Cinematic Slant

Atomic Blonde – Marketing Recap

It’s not always fair when we compare new movies to James Bond. Nothing can truly measure up the legacy of 50+ years that the British spy has established. Nevertheless “It’s like Bond, but…” is a convenient narrative shorthand and has been used plentifully in the lead up to the release of Atomic Blonde. In the new movie, based on a series of graphic novels, Charlize Theron plays Lorraine Broughton, a long-standing MI6 agent with a history of getting results, no matter what it takes.

Things turn personal (as they are apt to in spy stories) when a former partner/lover turns up dead. Not only that but she’s sent on a dangerous mission into Cold War Berlin to retrieve and extract a dossier containing highly-sensitive information. To that end she teams with local station chief David Percival (James McAvoy), albeit reluctantly. The deeper she gets, though, the more she finds enemies lurking behind every corner, including those she once considered allies.

The Posters

The first poster made quite the impression, showing Theron standing and facing the camera, a blonde wig showing up white in the monochromatic image, sunglasses obscuring her eyes and a gun at her side. it’s stylish and mysterious and pretty amazing.

The second poster uses an image from a key scene in the trailer of Theron kicking butt in a hallway full of goons as its centerpiece. The title is below that and at the top are a bunch of positive quotes from early reviews. This one is very much about selling this as an action movie, not just a sexy action movie, which is clear since Theron is fully dressed in this image.

Another poster featured a close-up (though from the side) of Theron, her bright hair standing out in the black and white photo and a gun shown against her shoulder.

One final poster was released at Comic-Con, where the movie had various other promotional efforts going on. This one features original artwork and not just a photo, as it basically mashes up Theron’s poses from the previous one-sheets, the one with her sporting shades and the one with a gun draped across her arm. In the background you can see a sea of umbrellas opened just as in the trailers. There are a few other smaller images thrown in there to add some texture and details. There’s an appeal at the bottom to see it in Dolby Cinema at AMC, promising “Atomic sounds. Brighter blondes.”

The Trailers

The first trailer starts out with Broughton suiting up for action before cutting to her taking on a group of bad guys single handedly in what may already be one of the best action sequences of 2017. We then get a bit more of her backstory finding out she’s an MI6 operative with a strong and violent skill set. She’s tasked with retrieving a document from Berlin and finding out who’s killing intelligence operatives, which involves seducing a female source and causing all kinds of damage in the process.

It’s a really good trailer and I’m absolutely here for Theron and other female stars in more action roles like this, even if I do have some issues with both how it’s being sold and how the press framed the debut of the trailer.

The second trailer starts off with Broughton narrating how how she chose this dangerous life before taking out a room full of bad guys single handedly. We get her background and find out with her what her mission is. Her trip to Berlin doesn’t start off as expected, though, until she meets her contact in the city. From there it’s’ more sexy outfits and her doing some sexy meeting of a French intelligence agent. She talks about how someone on the inside has set her up and she’s going to take it very personally. All that happens along with footage of her beating up even more various henchmen and other baddies.

The part that works best here is that it presents a more linear, cohesive story for the movie. We get a better sense of the stakes and the relationships and that all works to sell even more effectively what already looks like a fun, if violent, movie.

Online and Social

The official website opens by playing the second trailer. After that you see the key art of a cold, seductive, deadly assassin wearing shades, a bleach blond wig and ready for action. There’s a button on the bottom of the page encouraging you to Get Tickets. Also down there, just before the links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles, is a link to the “It Gets Better Project” that helps support LGBTQ kids. There’s also a link to “Make Your Own I Am Atomic” image, which lets you upload a picture and choose your own word, then download the result as a GIF to share on the social network of your choice.

Back to the main site, in the drop-down menu on the left the first choice is another chance to buy tickets. That’s followed by “Videos,” which is where you can watch both the trailers as well as the short teasers for them.

Next up are the “Chapters” the studio released over time. These amounted to extended clips from the movie that served the purpose of introducing us to the characters and the world they operate in, as well as continuing to give fans something to talk about.

This is the first time I’ve seen a “Gallery” that is just GIFs. There don’t appear to be any stills here, just three GIFs of footage pulled from the trailers. Finally the “About” section has a story synopsis and the cast and crew list.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A bit of TV advertising was done. This commercial, in particular, pulled directly from the scene used in the trailers of Broughton beating up the police in the apartment but added video game-like hit counters to the action. More readily seen was the plentiful online advertising that’s been done using the key art and the social advertising that used the trailers on Twitter and Facebook.

