If you’re anything like me you’ve been inundated by year-end lists over the last few weeks. Various sites have published what one writer or another feels are the best posters or trailers for the movies that have come out this year. As with anything else, these lists are subjective and open to interpretation and debate.

At the risk of sounding a bit high-minded and snooty, I continue to have minimal interest in creating such a list. I understand the desire to do so, both in order to recap the year that’s passed and as an editorial feature. Before 2017 shuts down entirely I will likely write something like my Adweek post that collected what I felt were the most memorable campaigns of 2016. But calling out individual assets like posters seems off to me for a number of reasons.

Art is Subjective

Even the most horrifically designed posters are a form of artwork and so need to be judged accordingly. That’s true. It’s also true that beautiful art is in the eye of the beholder. An image that draws me in completely and gets me hooked might make you turn your nose up in disgust. That’s good. We can debate that. And best of lists should be debated, but I’m not going to label my taste as being indicative of the “best” of anything.

It’s Commerce As Well As Art

It’s often forgotten that while the film (to varying degrees) may be an artistic statement, the campaign to sell it has more in common with the marketing of consumer electronics or household goods than it does with the art world. Yes, poster design and trailer editing should ideally adhere to art theory and principles but they’re also rooted in audience consumption preferences and habits. If it manages to walk in both worlds, great. And there certainly was a time when they were far more creative than many are now, but the point is to sell something, not create a statement piece.

You Can’t View Tactics in a Vacuum

That’s great that X Movie had what you felt was one of the best posters of the year. But how did that fit into the rest of the campaign? Did it present a message that was consistent with the trailer that came out at the same time or did it seem like it was attached to a completely different movie? How did that key art translate into online or outdoor ads? Could you quickly derive the value proposition of the movie from the copy or images used? It may stand alone as powerful and interesting, but if it was off-brand then it may have worked against the overall goals of the campaign.

Looking back at these points, I’m reminded of why I started writing about movie marketing in the first place, because everyone was saying “Oh what a cool trailer/poster/etc” without viewing the big picture or coming at it from the perspective of how well it actually sells the movie to the audience. That’s not a problem that’s unique to the entertainment press but is common even in the marketing trades, where industry awards will go to campaigns that hit some artistic high but didn’t actually move the needle on any corporate goal or which were out of left field when put in the context of the rest of the company’s advertising.

Again, I have no problem with anyone weighing in with their top 10 lists on whatever they like. It’s just not an exercise I care to engage in because doing so misses vast swaths of the point of why these materials are created and released and what they’re meant to achieve.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

There have been few endings to superhero movies that have left me as anxious and eager to see more than the final moments of X-2: X-Men United. Throughout the movie Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) had been hinting at feeling as if she were on the verge of losing control of her powers, like there was something terrible lurking just around the corner. The end of the film sees her then finally cutting loose with all the potential she has always had as she manages to hold back a massive wave of water while at the same time lifting the X-Men’s jet to safety. As she does so flames begin to roil around her. Finally, after everything else, the camera pans over the newly-formed lake and we see a bird-like creature of fire under the water.

x2 phoenix

It was the perfect setup for the Phoenix Saga, one of the most famous and well-received comics storylines of all time. Written by Chris Claremont, it has Jean Grey briefly becoming Phoenix, an incredibly powerful psychic that in actuality is the manifestation of a cosmic force. Drama and betrayal follow, culminating in Grey’s death, the first of many times she would die in the comics.

The story had already been loosely adapted in the 90s “X-Men” animated show, but seeing the incarnation of the Phoenix Force in a theatrical feature was next level, the capstone on one of the best superhero movies up to that point and a continued excellent feature, regardless of what’s come out about director Bryan Singer in subsequent years.

Most all of that potential was squandered in X-Men: The Last Stand, directed by the equally sleazy Brett Ratner and featuring versions of the characters that were all but unrecognizable from what we’d seen in the first two movies. Cyclops is killed off-screen, Wolverine suffers from Hugh Jackman turning in one of the all-time great “I don’t even care” performances, Xavier is killed by a psychic tornado and poor Jean Grey. Instead of being an all-powerful force she just kind of stands around in a red duster for much of the movie.

