In the new movie The Accountant, Ben Affleck plays Christian Wolff, a math genius who has become an in-demand accountant (natch) for the underworld. Wolff specializes in cooking the books for criminal organizations to disguise their illegal activities as legitimate enterprises. But the Feds are closing in on him, his operations and his clients and things are getting desperate, which doesn’t phase Wolff since he’s also well-prepared for violence with a cache of weapons, learned survival skills and more.
To try and delay the inevitable he takes on a legitimate client involving a corporate whistleblower named Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick) who has uncovered wrongdoings and fraud at the company she works for. She becomes entangled in Wolff’s situation as he’s under fire – both literally and figuratively – from all sides, hemmed in by Federal investigators, on the run from his criminal clients and on the search for the truth that will hopefully get him out of an increasingly tight squeeze.
There’s not much to the first poster. It just offers a cast list and the title treatment against a slate gray puzzle textured background. Very much a teaser here to show off the impressive cast.
The theatrical poster is much more on-brand, though it’s still unique in its own way. It shows Affleck as he’s sporting a high-powered rifle but the top of his face is obscured by the title treatment, which looks like it’s torn from an accounting ledger of some sort. The way it hides his face is a nice nod to the part of the story, seen in the trailers, where the federal investigators don’t know who he is because he’s always avoiding the camera in any surveillance photos that have been taken of him. The torn sheet of paper includes the cast list as well as the copy “Calculate your choices,” which sets a very fatalistic tone and one that speaks to the story’s survivalist plot elements.
We’re told repeatedly in the first trailer that Wolff is special. That begins with his father, who’s told his son has amazing cognitive skills and goes through others who praise his accounting abilities. But we also see he’s a bit eccentric, with obsessive tendencies and a penchant for firing ranges.
That’s about it. We’re not told what the story is or what’s going on in the movie. It’s just about introducing the title character to the audience and setting up the mystery as to who he is and what kind of situations he’ll find himself in.
The second trailer opens by juxtaposing the spilling out of bullets to the spilling out of puzzle pieces as we hear again how Wolff is a remarkable child. His parents are unwilling to get him the help a doctor thinks he needs out of a fear it will make him soft. Cut to Wolff as an adult as he’s approached by Dana and they have an awkward encounter. Soon we see he’s under investigation because of the clientele he works for, crooks and others who he helps with their accounting issues. Dana discovers Wolff’s crazy van of weapons and money and from there it becomes clear he’s survived this field of work by becoming really good with guns and other survival tricks. Finally, the trailer hints at a confrontation between all parties – the Feds, the bad guys and Wolff with Dana – that will likely mean not everyone makes it out in one piece.
Kind of like the first trailer, this one works by selling it as a cold, efficient thriller about a cold, efficient character. Affleck is usually at his best when he’s not able to turn on that goofy smile and charm that often gets in the way of otherwise solid performances and that’s what’s on display here. He’s stoic and emotionless while Kendrick is the audience surrogate, finding out everything as it’s unveiled and along for a ride she’s not prepared for.
Online and Social
A puzzle piece graphic shows the progress as the official website loads, a nod to the puzzle-like nature of the movie’s plot. When it finishes loading you’ll see full-page motion videos with shots that have been seen before in the trailers. Down in the bottom left there are prompts to watch the trailer and buy tickets. You can also register for a hackathon that’s being run in conjunction with an existing site asking for your best solution to an action game. Opposite those in the lower right are links to the movie’s Instagram, Twitter and Facebook profiles.
The puzzle motif continues with a prompt just above those links to “Initiate Game Sequence,” which takes you to a series of games where you have to do a little bit of decoding to help the authorities find The Accountant, with each successful game bringing you and them closer to him. These are actually kind of fun.
More puzzle pieces when you access the site’s Menu, which displays the content as a series of hovering puzzle pieces you need to click on.
At the top of the graphic is another encouragement to “Buy Tickets” and if you move around there’s also a section for you to find out about the movie’s “Release Dates” to find out when it’s coming to a theater near you.
The “Gallery” has just a few stills from the movie to view and download if you so choose. Both trailers can be found in the “Videos” section. And there’s a really good synopsis of the plot in the “Story” section. Last but not least here is “Tumblr” which brings up a bunch of GIFs that you can reblog, though I don’t see the usual Follow buttons that would mark this as a site built on that platform.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
TV spots like this one were run that try to lay out all the elements of the movie’s story inside of 30 seconds. So we’re introduced to Affleck’s character, are told by others that he’s dangerous and in possession of some pretty valuable information and then see him taking extreme measures to defend himself. They’re not bad, but compared to the languid pacing of the trailers they seem way too fast-paced.
There’s sure to have been some outdoor advertising done with billboards and more. And online the studio has been promoting this extensively with social network ads on Twitter and Facebook, those ads using short or long video from the movie.
Media and Publicity
Affleck, of course, was the primary face of the campaign. His duties included appearing on “The Tonight Show” to engage in hijinks with Fallon, talking here about what attracted him to the role and more. Screenwriter Bill Dubuque also got an interview of his own where he explained how he came up with the idea of an autistic accountant and the struggle to make portraying that situation realistic with all the other plot elements happening.
Unfortunately much of the press was hijacked by questions not about this movie but about Affleck’s upcoming Batman movie, which he’s writing, directing and starring in. So press appearances that were supposed to be for The Accountant generated headlines that barely mentioned this movie but were all about whatever nuggets he’d dropped about the super hero blockbuster he’s attached to.
Like the main character, it’s hard to connect with this campaign. It’s all done in shades of grey and blue and cold feeling. That’s what the studio is going for, sure, but it makes it kind of hard to feel any sort of emotion or strong call to action around the movie. The story that’s on display seems interesting and a nice twist on some general action drama elements but overall it creates something that seems kind of…generic isn’t quite the right word but certainly something that doesn’t make a lasting impression as being wholly unique.
That being said, what the team did right is create a nice consistent campaign for a movie that’s going to try and get the attention of anyone who’s still looking for a disposable piece of entertainment at a box-office increasingly filled with prestige pictures. This is the kind of campaign that dresses a standard drama thriller – again, with a few unique elements – up in the trappings of an “important” movie. It’s not bad, but it seems to make the movie much more weighty than it’s likely to be.