Media and Publicity

Before the trailer was released we got a glimpse at Theron and the movie as a whole with some first look photos that included comments from the actress about her training program for the role. More new photos and comments from the director appeared in EW’s summer movie preview. Theron also talked about the same-sex love scene that’s featured heavily in the trailers and how the decision to go down that road came about.

The movie was announced as having a substantial presence at San Diego Comic-Con, signaling it’s going hard after the geek audience. Not only was Theron scheduled to appear on an unrelated “Women Who Kick Ass” panel but she graced the special issue of EW that was distributed throughout San Diego. Oh, and the movie was screened for select attendees, given them an advance look so they can go home and online to talk about it to their friends and hopefully drive more ticket sales. At one of the panels Theron talked about how the story was designed to upend expectations and would be more than a little surprising to the audience.

New stills appeared in EW’s Comic-Con preview issue showing off more of Theron’s international woman of mystery along with an interview with the actress.

Both McAvoy and Theron did the press rounds to talk about the movie, with him recounting doing some “sexy fighting” and her engaging in crazy dance competitions and lots more.

Overall

It’s hard not to get on board with Theron as a hard-fighting spy in Cold War Berlin. She certainly has more action film credibility in the wake of Mad Max: Fury Road but was always a capable physical actress, even before that. It’s no more a stretch to see her in a role like this than it was in 2002 as Matt Damon, primarily a dramatic and comedic actor, prepared to storm the box office in The Bourne Identity. To hammer home the point that she can absolutely play a tough woman of mystery a good chunk of the campaign was devoted to showing Theron shoulder-deep in stunt training, working out fight choreography and talking about the physical demands of the role. That emphasis may be an attempt to cut short some old-fashioned thinking involving the phrase “the weaker sex” and related topics.

With that aside, the marketing has a wonderfully visual style. It’s all glammed up in neon, dark blues and grays that evoke the bleak conditions that are synonymous with mid-80s Berlin, which was still divided and which has often been portrayed as the turf warring spies met each other on. That permeates the campaign, starting with the posters and going through the trailers and everything else. It’s sleek and stylized, just like the movie it’s supporting.

The Emoji Movie – Marketing Recap

The average consumer is a lot smarter about what the inside of their electronic devices contain than someone in, say, 1982. Coverage of technology has made us all better informed about the inner workings of our smartphones and other gadgets. This week’s new release The Emoji Movie promises us that there’s more to it than flash memory and processors.

The story focuses on Gene (voiced by T.J. Miller), a “meh” emoji who’s not thrilled about what fate has laid out for him. See everyone has their assigned roles and his is to convey bemused detachment. He wants more out of his life, though, and so breaks free of his constraints in Textopolis, where all the emojis live when their phone is powered down, and seeks the broader world. Helping him out is his friend Hi-5 (James Corden) as well as others he’ll encounter on his travels.

The Posters

Things kicked off with a series of character posters, each one featuring a different emoji and some descriptive copy about that particular character. Nothing particularly fun or innovative here, just an attempt to give the audience a look at each individual emoji.

A theatrical poster puts all the main emojis on display in the little compartments they apparently stay in while on call. “Welcome to the secret world inside your phone” is the promise in the middle. Whatever.

One more just assembles the cast of characters in a single image, all crowded together. Gene and Hi-5 are there along with Poop and others, all with various expressions on their faces that convey their character’s attitudes.

The Trailers

The first trailer doesn’t show much in the way of footage from the movie. Instead it’s simply introduced and hosted by Meh, and he’s obviously thrilled to be announcing the first movie from the emojis. Only toward the end do we see some of the other emojis interacting in their digital environment.

The next trailer, which debuted around the time it screened at Cannes, takes us inside your phone to show the society that lives there involving emojis, apps and more. Meh isn’t that great at his job and so has to journey to a forbidden land to fix the problems he’s having and embrace his destiny to contain more than just one emotion.

Neither are all that interesting or funny. They convey the basic outlines of the story well enough but also show just how thin this premise is.

Online and Social

The first thing you’ll see when you load the movie’s official website is a map and search function allowing you to find a theater near you where it’s playing. Close that and you’re taken to the main page, which has the promotional artwork of the three main characters running toward the camera along with a “Get Tickets” button and links to the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles. Actually, clicking any of those icons will pull up a box asking you to input your birthday before you’re taken to those profiles. These aren’t e-commerce links and this isn’t an R-rated movie so I have to think this is just for the purpose of collecting demographic data.

The main content menu is hiding over in the upper left corner, disguised as a bubble with the three dots that usually indicate someone is typing a message. That right there is the most original aspect of the campaign.

The “Our Videos” page there just has the official trailer, showing someone doesn’t know their singular from their plural tenses. “Our Story” is a synopsis that’s littered with emojis in place of certain words.

