strong component here that’s designed specifically to appeal to the gamer community that has made the game a hit but mostly it’s about making the case to seven year olds who like bright flashy movies like this. There’s even a couple instances where it calls out movies with animated animals that moralize about important issues that seems like a shot at Zootopia and so on. So the message here is it’s alright to come and enjoy the dumbness for an hour and a half.