Instead of doing…well…anything of interest with the Phoenix concept and character, she’s turned into the world’s most powerful observer. The movie is instead a loose adaptation of the “Cured” storyline from Joss Whedon’s first arc writing Astonishing X-Men, though done without one-tenth of the nuance, character and art. Even in the final battle, Jean just stands on the sidelines, looking at everything that’s happening without doing much of anything until she asks Wolverine to kill her in a moment of lucidity.

There’s so much more that could have been done. Not that the movie needed to follow Claremont’s story exactly, but it might have at least used it as an outline. Jean could have had some sort of arc that didn’t make her seem like a woman who just lost her mind. Her resurrection could have been at least somewhat explored before it was dismissed and relegated to the status of a subplot.

Hopefully the upcoming X-Men: Dark Phoenix will at least somewhat address what was missed the first time around. With Sophie Turner playing a younger version of Jean Grey in the recent X-Men prequels, Fox is taking a second bite at the apple and hoping to do something – anything – more interesting this time around.

As it stands now, there’s still a ton of unrealized potential in the character, something that’s surprising given the status the Phoenix Saga still has in the comics world. Not only is it beloved by fans to this day but the events of the story have continued to reverberate through the X-Men books ever since.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Detroit

Part of John Boyega’s appearance during the Star Wars publicity cycle also touched on this movie’s rerelease into theaters for an awards season push.

Lady Bird / Get Out

Directors Greta Gerwig and Jordan Peele, both of whom broke out as significant behind-the-camera talents this year, were the subjects of a Vanity Fair photo shoot/cover story talking about their career journeys to date and what might be next.

Lady Bird

Saoirse Ronan talked more about working with Gerwig and what drew her to the story here.

The actor also hosted last week’s episode of “Saturday Night Live” where Gerwig dropped by for one of the digital shorts.

Good Time

I didn’t write about the movie’s campaign, but Krstina Monllos at Adweek has a story on how A24 is promoting its home video release with a pizza box campaign in New York City.

Wind River

Director Taylor Sheridan was so outraged by the news about Harvey Weinstein that he called to extract the rights to the movie and have them revert to the Tunica-Biloxi tribe, which has taken over awards season promotions. Proceeds from the film are also being sent to an organization that tracks abuse of Native American women, something that’s drastically uncounted currently.

Coco

The movie has continued receiving plenty of TV advertising, including spots like this that encouraged families to see it in IMAX.

The Frozen short that was shown before the movie was much-derided by just about everyone, so when it was announced it was being removed it seemed to be in reaction to that criticism. Disney soon claimed, though, that a limited run was always the plan.

LBJ

More from director Rob Reiner here about why he wanted to tell Johnson’s story and how he made the movie happen.

Alien: Covenant

Director Ridley Scott spoke briefly about the future of the franchise, assuring fans there would be more movies coming but that they take a different approach.

Wonder Woman

Not that surprising, really, but Wonder Woman is the most-Tweeted about film of 2017.

I, Tonya

Makeup artist Deborah La Mia Denaver talked about how she turned star Margot Robbie into the much different looking Tonya Harding. And director Craig Gillespie spoke about how a career shooting commercials – including one starring Nancy Kerrigan – prepared him for the movie.

Darkest Hour

Costar Lily Collins has done some media to promote the film now that it’s in theaters as well as talk about other upcoming projects.

Wonderstruck

Production designer Mark Friedberg talks here about creating the miniatures and dioramas that were used in the film to bridge the story’s two time periods.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

The Book of Henry did not have a positive box-office reception. The movie has a paltry 21% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and while that score isn’t a perfect measure it’s representative of the savaging it received upon release. This isn’t a case of a movie being “for the fans, not the critics” either, as audiences essentially ignored it. The mix of disappointing box office and critical snubbing, along with a few stories of poor on-set behavior, is at least part of the reason director Colin Trevorrow was eventually let go from Star Wars: Episode IX.

The story in the film follows Henry (Jaeden Lieberher), a precocious and incredibly intelligent 12 year old boy who takes care of his younger brother Peter (Jacob Tremblay) and single mother Susan (Naomi Watts). Susan never seems to have her life together and relies on Henry to pay the bills and manage the finances while she plays video games. One day Henry realizes the girl next door Christina (Maddie Ziegler) is likely being abused by her stepfather, who has avoided previous accusations by virtue of his position as the chief of police. Through a series of incidents I won’t get into because they spoil the story, Susan must take on the role of savior for Christina, enacting a plan devised by Henry that will lead to Christina’s freedom.