You can get to know the different characters in the “Meet Us” section, which has very short bios about each emoji. “Our Makers” gives you a list of the actors and filmmakers. Finally, “Our Pics” offers the same images that are seen on the character posters. Not sure why this couldn’t have been combined with the “Meet Us” section and some other stills made available here.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

I couldn’t find anything explicitly labeled as a domestic TV spot but there were character introduction videos like this one for Gene that were 15 seconds long and which could have easily been used as TV commercials. Outdoor and online ads used some combination of the character images and other emoji and social ads used the trailers as each one was released.

Media and Publicity

Around the time of the first trailer, Sony announced a number of popular apps including Instagram, Twitter, Spotify and others would both appear in the movie and help with some of the marketing. If any of those companies made big promotional moves in advance of release, they weren’t obvious and didn’t make much of an impact.

Miller made a big splash at Cannes that coincided with the release of a new trailer where he parachuted in and hosted an event on the coast. It’s not that huge a deal, but it got a lot of coverage. Also on the stunt front was this effort which set a Guinness World Record for the most people dressed as emoji in a single place.

Miller made some pretty serious press rounds in the weeks leading up to release, but this movie only came up occasionally and in a superficial way. Instead the conversations, whether in print or on TV, usually turned to his sudden exit from “Silicon Valley,” what was in store for Deadpool 2 and other projects he has coming up.

Overall

I get that this may be lost on at least some – probably large swaths – in the target audience, but it’s hard not to see the campaign as selling a movie that combines elements of TRON, Wreck-it Ralph, Inside Out and a few other movies. That is to say, there’s little that’s new here, just a new veneer painted on a well-worn framework, with a story that’s designed to take us into a secret world that lies just beneath our own and which has its own societal norms. “They’re just like us, only digital” is the conceit, but instead of offering anything new or heartwarming the campaign relies on poop jokes and visual gags that have less impact because of their digital rendering.

Even outside of that there’s not much to brag about with this campaign. The whole thing seems a bit lackluster, as if all the effort went into the Cannes stunt and none was left over for interesting poster designs. It wants us to find the movie interesting because hey, even your grandma knows how to use emoji at this point, so let’s laugh at how they get into their own antics. If you need an example of how lazy movie marketing, especially efforts aimed at younger audiences, can be in 2017, this is a good one to choose.

Me Before You (After the Campaign Movie Review)

I’ll start off this review of Me Before You by admitting to something: I wasn’t prepared for how good the movie would be. Based on the marketing I reviewed last year I thought it would be a fairly by-the-numbers emotional tear-jerker that wouldn’t surprise me at all. My conclusion was that Warner Bros. knew the audience they were going after would just want a good cry and everything would act in service to that goal.

The story is focused around Lou (Emilia Clarke), a bright spirit in a small English town who sees the best in every person and every situation. After she’s let go from the shop she works at she takes a job acting as an emotional companion of sorts to Will Traynor, successful young businessman from a wealthy family who years ago was injured in an accident and is now a paraplegic. Her job is not take care of him medically but to try and lift his spirits. It takes a while but her formidable spirit eventually breaks through his depression and the two form not just a friendship but also a romantic connection. There are multiple complications that up the emotional factors, but it’s Lou’s presence that helps Will feel a bit like his old self again.

The campaign focused largely a couple scenes from the movie: A wedding and a concert the two attend. Both feature the budding couple in their finest tux and dresses, respectively. The intent was to present the story as a fairytale of sorts, where the lowly towns girl becomes something glamorous as she falls in love with the rich good-looking guy.

The movie itself is much more than that, though. Sure, there’s a big chunk of it that fills into that category, but it completely overlooks just how charming and essential Clarke’s performance as Lou is to the story. This doesn’t work nearly as well if she’s not as luminescent as Lou, putting megawatts of energy into every turn and step the character takes. The story succeeds or fails depending on how much you empathize with Lou and want her to succeed and Clarke’s performance can’t help but get you rooting for her.

Still, she never fully gives into the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope. Sure, she waxes nostalgic about an old pair of black-and-yellow striped tights she once had and dresses in the most colorful, unique way she can. What Clarke does differently than some who do fall into the MPDG trap is that she makes that wardrobe a more full part of the character, not its defining aspect. It’s only because Clarke seems to know where Lou’s heart is that we care as much as we do.

Me Before You is streaming on Amazon Prime now and is recommended if you need a nice, funny, romantic way to spend a couple hours.

