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Movie Marketing Madness: Morgan

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“He tampered in God’s domain,” one character declares at the end of Bride of the Monster.” That’s the core premise in many science fiction movies about scientists trying to “fix” something, including this week’s new release Morgan. In the movie Kate Mara plays Lee Weathers, a corporate risk-management consultant who’s called into one of her company’s facilities because it’s having some problems. Those problems mostly revolve around Morgan, an artificially enhanced humanoid that was created in a lab but who has recently been more and more out of their control.

See Morgan is only a few months old but her body has already matured to that of someone in her late teens/early 20s. And with that her powers – which remain mysterious and somewhat unknown, even to those who made her – are growing as well. People have already died by the time Weathers is called in and it’s only going to get worse as all of this inquiry triggers Morgan’s sense of self-preservation. The movie is being sold as one part technological thriller a la Ex Machina and one part close quarters thriller. Let’s take a closer look.

The Posters

The first poster sets a horror-like tone as we see someone – Morgan, presumably – standing in front of a makeshift bed that’s in front of huge, industrial-type walls. She’s decked out in a hoodie and sweats and clutching a teddy bear, meaning she looks like a programmer or community management specialist you’d walk past in San Francisco. It’s all very gray and creepy, a feeling emphasized by the copy at the top that simply says “Don’t let it out.”

The Trailers

We hear as the trailer starts how special Morgan is and how quickly she grew up and evolved. But she’s also unpredictable and prone to lashing out, which we hear via voiceover as the camera pans through hallways and rooms that are clearly being put to illicit and questionable usage. The trailer ends teases as to just what Morgan is capable of.

It’s a really good teaser that shows the tone and feel of the movie, which is creepy as heck. There’s only the vague outlines of the story – that Morgan will turn on anyone, even those who profess to want to help her – but that’s alright since it’s all about hinting at things.

The second trailer starts off with someone running away from a building before we flash back to see Lee arrive to oversee the project and get some information. Background on the project that developed her is provided to Lee (and us) and we hear about “the incident” where she attacked one of the staffers. Morgan is being evaluated by a therapist and when he turns confrontational she turns violent, pushing him against the wall with her mind. Morgan is soon on the loose and the rest of the trailer is about the scientists searching for her before she can do more damage to them and the world as a whole.

I like this trailer a lot. It plays like a horror movie but with more of a sci-fi bent for those of us who aren’t into something more straightforward. More than anything, it explains that sci-fi premise and immediately makes the stakes of the story clear to everyone, allowing the audience to actually get invested in something.

One more trailer sells the movie as a straight-up horror film about the dangers of tampering in God’s domain, showing scenes from the movie as if it’s security footage that’s being pulled up by the director of the program as she’s entering a new status update. So it’s lots of quick cuts and grainy footage and it works pretty well, this time taking Mara’s role almost completely out of it and focusing on Morgan herself and her very speedy evolution.

Online and Social

It’s the standard fare on the movie’s official website.

The very top of the page has encouragements to buy tickets or connect with the movie on Facebook or Twitter. Scroll down and you can view one of the trailers, which is accompanied by a call to action that if you’d like to watch more you should subscribe to the YouTube channel. Those videos are listed below the trailer as well.

Keep scrolling and you can read the “About” section which has a synopsis and cast and crew list. In terms of visual content, the “Poster” lets you view and download the one-sheet and that’s followed by a “Gallery” with a half-dozen stills.

morgan-gallery8-gallery-image

There’s the standard Fox call to sign up for their email newsletter next and finally on the page is the “Social” section which brings in updates from the movie’s official Twitter account and has another link to the Facebook page. Both that and the Twitter profile are used mostly just for sharing photos and short videos, with not much of interest going on.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

There was at least some TV advertising done with spots like this that more or less eschewed the entire setup of Lee’s investigation into Morgan’s situation or the science behind her creation. Instead it focused solely on the fact that Morgan is a threat that’s taking people out and jumping out from hallways and appearing suddenly in doorways.

I can’t vouch for anything specific online since I haven’t seen any paid placements but it’s safe to assume there’s been at least some promoted posts and other online ads run.

Media and Publicity

The movie got a nice bit of publicity when the studio contracted with a visually impaired artist to create a unique set of GIFs from the trailers.

There wasn’t a whole lot else going on in the Publicity portion of the campaign. Mara appears to have done some press, but mostly the press amplified her comments about being open to doing another Fantastic Four movie. Other than that, mostly the press coverage came when marketing materials were released.

Overall

It’s an interesting choice that’s been made with the campaign and seemingly with the movie as a whole. As I said above, what’s being sold here is less a cautionary tale of scientific hubris than a straight-up horror movie with some sci-fi elements. I don’t know that there’s a good or bad approach that could have been taken, but the studio’s marketers has obviously decided to lean more into the jump-scares and smears of blood than any sort of moralistic intonations of genetic tampering.

That’s a choice I don’t necessarily agree with largely because of the two genres, the horror crowd has been much harder and more discerning in their choices of late. Only truly original stories like The Green Room and Don’t Breathe have broken through the clutter. So with a campaign that can’t fully commit to being a horror movie but still wants to be seen as such there’s the risk this is just ignored by horror fans and those who made Ex Machina a decent success because that part of the story is put in the backseat in the marketing.

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