One of the primary points of criticism for the movie was that it was unexpectedly dark. It’s true. The characters act in ways that are much different than they would in other films that have more commercial appeal. It’s a difficult film and, admittedly, there are more than a few plot inconsistencies that should leave viewers scratching their chins.

I’m convinced, though, that much of the reaction came as a result of the movie’s tone and story being vastly different from what was presented in its marketing campaign.

The trailer does indeed lay out much of the story’s outline for the audience to understand, starting with the home situation of Susan, Henry and Peter and continuing through Susan’s execution of the plan left for her by Henry to help Christina. Left unexplained is why Henry is missing from the latter half of the story, a twist that likely caught many a critic and brave viewer by surprise.

But the rest of the campaign, especially the posters, presented a much different film. Those posters make the movie seem as if it’s along the lines of Flight of the Navigator or E.T., a story of adventurous and inventive kids getting in slightly over their heads and having an adventure. The image of Henry wearing his homemade goggles became a common element in the campaign, meant to convey that sense of childhood exploration as well as his intelligence.

That’s not what the movie delivers, though, and the disconnect between the tone of the marketing and the actual movie threw more than a few people off, leading to poor reviews and even worse word of mouth.

The Book of Henry isn’t a perfect movie by any stretch. But it’s also not as bad as the reviews made it out to be. We can have a discussion about Trevorrow’s talents as a filmmaker and whether he should be making blockbusters and high-profile character dramas this early in his career. But if you give the movie here a chance and view it free of the somewhat misleading pitch that was made in last year’s marketing, you may not regret it. I won’t say it’s enjoyable from beginning to end and, again, won’t pretend like there aren’t issues that should have been addressed. It’s not the complete trainwreck it was often made out to be, though.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

shape of water poster 3Writer/director Guillermo del Toro is back in theaters with another of his fantasy-driven stories. Set in the Cold War of the early 1960s, The Shape of Water follows Elisa (Sally Hawkins), who gets a job as a cleaning lady at a top-secret government facility alongside Zelda (Octavia Spencer). They’re sworn to secrecy because of what’s housed there, including a strange and potentially dangerous amphibian humanoid (Doug Jones) that’s kept in a tank.

Overseeing the facility is Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) along with Dr. Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg). Elisa violates multiple protocols when she begins interacting with the creature, eventually falling in love with him. She creates a plan to rescue it from captivity with the help of Zelda and Giles (Richard Jenkins). That effort is complicated by not only Strickland’s manic desire for secrecy and bully-like nature but by the political intrigue that results in many agencies and parties being interested in the creature.

The Posters

the shape of water posterThe first poster uses artwork released around the time of the trailer but now formatted for a one-sheet. It shows Alice and The Asset locked in a passionate embrace, a variation on the kind of pose you’d see on the cover of an airport bookstore romance novel. Kelp and water flow around them. It’s a heartbreakingly beautiful image that’s accompanied by the movie’s festival credentials. Thankfully the amount of text that gets in the way of the design is minimal.

There’s still no copy or plot points on the second poster, but who needs it when you have an image of a woman being embraced by some sort of strange mer-creature while they both float underwater. As with everything else it’s striking and unique and gets the point of the movie across as opposed to trying to fully explain the story to the audience.

The Trailers

The first trailer seemed to come out of nowhere and set us into the world of Eliza, a mute woman who works in a creepy, secretive government installation where they seem to house monsters. She’s supposed to just clean and nothing else and we hear about how dangerous and special the creature they’re studying is. But she forms a connection with it through their shared inability to speak. The head of the facility is less than sympathetic, just wanting to dissect the monster, but she wants to help it escape. That causes all sorts of problems, of course.

Why aren’t I watching this right now.

A red-band trailer (due to language) was up next. It starts off after Elisa has already taken The Asset from the facility it’s confined to. Strickland is determined to get it back, repeatedly questioning her, Zelda and others. It intercuts between his search for who stole it and her attempts to do so, all while repeating how important it is and how everyone is after it.

What’s on display most here are the performances of Hawkins and Shannon, both of whom are powerhouses in their own way, either silently or loudly. Not only that, but del Toro’s amazing visual style is clear as day here, both in the design of The Asset and the world all these characters live in. He makes a 1950s living room appear just as dark and mysterious as the secret lab where The Asset is housed. It’s incredible.