All the Comic-Con Movie Trailers You Might Have Missed

2017’s edition of San Diego Comic-Con is now in the books. As with many such years, there was a plethora of movie news that came from many of the major Hollywood studios as they seek to hype their upcoming releases. Some of those are just months away from hitting theaters and these promotions are about creating near-term action. Others are a year or more away and the news and other material coming out of SDCC is about getting fans hyped for a movie well in the offing.

If you weren’t able to stay tuned in to all the events coming out of San Diego, here’s a recap of the new trailers that debuted there as well as other announcements related to some highly-anticipated releases.

Justice League

Just as I suspected, the new trailer (technically a “Comic-Con Sneak Peak”) for Justice League opens with Wonder Woman kicking some terrorist butt. We get some setup that the world is missing its heroes, which is bad news since a major threat has just arrived. In addition to lots of action there’s a reference to there being “No Lanterns” here to protect Earth. Superman’s boorish behavior in his last two movies is retconned to be a more uplifting presence to the world and it ends with a pretty big hint that he’s coming back. The whole cast (minus Henry Cavill) also appeared at the DC booth to sign a new poster that very much looks like, but doesn’t seem to actually be, Alex Ross artwork. WB also showed off some Aquaman footage, formally announced Wonder Woman 2, said the troubled Flash solo movie would be called “Flashpoint” and lots more.

Ready Player One

This first look trailer gives you a decent idea of what’s going on in the movie, concerned mostly with establishing the setting more than the plot. There are lots of cool shots and some narration about The OASIS and what it represents. Once you’re in the VR world it leans heavily on nostalgia with shots showing The Iron Giant, the DeLorean from Back to the Future and more. It’s also incredibly heavy on hyperbole, calling Ernest Cline’s source novel “The Holy Grail of pop culture” and director Steven Spielberg a “Cinematic game changer.”

The LEGO Ninjago Movie

It’s a pretty short trailer that accompanied a panel featuring most of the cast and crew, but it’s still pretty funny. Not a whole lot new is shown, just a bit more of the daddy issues Lloyd will have to face as he tries to stop his evil warlord father.

Thor: Ragnorak

Marvel Studios is apparently going all-in on selling this as a buddy comedy featuring Thor and Hulk as the vast majority of the action here centers around the two of them. The trailer that was revealed at Marvel’s panel features lots of one-liners along with the idea that Thor is putting together a team of Hulk, Loki and Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson, who wins the trailer hands-down) to stop Hela from destroying Asgard and unleashing Ragnorak. God bless director Taika Waititi.

Avengers: Infinity War, Black Panther, Ant-Man and The Wasp

All of these movies were part of Marvel’s big Hall H presentation. Footage from all three was shown but Marvel has said it won’t be released officially online, serving as an exclusive for fans. The audience apparently got a good look at all three, though, and heard the news that Michelle Pfeiffer would play Janet Van Dyne in the Ant-Man sequel, which is a great choice. There was also the announcement that Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson, would actually be set in the 90s, with the story involving the shape-shifting Skrulls in some way.

You can view some of the posters and other promotional art released at San Diego Comic-Con in the gallery below.

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Jaws (Flashback Movie Marketing)

Discovery Channel last night kicked off their 29th annual edition of Shark Week, a solid seven days of programming devoted to creatures that occupy a unique place in the public consciousness. While most species of shark are relatively harmless to people, one type has excited the imagination and provoked fear unlike most other modern animals: The great white. So with this week being all about the hunters of the open water, it’s a good chance to look back a whopping 42 years at the marketing of Steven Spielberg’s classic thriller Jaws.

The story, based on the Peter Benchley novel of the same name, follows Martin Brody (Roy Scheider), the new police chief in Amityville, a small seaside town that relies on tourist travel to its beaches. It’s not long after Brody’s arrival that strange deaths start occurring out in the water, deaths the town’s mayor is quick to dismiss as accidental. Brody’s skeptical though and brings in shark expert Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) to confirm his fears something is hunting the local waters. To take out the threat the two enlist Quint (Robert Shaw), one of the town’s more colorful fishermen, to go out and find the beast once and for all.

The movie was coming out just three years after the bestselling book hit shelves so it was still enjoying sizable public awareness. That’s why, just as with many many adaptations, the source material is the top value proposition on the theatrical poster. In fact the poster’s design features a similar image to that of the first hardcover printing of the book. Both show a shark coming up toward the surface of the water where a lone swimmer is blissfully unaware of the danger that lurks beneath. Where the book’s cover was more subdued, using a monochromatic color scheme, the movie’s poster goes all-in on the terror. The woman swimming at the top is still there but now the shark isn’t a vague shape, it’s fearsome monster with sharp teeth exposed as it prepares to take her.

