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Movie Marketing Madness: Logan

logan_ver5Wolverine is back in the new movie Logan, the character’s third solo outing and star Hugh Jackman’s eighth time as the amnesiac Canadian killing machine. This time around we’re flying into the future, a time when mutants are disappearing from the population as no new ones have been born in decades. Logan has retired from the life of the X-Men and is living out his days along the southern U.S. border, picking up odd jobs and taking care of an aged Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and just trying to be left alone.

That becomes complicated when he’s approached by a mysterious woman who tells him she needs his help caring for a young girl named Laura. She’s being hunted by a dangerous group with their own agenda, but Logan may have a connection to her that no one is fully aware of. All of this is complicated by the fact that Logan’s miraculous healing powers are diminished, meaning he’s more vulnerable to danger and violence than ever before.

The Posters

The first teaser poster signaled to fans what the movie was going to be about, which is some variation on the “Old Man Logan” story. It shows a child’s hand reaching up and grasping the age-worn hand of Logan, with his claws unsheathed and exposed.

The next poster kept up the idea of this being a very solitary, dark story by showing Logan walking toward the camera, with claws extended and a sunset behind him turning the clouds and sky all shades of orange.

Another poster featured an extreme close-up of the aged, weary Logan we’ll be watching in the movie. So it’s just him staring straight ahead into the camera, claws out so we can be sure what we’re watching is a Wolverine movie.

The IMAX-specific poster is pretty cool. It’s meant to look like a 1970’s grind house era one-sheet, featuring an artistic, drawn look at all the characters, the main heroes at the top and the army of bad guys who are chasing them toward the bottom. Adding to the effect are artificial creases in the image, as if the poster had been folded up over and over for shipping and storage.

In a pretty cool move, a series of posters was commissioned by Fox by various comic artists, with the resulting work displayed in theaters across the country.

The Trailers

The first trailer opens with a conversation between Logan and Charles, who are discussing how there are no more mutants in the world. We see shots of an older, battle-scarred Logan who appears to be all on his own. He’s a bit slower and isn’t healing. Charles introduces him to a young girl who’s described as being “very much like” Logan. Then things kick up a bit, with a group of men in dark vans who are after something, presumably the girl since she’s shown in handcuffs a couple different times and it’s clear the relationship between her and Logan will form the crux of the story.

In addition to the connection between Logan and the girl (which comics fans can likely guess at) the movie is being sold as not just the end of a saga but also a road trip movie with Logan and Charles. Their relationship was always core to the original X-Men movie series, so wrapping it up with that makes a lot of sense. Overall the tone is one of hopelessness, of being at the end of a road. That this is Jackman’s last outing as Wolverine isn’t stated in the trailer, but it’s clear we’re wrapping things up.

The second trailer opens with the young girl we’ve seen before stealing from a convenience store in a very aggressive manner before Logan removes her from the situation. We see him talking with Xavier before a group of bad men come for the girl and see she’s able to take care of herself. The rest of the trailer is about the dynamic between the three of them as they’re hunted and fighting back.

It shows a movie that’s light on special effects and heavy on drama and character, which is nice to see. There’s not much thematically that’s different here from the first spot, it just goes a bit deeper into the story and the connection between Logan and the girl. It also had a fun moment where Logan is reading an X-Men comic, presumably something created in-world to fictionalize the story of the characters who had made such an impression on society.

Online and Social

The official website opens with that key art of Logan walking away from the sunset, which would be a good metaphor for the story itself it was reversed. But, you know, you can’t not show Jackman’s face. There are prompts below that to watch the trailer, get tickets or follow the movie on Facebook or Twitter.

Scroll down – or use the content menu at the top – and the first section is “Videos.” There you can view the trailers, a couple of clips that were released as well as a few “viral” videos that we’ll get into a bit more below.

“Battle Scars” is a very cool feature. Images of both Logan and X-23 feature hot spots. As you hold down the mouse on any part of the image you get a look at each character’s musculature. But if you pause on a spot you get an X-ray look at their metal skeletons. And if you hold on any of the demarcated spots you get a pop-up explaining the significant damage they’ve sustained to that part of their body. It’s pretty neat and gives you an idea of what kind of damage they’ve sustained.

A brief synopsis and a cast and crew list along with a link to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles, can be found in “About.” Two one-sheets are featured in “Posters.”

After that it’s more or less housekeeping. “Sign up” lets you opt-in to email updates and “Social Updates” has items from the movie’s Twitter and other social feeds.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The TV campaign kicked off with a Super Bowl commercial that featured mostly footage we’ve already seen.

More spots kept rolling out that offered additional looks at the story. Many featured footage already seen in the trailers, particularly the convenience store encounter with X-23, and a few offered more overt statements connecting Logan and the mysterious girl, connections that could be considered spoilers for those looking to be surprised while watching the movie.

More spots kept rolling out that offered additional looks at the story. Many featured footage already seen in the trailers, particularly the convenience store encounter with X-23, and a few offered more overt statements connecting Logan and the mysterious girl, connections that could be considered spoilers for those looking to be surprised while watching the movie.

Online and social ads drove traffic to the website as well as ticket sales. Outdoor ads also used the key art to show that Logan was back and much different than we’ve seen him before.

Media and Publicity

While there was plenty of coverage of production, the first real news came when the movie’s title and some plot points were revealed, causing all sorts of additional speculation and commentary. Further press would reveal major characters, villains and more.

Jackman, according to Mangold, was so determined to take the character out on a violent, gritty note that the actor took a pay cut to convince the studio to allow an R rating, something that was partly needed because studios are still wary of R-rated commercial features bringing in as much as their non-restricted brethren.

A couple of strange videos were released that were designed to get people talking and provide some background into the characters of the movie. One, “Sunseeker,” showed Logan driving a limousine while we heard a voicemail he was leaving for someone he wanted to buy a boat from. The other, “laura.mov,” was made to look like hidden camera footage that had been leaked out from the facility that was turning the young girl into X-23, offering a glimpse at her transformation and powers.

logan-pic

Word leaked out that the studio was less than thrilled with the dark tone the movie was taking. Indeed some balked intensely at the gritty violent approach to the character that ran in contrast to the sarcastic wise-ass that had been shown in early films.

One of the central themes of the publicity campaign was that this was Jackman’s last outing as Wolverine and that the story wrapped up the character in a grimly satisfying way. That was hit most strongly in a feature interview with Jackman where he talked about his 17 year history as Logan and his career in general. Mangold too kept talking about how he got away with creating a movie that stood in such stark contrast to other superhero fare for its violent tone and how nervous the studio was to spend money on something that may fall well outside of audience expectations.

Overall

You certainly can’t accuse the campaign here of not being aligned around a common theme. The consistent hints or outright invocations of this being the last time Jackman takes on the role of Logan. That’s creating a sense of intensity and limited availability around the movie and the event that is meant to spark some urgency in the minds of the audience. It’s more than just another super hero movie, it’s your last chance to see an actor play a character he’s become synonymous with and has positioned himself as iconic in the minds of the public.

Let’s come back to that one point, that this is more than just a super hero movie. Throughout the campaign, for as much as there have been points that show Logan engaged in hero-like activities, it’s been clearly communicated that we’re not watching the normal comic book movie here; we’re watching a gritty, violent action story with a morally ambiguous character at its center. It’s being sold less like another installment of the X-Men extended franchise and more like the kind of thing Clint Eastwood would have made in the 1960s. Just like with Deadpool this time last year, the promise here is it’s something audiences have never seen before.

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