The next trailer, a red-band version, starts out with Elisa receiving her orders from Strickland to steer clear of the creature being held at the facility, a warning that’s reinforced when Strickland is injured. Eventually she forms a bond with the creature and helps him escape, both because of his treatment by Strickland and a plot by the Russians to kill it. Elisa’s plan is exposed and she – and it – are hunted down by all interested parties to finally secure what has been deemed a threat to all involved.

Online and Social

The final red-band trailer opens the official website, so take a few minutes and watch that again. After that’s done the splash page features the key art of Elisa and the Amphibian Man embracing underwater. A rotating series of positive quotes from early reviews are displayed below the title along with the film’s festival credentials as well as its Rotten Tomatoes “Fresh” certification. In the bottom left are the links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.

Moving to the content menu at the top, “Cast” kicks things off with a photo and quote from the actor or about him or her from del Toro along with it. Same with “Filmmakers.”

“Story” has a brief synopsis of the plot. All three trailers can be found and viewed in the “Videos” section. Finally, “Fan Art” displays some fan creations based on the character in the film.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A massive series of TV spots like this one were released just a week before release, each one featuring a slightly different collection of footage and scenes. It’s possible there’s some connective material here but they all offered a basic overview of the story and characters while selling the movie as a tight thriller.

If there were online or social ads I’m not aware of them. It’s possible some, along with outdoor signage were run in the initial select markets the movie has hit. The only online effort I’ve encountered is the placement of the trailer as a pre-roll ad on YouTube.

Media and Publicity

The movie was announced as one of those that would screen at the Toronto International Film Festival. It also was slated for the Venice Film Festival, where it racked up impressively positive buzz and where talked about the look and feel and story of his unusual movie. Already great word-of-mouth was only enhanced when the movie won the Golden Lion at Venice. During TIFF, del Toro talked about different aspects of the story and characters, including how he saw Hawkins’ caretaker as a sort of Disney Princess.

There was a fascinating feature on the design of those first bits of promotional poster artwork that went behind the scenes on the creative process of artist James Jean.

Spencer talked about how she was finally able to play someone for whom race wasn’t the defining characteristic as well as the responsibility of handling so much of the dialogue alongside Hawkins’ silent performance. There was also a lengthy profile of Doug Jones, a frequent collaborator of del Toro who plays the role of the Amphibian Man that drives the story. That profile emphasized how many movies and TV shows he’s been in and how infrequently we’ve ever seen his face since, as in this movie, he’s usually hidden behind masks and makeup, something he’s specialized in because of his unique ability to offer emotional performances even when hidden. Another similar profile hit many of the same beats.

Shannon also got involved, with a profile of the actor that included talk of how he got involved in the movie and how he approached creating the character. He also talked about filming the movie in appearance in the media including “Late Night.”

Overall

It’s not surprising to see the marketing for a movie from del Toro rely this strongly on a combination of secrecy, fantasy, mystery, story and visual style. That’s been his stock and trade for years now, with each film using all those elements to varying degrees. His movies are, as much as anyone else working in Hollywood, a representation of his imagination. Strong word of mouth that’s focused on the performances of Hawkins and Spencer propelled it from early screenings and seem to have primed the pump for the movie to finally hit wide release.

The campaign started off with a bang, the out-of-nowhere release of that first trailer, and kept up a solid pace over the intervening months. It’s been remarkably consistent, showing off the artistry of the visuals, the emotions of the story and the depth of the characters at most every turn. The lack of press push involving Hawkins is somewhat surprising, but there’s likely a reason behind that decision. Still, as the central focus of the story I would have expected her to play a bigger role in the publicity. It’s a small gripe in relation to a wonderful overall effort.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

When Daddy’s Home was being sold to the public back in December of 2015, the central theme of the campaign seemed to be that the movie would feature lots of instances of Will Ferrell falling down and putting himself in embarrassing situations. And the movie pretty much delivered on that promise, though it’s not nearly as funny as the studio would have liked you to believe at the time.

Ferrell plays Brad, a bland but exceedingly nice and patient guy who has married Sara (Linda Cardellini) and become the stepdad to her two kids. Entering the picture is Dusty (Mark Wahlberg), Sara’s ex-husband who thinks he wants to win her back. He believes the way to do that is to turn everyone against Brad and so the two engage in a “dad-off” with Brad being his congenial best and Dusty being the worldly, hyper-masculine one as they both strive to impress Sara and the kids and prove they’re the one they should choose.