It’s always so interesting for me to look back at movies like this because it presents an opportunity to see how reputations and awareness of certain things have changed over time. This was Spielberg’s first major feature and so he’s given no more credit here than any other first-time director over the years. He wasn’t heralded, the trumpets weren’t announcing his arrival. Señor Spielbergo was just another kid who convinced a couple producers to take a chance on him. With the first trailer for Ready Player One referring to him as a “Cinematic game changer,” it’s notable that it was just four decades ago that he was an unknown.

The theatrical trailer starts out by setting out just how dangerous the shark in question is, explaining that it’s an unthinking eating machine that may very well be the physical incarnation of the devil. We hear about the warnings that are given about the danger lurking along the beaches and what it means for the town that relies on people feeling like this is a good place to swim and relax. There are shots from the various attacks the killer shark commits before we switch over to the hunt for the beast involving Brody, Hooper and Quint. Their efforts are intense as they face an opponent that seems more massive than they believed and doesn’t appear stoppable. At the end, we get the cast alongside the key poster art and the narrator warns us to “See it…before you go swimming.”

Once more, it has to be noted that Spielberg is completely omitted from the campaign here. That it’s based on Benchley’s popular novel is mentioned at least once but the director isn’t even given a nod. It’s also interesting how most of the trailer doesn’t show the titular shark. The audience then didn’t have the context we do now about the troubles the practical special effect gave the filmmakers, which led to it being hinted at in the movie more than shown.

With that in mind, the effect is the same, though. The audience is asked to invest in the plight of the characters that are impacted by the shark attacks and the ensuing hunt more than shown the shark that’s causing all this trouble. It creates the impression of the movie being a psychological thriller, which is actually pretty close to what it winds up being, more than a B-grade monster movie. Compare that to the trailers for more recent shark movies like 47 Meters Down or The Shallows, where one or more sharks are shown in stark close-up that emphasizes the size of the danger the protagonists face. For Jaws it wasn’t about what’s out there, it’s about what *could* be out there, which is often more dangerous and intimidating.

Picking Up The Spare: The Beguiled, War For The Planet Of The Apes

The Beguiled

  • Sofia Coppola has found it necessary to once more respond at length to critics who have taken issue with her decision to excise black characters from the story. You can take issue with it, but she made a conscious decision based on her experience and ability to tell a story, so this wasn’t done thoughtlessly or ignorantly.

War For The Planet Of The Apes

  • Steve Zahn didn’t get a ton of focus in the pre-release press but this interview goes deeper with him about his first motion capture experience, how he tried to get to the essence of Bad Ape and more.

War For The Planet Of The Apes (After the Campaign Review)

First, an admission: When I wrote my marketing recap for War For The Planet Of The Apes I had not only not seen that movie (obviously since it wasn’t out yet) but Rise and Dawn, the previous two entries in this series, as well. I’ve since corrected that omission and was able to see War in the context of the entire story.

The story, as Nolan alluded to in his review, has the apes reluctantly facing the final confrontation with the soldiers representing the dwindling human population. The ALZ-113 virus inadvertently unleaded in Rise has wiped out 90% of humanity and the army lead by The Colonel (Woody Harrelson) is mad as hell about that. Caesar (Andy Serkis) sets out to confront him and end the battle once and for all and save the super-intelligent apes who just want to live peacefully. Things aren’t so simple, of course, and the finale isn’t what anyone involved expects.

When I recapped the marketing for the movie last week I felt the primary message was the all-out war that erupts between the two parties. I, to quote Obi-Wan, was wrong.

Nolan already talked about how emotionally heavy the story was, but I need to reiterate that point since it largely took me by surprise. Having just watched Rise and Dawn nearly back-to-back and within days of eventually watching War, I thought I was ready for how things would be brought to their conclusion. I could see the character arcs that had been established and was braced for them to reach their endpoint.

While I can’t say I was surprised by how things ended up and where the characters, particularly Caesar since we’d been following him since Rise, I was no less moved. All of the characters tugged on my heartstrings more than a little. I was emotionally invested in the fate of Caesar’s trusted advisors Maurice and Rocket. I was moved by the plight of Nova, the young mute girl the apes discover on their travels and begin to protect. Most of all, I felt the weight of Caesar’s burden of leadership, with the entire ape community counting on his judgement to guide them toward the future.

That last point is 100% because of the performance of Serkis. While the actor’s true face is never seen, it’s his performance that conveys all of Caesar’s worries and cares. We see what the ape leader is thinking and what factors he’s weighing because they come through in the performance, making their way from Serkis’ face through the camera, digital animators and others. It’s actually astounding what’s accomplished here and it will be a shame when Serkis is once again overlooked when it comes time for awards season.