The movie has so little to say it’s almost shocking. The kids – and even Cardellini’s Sara – are afterthoughts, pawns to be played as the two male characters jockey for position as the alpha. So the entire plot revolves around Brad and Dusty trying to mark their territory and claim Sara as their own while spending money like it’s not a real thing on stunts and tricks to make the other one look lesser in her eyes.

Wahlberg is at least somewhat engaging as Dusty, who’s confident, competent and the prototypical alpha male that attracts everyone’s attention and interest. Ferrell, though, is the most checked-out I’ve ever seen him. I’m not sure if he’s just tired, if he realized he was getting a thankless role or is just ready for a new challenge, but he didn’t appear to even be trying to make Brad anything other than a one-note punchline. At least the lazy performance doesn’t rise to the level of Adam Sandler’s palpable disdain for the audience.

All of that aside, the campaign sold the movie pretty accurately. There are big chunks of what passes for the story that are missing from the marketing, but it never reaches the point of actually inaccurately selling the movie. It promises 100 minutes of Wahlberg and Ferrell going off against each other in exceedingly outrageous ways and that’s pretty much what it delivers. But audiences should know that aside from one or two laughs, there’s not much here that’s funny or engaging, something that should be laid at the feet of the lackluster performances, a lazy script and flavorless directing that offers nothing in the way of rhythm or style.

There were stories a few months ago that director Quentin Tarantino was going to make his next movie about Charles Manson. That still might happen.

“Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men,” often held up as premiere examples of the Peak TV era, are about awful male characters who act in selfish, hurtful and sometimes criminal ways to achieve ends that aren’t even that noble.

Even 2015’s Steve Jobs presented the otherwise inspirational tech leader as a borderline repulsive personality that alienated many of the people in his personal and professional lives.

In the few weeks remaining in 2017 there are plenty of movies telling stories of awful men coming out. Father Figures seems to be premised on two large adult sons slut-shaming their mother when she reveals she doesn’t know who their actual father was. All The Money In The World is about a billionaire who won’t lift a finger to help his family. The Greatest Showman is the latest “eccentric creative who disrupts his whole family but whose wife still supports him” story. Phantom Thread, for all its artistic pedigree, seems to be about an emotionally abusive fashion designer.

There are brighter spots, of course. Female characters are taking charge of their own destiny in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The Barden Bellas of Pitch Perfect 3 may be struggling but they still are paving their own way. And Molly’s Game will tell the true story of someone vilified at least in part because she was a successful woman.

mollysgame pic2

You’d think that after the success, both critical and financial, of 2016’s Hidden Figures that we would have heard of more projects showing us the the real life stories of inspirational women. There’s an Ada Lovelace project that was announced late last year but doesn’t seem to have moved forward since. In the last couple weeks everyone has been celebrating Hedy Lamarr, known not just for her sultry on-screen presence but her role in developing the concepts that now lie behind wireless communications, but her story has yet to make it the big screen.

“Supergirl” has been a hit on the small screen and Wonder Woman was the most Tweeted film of 2017, not to mention the film that helped push Warner Bros. over $5 billion in box-office revenue. So where’s my Jean Grey standalone film? Why is a Batgirl feature so far in the future while Aquaman of Thrones is imminent? How about Power Girl, a character who’s not only a superhero but also a genius inventor and business owner?

Why, at a time in society where Harvey Weinstein and others have fallen from power because of their history of sexual assault and where we’re finally realizing people like Bryan Singer only continue to have careers because of white male privilege, are we not hearing about seismic shifts in entertainment to put more women first, both in front of and behind the camera?

supergirl

I’ve spent over 40 years watching movies and TV shows about “quirky” male characters, both real and fictitious, who are actually terrible. Sometimes those stories seek to explain away their actions or behaviors, justifying the crime spree or the extreme anti-social behavior on display. We’re asked to admire the woman who stands by him through all the troubles or the one he finds who understands him in a way the wife/girlfriend in the first reel never did and feel good that hey, he finally found love.

Right now I want more Wonder Woman. I want more stories of the women who changed the damn world on their own while they were under-appreciated by the men who never gave them a chance in the traditional structures of power, the ones that stood strong no matter how many times the world told them to sit down. I want stories of women of color who have done all that and more.

I’ll admit my own role in furthering the very trends and stereotypes I’m now railing against. I’ve held up movies about outlaws and sociopaths as being “important” and sometimes they are. It’s hard to argue that The Godfather isn’t one of the finest films ever made, but you can also be aware that a movie about a woman who took control of the family business by killing rivals, ordering a hit on her own sibling and shutting out her spouse and children would be accompanied by plenty of gender-based derogatory epithets.

Likewise, I’m not perfect in my attention of monetary support of stories by non-white male filmmakers of non-white male subjects. I haven’t seen Hidden Figures or Mudbound yet. But I need to and want to.

I hope Hollywood very soon begins looking sideways at that script sitting on the desk about the man that did a mildly-interesting thing while cheating on his wife and abandoning his kids to pursue his dream. We’ve seen it. It’s not that interesting anymore. And it’s certainly not where we are culturally right now. There are better, more original stories to tell that don’t come with the squishy ethics and morals. Most involve women. Let’s see them.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

i tonya posterIt’s worth noting that when news broke of skater Tonya Harding having had rival skater Nancy Kerrigan attacked after a practice in 1994, America was two years into the nascent reality television phenomenon. It’s by no means a recent development, but the audience was primed for stories of real life drama involving villains we could root against, sweethearts to root for and sympathize with and so on. Coverage of the story extended well beyond the world of sports and became a reality narrative the whole country followed for a while.

Now that story is coming to the big screen over 20 years later in I, Tonya. Margot Robbie stars as Harding in a story that follows her from her earliest days in the world of competitive figure skating, a career that’s driven by her hard-nosed mother (Allison Janney). Sebastian Stan plays Jeff Gillooly, Harding’s ex-husband and co-conspirator, the one who actually makes overtures to shady types who might be able to elongate Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver) from the equation.

The Posters

The first and only poster features Robbie as Harding standing against the cinderblock wall common to arenas as she holds her skates in her hands and sports a defiant scowl. It certainly seems familiar, largely because those of us who lived through these events will kinda sorta recognize the outfit she’s sporting. And it definitely conveys to the audience that we’re not getting a sugar-coated version of events but one that comes loaded with plenty of attitude

The Trailers

A short teaser trailer sets up Tonya as embracing the role of someone willing to be the bad guy as we see a few shots from the movie, including her skating, Harding being clubbed and more. There’s not much there, it’s just a taste to get something out there and get people talking.

The first full trailer is kind of insane. We see Tonya’s story, including how she was pushed by her mother to succeed in every way, mostly through criticisms and violence. All that made her defiant and tough and unwilling to play by the nice rules that are in place. We see her husband begin looking into having someone take out the competition and keep working, all while dealing with the emotional fallout of being raised like she was.

It’s coarse and vulgar and funny and yeah, it looks pretty darn entertaining. Robbie completely owns the role and Janney looks fantastic as the caustic mother who prods her daughter in the only way she knows how. There are a couple moments that seem to indicate the movie breaks the fourth wall regularly, offering commentary on what’s happening and the reality of the situation, pointing out moments of artistic license being taken. That only makes it look more insane.

Online and Social

The main page of the official website opens with full-screen video pulled from the trailer with the title and a “Get Tickets” prompt at the bottom of the page. That tickets call-to-action is also the first element in the menu at the top of the page.

After that is the “Trailer” section, which has both the teaser and the full trailer, the latter in both red-band and all-ages versions. The “Synopsis” after that offers both a story overview and the cast and crew list. There are several stills in the “Gallery.” Other than the “Share” buttons to post the site to social media the last section is the “Press Kit” that offers a PDF to download where you can get all sorts of relevant information.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

If there’s been a ton of advertising for the movie I haven’t seen it. Nothing has been found in terms of TV spots and I haven’t seen any online or social media paid promotion.