Director Matt Reeves also deserves a fair amount of the credit. While the marketing may have focused on the explosions and gun battles that ensue between the human and ape armies, it’s the smaller moments that carry the bulk of the storytelling forward. Reeves handles both deftly, bringing an approach that’s both solidly workmanlike and unexpectedly artistic to a franchise finale. That’s even more so than he already did in Dawn, which carried the burden of being the middle of the story but which was no less satisfying in and of itself.

Much like Patty Jenkins did with Wonder Woman, Reeves has found a way to bring emotional artistry to what could have easily been yet another bloated blockbuster just there to keep the money rolling in. Between his directorial skills and Serkis’ incredible performance as the core of the story, War For The Planet Of The Apes is more well-crafted than a summer popcorn flick has any right to be. While the marketing that sold it may have been a little action heavy, don’t let that dissuade you from a movie that satisfies on many levels.

Landline – Marketing Recap

Director Gillian Robespierre takes us back to the halcyon days of the mid-90s in the new movie Landline. Jenny Slate, teaming for the second time with the director after 2014’s Obvious Child, stars as Dana, a woman who along with her younger sister Ali (Abby Quinn) discovers their father Alan (John Turturro) has been having a long-term affair, cheating on their mother Pat (Edie Falco).

This understandably throws their world, largely built around their slightly dysfunctional but still loving family, out of whack. The two set out to figure out what’s been going on while also dealing with their own issues. Dana is engaged to the boring but dependable Ben (Jay Duplass) but seems to be rethinking that future. Ali is a bit wilder than Dana had previously suspected. So there’s growth and discovery going on all over the place.

The Posters

The one poster for the movie does a number of things quite well. First is the phone cord that descends from the top to form the L in the title, a literal representation of the title and a reminder of a time when the physical range of a conversation had limits. Second is the look Slate’s Dana is shooting across the breakfast table at her father, one that conveys the upset and disappointment she’s feeling without saying a word, letting the audience know there’s something going on there. Third is the way Falco’s Pat is hovering over Ali, establishing their relationship. Finally, the “1995. When people were harder to reach.” brings the metaphor of the title to the story, telling us it’s about interpersonal dynamics family issues. There’s also the nod to Obvious Child, the previous collaborations between Slate and Robespierre.

The Trailers

The first and only trailer introduces us to the family and their dynamic as they’re on a road trip and trying to communicate with each other. We get that Dana is engaged, though she seems less than excited about the coming nuptials. She and her sister don’t really get along but bond when they find evidence their dad is having an affair. Everyone in the family is having their own crisis of sorts, whether it’s pre-wedding nerves, lack of commitment to school, feelings of being ignored or anything else.

It’s charming and low-key and looks sadly funny. The chemistry between all the actors appears effortless and like it all works to tell a simple but emotional story.

Online and Social

As has become pretty standard, you get full-screen video footage from the trailers when you load the official website. The title treatment from the poster involving the cord leading to the L and the copy are all placed in the upper left, above a button prompting you to “Get Tickets” and links to the movie’s Instagram, Facebook and Twitter profiles.

In the drop-down menu the first section after another Get Tickets link is “Videos” which has the trailer and a clip from the movie that features a conversation between Pat and Alan as well as news footage of Hillary Clinton that seems pretty specifically included based on today’s political environment.

The “Story” section has a synopsis and the cast and crew lists. There’s a link then to “Stream More Great Films” that takes you to a special section of Amazon’s streaming service devoted to movies from Magnolia Pictures, a nice way to convert people in a different way. Finally there’s a “Press Kit” where you can download stills as well as a full PDF press kit and production notes.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Some light online advertising was done using the key art and there may have been a few social ads run at the time the trailer was released. That’s about it, though.

Media and Publicity

The first bit of publicity came when it was announced the movie would have its official premiere at Sundance 2017. That screening generated mixed, but generally positive word-of-mouth even while the cast and crew talked about reuniting after their previous movie together and how the story came into being. Amazon eventually picked the movie up for distribution.

Slate talked about how the retro vibe of the movie made her nostalgic and why she chose to set the story in the 90s. That was also the topic when Slate and Robespierre were asked about the story at the premiere, where they also talked about how that was meant in part to contrast it to today’s world.

Slate was, of course, the focal point of much of the press. She talked about 90s trends and how she started working with Robespierre years ago as well as her approach to selecting roles as a whole. She also talked about relationships and crushes, how she does and doesn’t want to be grouped with other actresses her age and lots more.

Overall

If you’re on board with Jenny Slate, you’ll likely be on board with this campaign. The focus is almost exclusively on her as the star and driving force of the movie’s story, the one we’re asked to sympathize with and take sides on behalf of. Everything about the movie is presented here from her point of view, from her parents’ relationship to the discovery of a side of her sister she was previously unaware of. The campaign is designed to appeal to fans of smaller, character-driven movies, especially those who made 2014’s Obvious Child a word-of-mouth hit as that movie is referenced frequently.

The other nice thing about the marketing is that it doesn’t get obnoxious with the 90s nostalgia. Yes, there are plenty of moments where people use floppy disks and actual landline phones and it takes a moment to realize the “app” Pat refers to in the trailer isn’t a bit of mobile software but a college application. But it keeps all that in the context of the story, not as something wholly on the side that’s positioned as a conceit for the audience to chuckle at. It’s that subtle approach that makes it work because, as the tagline on the poster suggests, the time period is used as a metaphor for human connections, not as a cheap gag.

Slanted Review: War for the Planet of the Apes

War for the Planet of the Apes (directed by Matt Reeves) is the third installment in the current Planet of the Apes series, and is without a doubt the one of the best Planet of the Apes movies to date.

What War for the Planet of the Apes does very well is propelling the story forward while using very minimal dialogue. With a few minor exceptions, the only main characters that actually speak are Caesar (played by the amazing Andy Serkis), the Colonel (played by Woody Harrelson), and Bad Ape (played by Steve Zahn). The movie feels interesting to watch because the viewer doesn’t spend so much time focusing on dialogue, they are mostly watching the action and excitement on screen. That said, what sets this Apes movie apart from all the other films in the series is not the action; it’s the heart.

While other Apes movies mostly rely on the action happening on screen, what War does is examine the emotions behind the actions on screen. When the actual war begins in the third act of the film, you feel the strong emotions behind Caesar’s actions and his motives. You feel almost empathy for the Colonel, and despite him being the “big bad” of the movie, you strongly feel the emotional reasoning behind his actions. There are many emotional scenes involving Nova, the little girl the Apes find early in the story, and Reeves does a fantastic job of using the camera to enhance the emotions captured on screen. Reeves obviously knows how to work the camera to produce interesting, beautiful looking shots that capture what’s happening in a way that is superior to other filmmakers.

What War for the Planet of the Apes truly excels at is playing high on the audience’s emotions, and using those emotions coupled with minimal dialogue to propel the story forward.

War for the Planet of the Apes is in theaters now and is rated PG-13.

Slanted Rating:

9/10- See it in theaters NOW!

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets – Marketing Recap

Director Luc Besson is back in the world of fantastical science fiction with this week’s new release Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Based on the popular graphic novel of the same name, the story follows Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne), two agents of a peacekeeping force tasked with policing the human territories of the galaxy.

The pair are given an assignment that sends them to Alpha, a massive complex incorporating thousands of alien cultures, all living harmoniously with each other. There’s a mysterious threat lurking somewhere within Alpha that threatens to upend the peaceful environment and which could spread to the entire universe. It’s up to Valerian and Laureline to not only find it but stop it before it destroys the denizens of Alpha as well as everyone else.

The Posters

The first poster sells the movie as a space epic, pure and simple. Besson is referenced at the top as the director of The Fifth Element and Lucy, establishing his genre bonafides. But the main image has two characters whose faces we can’t see standing next to a giant ship with its boarding ramp down. So it’s really trying to play up the visuals here.

The next just shows Valerian and Laureline next to each other, each appearing on a different half of the V design that’s featured on the poster. There’s no copy, just the previous directorial credits of Besson as a way to make sure audiences know the movie has some bonafide credentials. It’s a nice use of whitespace though and while it might appear a bit simplistic it also doesn’t go too far in the other direction and try to crowd thousands of tiny alien images into one design.

The theatrical poster uses the “V” format from the previous one but shifts it over to the left a bit. It also adds a lot more of the creatures and characters we’ll meet in the story, from obese slugs to cute little critters to Rihanna. A mysterious alien peers out from the center of the “V”, indicating that they may be more important to the story than everyone else. While I don’t usually put much stock in these things, there *does* seem to be a nod to Besson’s The Fifth Element in upper right, with a sign saying “…orben’s.” While the first letter is cut off, it could be “Korben’s,” which would reference Bruce Willis’ character in that movie.

The Trailers

What the hell is even happening in the first trailer? Honestly, there’s almost nothing about the story here, it’s all about showing off the visuals and insane look of the movie and works incredibly well on that front. It’s great, it’s bonkers and I want to see it immediately.