Media and Publicity

The movie had its big coming out at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it was pretty well received. A big feature interview with Robbie appeared around that time where she talked about the technical and physical challenges in making the movie and admitted she didn’t realize this wasn’t a fictional story until they were filming. NEON quickly picked up distribution rights after that Toronto screening and it was later scheduled as one of the closing night features at AFI Fest. Robbie continued talking about the research she did into the woman she’s playing.

i tonya harding headlines

Robbie did a few press interviews in the last couple weeks but most of the coverage wound up revolving around questions about her future as Harley Quinn in various DC Cinematic Universe films. Either that or the stories focused on her fashion and glamour, not really talking about the movie itself. Just look at the headlines to the right, a screenshot pulled from Google News.

She also showed up on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” just last night, interviewed by guest host Chris Pratt.

Overall

I think my favorite part of this campaign is that there’s no attempt to make a feel-good Lifetime story out of it. There’s attitude and swagger to spare throughout the marketing, which matches the public persona many of us associate with the real-life Harding. It’s clear the filmmakers aren’t glossing over anything. While they may present a slightly more relatable picture of Harding than was evident 20+ years ago, she’s still not a warm, fuzzy personality. And Robbie sells all that with conviction, a testament to her acting chops.

The marketing probably won’t make that much of a dent in audience desire to see the film, though. This is very much the kind of film that will skate under most people’s radar until it’s available on Amazon Prime or Netflix in eight months, at which point they’ll kind of remember seeing a trailer for it and decide it’s worth checking out. That’s not the fault of the campaign itself, which sizzles and pops and makes a strong impression, just the reality of the current theatrical marketplace.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

While promoting I, Tonya, star Margot Robbie has also hinted at there being a lot of Harley Quinn stories in our cinematic future. Specifically, she said there’s a separate movie she’s developing that would be in addition to 1) the Suicide Squad sequel, 2) the “Gotham City Sirens” movie that would presumably also feature Poison Ivy and other female characters and 3) a Harley/Joker movie that would reteam her with Squad costar Jared Leto.

Nerdist News responded with a headline many were probably thinking: Do we need four Harley Quinn movies? That sentiment has been echoed elsewhere and I find the thinking curious.

First, we’re never asked similar questions when there are plans for male-starring franchises. Or if that question is asked, it’s usually discarded pretty quickly because whatever hesitation there might be gives way easily to fan-driven anticipation. Yeah, we were all wondering what Warner Bros. could possibly be thinking with its announcement of five Fantastic Beasts films, and Universal’s Dark Universe plans were met with more than a few “skeptical eyeball emoji” reactions. But then there were more substantive discussions about them. Let’s just be careful we’re not applying a sexist double-standard here.

Second, that kind of skepticism shows a lack of understanding of how popular this character is.

I don’t think I’m betraying any trade secrets when I say that in my time working with DC Entertainment on its social media marketing program I got a first-hand look at the wild and passionate fandom that exists around Harley Quinn. In my first experience at San Diego Comic-Con, I was taken aback by just how popular the character was with fans. With a few exceptions, she was one of the most common cosplay subjects I encountered.

What struck me was that no two Harleys were alike. There were a few cosplayers that took “traditional” approaches to their outfits, modeling the look seen in “Batman: The Animated Series” or in her 2011 Suicide Squad incarnation or something otherwise rooted in an existing design. But the vast majority, it seemed to me, were making Harley their own. There were steampunk, biker, Victorian and countless other variations on the theme that had never been seen anywhere before. She was being used, it seemed, as a blank slate for women to use to express themselves in some way while also attaching themselves to the core tenets and characteristics of what made Harley, Harley.

 

harley quinn sdcc
Taken at SDCC 2015

 

As I became more familiar with the fandom and the business I learned there was tremendous demand for Harley merchandise. That’s evident in how DC has published more books starring her in the last four or five years as well as increasing the number of collectibles and consumer products for her, as well as her presence in more of the animated features released by Warner Home Video.

That experience leads me to believe there’s an audience out there for as much Harley Quinn material as can be produced. There are caveats to that, though, that need to be taken into account.

The Right Harley

Yes, there are a lot of fans. But as I said, there’s a drive among fans to make Harley their own. Amanda Conner’s book from a few years ago did a great job of presenting a Harley that was instantly recognizable and popular because if combined elements of many of the character’s incarnations. Activating the demand that’s out there will depend largely on how well different sections of the audience feel that the Harley on screen is the “true” Harley, or the one they identify most with.