The second trailer begins as Valerian and his partner are given their latest assignment, which involves big monsters on a shuttle moving across the desert. From there it’s on to Alpha, the giant city of worlds, some place that’s meant to be a neutral paradise in the violent universe. Something is amiss, though, and there are sinister forces that must be stopped. That’s where the story explanation stops and it becomes all about the visuals, showing speeding ships and strange aliens and everything else.

It’s so great looking. It’s being sold as being very much in the vein of The Fifth Element and looks funny, comically violent and mind-bending in the best possible ways. I’m just totally on board here.

The final trailer doubles down on the incredible visuals, focusing on the alien inhabitants of Alpha before explaining the peace there has been threatened and it’s up to Valerian and Laureline to stop it. What that threat is never gets explained as we’re too busy watching ships navigate tight passages, huge monsters lunging after their prey and more.

Online and Social

When you load the official website you’re greeted with a bit of marketing hyperbole about how groundbreaking the movie is and why you need to see it in 3D. On that main page there are prompts to “Watch the Trailer” and “Get Tickets” as well as links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles. You can also choose to “Play the Game,” which takes you to page from which you can download a mobile game from Google Play or Apple’s App Store.

Using the menu that opens up when you click the icon in the top right, the first section is “Videos” and is where you can find the trailers and TV spots. Next is “About the Film,” which has a synopsis of the movie’s story.

You can explore “The World of Valerian” and learn more about the characters, aliens and the worlds they all inhabit in the next section. After that there’s a “Gallery” with several stills as well as a few behind the scenes shots. Finally “Social” not only has links to the social profiles but also a page of embedded updates from those pages.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots started running in late April that were focused on showing the audience the amazing visuals that are to be seen on Alpha and therefore in the movie. There’s some voiceover that hints at the conflict but mostly it’s a “Wow, this looks incredible” strategy being employed here. Future commercials would feature more of the story, or at least the premise, as well as some of the action and humor of the movie. As review embargoes broke, more commercials would incorporate some of the praise the movie was receiving.

The movie had some promotional help from other companies as well, including Lexus, which made a big deal about unveiling the Skyjet, a concept vehicle it designed and created for the movie, at an event with DeHaan.

Outdoor and online ads used the key art in various ways and social ads were run as new trailers were released.

Media and Publicity

While there had been lots of conversations about the movie in advance of this, the big coming-out took place at San Diego Comic-Con 2016, where Besson teased footage and talked about the process the movie has taken on its way to the screen, which included encountering the source comic’s creator while making The Fifth Element years ago. That screening generated tons of positive buzz for the movie, a new photo being released to the general public and the general sense that this was going to save the sci-fi genre when it came out a year later.

Just before the first teaser trailer hit a first look at Rihanna’s flapper character was released that provided some details but which mostly was about setting the stage for more craziness to come.

Around the time of the second trailer an op-ed in Wired pointed out some of the public perception problems the movie is facing as it tries to appeal to a mainstream audience. First, the campaign plays up its origins as a groundbreaking graphic novel. But that GN is from France and isn’t something many American readers are going to be widely aware of. Second, that source story *did* influence lots of what’s been seen over the last 30 years of sci-fi cinema, which means it runs the risk of feeling derivative of the very things that wouldn’t exist without it. Those are both great points that could indeed hamstring how the campaign’s message is received.

As part of the emphasis on the visuals of the movie, a two-hour behind the scenes feature was taken to a special effects industry event in Germany.

STX sought to take advantage of a very large platform and placed the movie’s opening scene in front of Spider-Man: Homecoming at select theaters. That was an effort to reach an apparently relevant audience and get them talking about Valerian, hopefully eager to come back and see the full thing. The movie’s opening scene continued to be the focus of at least a good amount of the press, including this interview with Besson where he talked about how he conceived and shot that sequence.

Overall

First let’s address how this campaign ties to the past. Specifically, there are large swaths of the push that are meant to either overtly or more subtly remind the audience how much they enjoyed The Fifth Element, Besson’s last big-scale outer space comedy adventure. The message here is that if you have fond memories of that movie, something reinforced by a recent limited theatrical rerelease to mark its 20th anniversary, you’ll absolutely want to check out this latest effects-driven movie.

Moving beyond that, though, the message of the campaign is that there’s a whole universe of adventure ready to explore. DeHaan and Delevingne may not be huge draws in and of themselves, but the marketing makes the case that they’re suitable bodies to watch running and jumping through the alien worlds that have been created. There are multiple times in the campaign where we’re told this comes from Besson’s unmatched imagination and it’s that which forms the crux of the value proposition to the audience. What remains to be seen is if that’s enough to make moviegoers comfortable enough to choose an original story (albeit one that’s based on existing material) with so many franchises and known quantities currently in theaters.