Truly Solo

So much of Harley’s character is defined by her relationship to others, particularly Joker. One of the great parts of Conner’s book is that it featured her truly on her own (or at least with her own new set of supporting characters). Most of the teamups in that book were with other female characters, especially Poison Ivy. There was even a spinoff book called Harley Quinn & Power Girl that was almost too much fun to be legal. And some of the weaker issues of that series were where Joker was shoehorned in. While the Harley/Joker movie seems to make sense on paper, it could undermine much of what has proven to work so well in the comics in recent years.

Don’t Overdo It…But Overdo It

When I watched Suicide Squad I kept waiting for Harley to really show up. Again, the character’s dependency in that movie on Joker for motivation and actions kept her from really cutting loose. The whole point of Harley is that she’s a wild card, never doing what’s expected because she’s 100% insane. My hope is that in future films she’s allowed to cut loose and really be herself, without the connections to Joker that come with more than a few icky overtones of violence against women being somehow “entertainment.”

Do we *need* four Harley Quinn movies? No. Do we *need* three more Spider-Man movies? No. Do we *need* four more Fantastic Beasts movies? No. We don’t need any of this. But if we’re going to get them, my hope is that the character can stand on her own two feet and be the empowering agent of chaos unbeholden to any man that her most successful incarnations show her to be.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Justice League

Warner Bros. worked with GIF platform Tenor (a Giphy competitor) on a sponsored Justice League GIF keyboard app takeover, offering exclusive GIFs from the film. That effort was promoted with a social media campaign as well.

justice league poster 31That Superman’s part in the story was now public knowledge also meant the release of a new poster and banner that included him in the team lineup. These used the same artwork as was previously released, just with Superman now filling in a conspicuous gap.

Slightly spoilerish, but here’s a list of scenes from the trailers that didn’t make it into the finished film. Also kind of tipping the hat is a picture shared by Joe Manganiello of him in full Deathstroke gear.

Cavill was finally allowed to speak for himself and talk about Superman’s role in the story, including how the character changed due to the events of Batman v Superman.

justice league gilette twitter adGillette continues to run social media ads for its movie-branded products, with a link to purchase those items at Walmart.

More details on the IMAX virtual reality experience that was offered in select cities here.

Much like Suicide Squad last year, reports are starting to emerge that studio micromanaging heavily influenced the final structure and tone of the film, something that’s been much-discussed by fanboys who believe there’s some magical, unadulterated “Snyder Cut” of the movie sitting in an archive somewhere.

The Florida Project

Another profile of director Sean Baker that presents him as a Hollywood outsider who’s eager to maintain that status and keep making his indie features.

Coco

Insights from writer/director Lee Unkrich and others here on how he and the rest of the Pixar team worked hard to make sure the movie was respectful of the culture being portrayed as possible. The same topic is covered here as well.

Actress Natalia Cordova-Buckley shared her thoughts on voicing the late real life artist Frida Kahlo and the experiences that led her to embrace such a challenge.

Lady Bird

Writer/director Greta Gerwig has continued making media appearances like this one to talk about the film and the satisfaction she felt by finally directing.

Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Director Dan Gilroy and star Denzel Washington talked here about how the former wrote the part specifically for the latter and how Washington boarded the project, helping to shape the character as filming went on.

Novitiate

Another interview here with writer/director Maggie Betts on the inspiration for the story and how she tackled such sensitive material.

Beauty and the Beast

The movie is returning to theaters in what appears to be not only an attempt to reach holiday audiences but also remind awards season voters of the costume design and more.

Call Me By Your Name

Buzzfeed posted a hit-piece on star Armie Hammer, pegging him as an entitled white guy who gets multiple shots at stardom because of his position while others are quickly discarded after multiple misfires. Hammer reacted to the piece in what is a pretty appropriate manner.

Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

Director Martin McDonagh spoke here about how he found star Francis McDormand and worked with her to get the story’s tone right.

A new short TV spot hits some of the same beats as were seen in the main campaign but with the addition of plenty of positive critics quotes.

There have also been some new character posters released that show the three leads surrounded by positive quotes praising the movie.

Blade Runner 2049

Director Denis Villeneuve offers some time-enhanced thoughts on making the movie and developing the characters in this interview.

Beach Rats

Director Eliza Hittman talks about the view of masculinity and other topics taken in the film here.

The Disaster Artist

A couple new TV spots have been released by A24, one that shows the enthusiasm of Wiseau in making the movie and one that shows he refuses to accept the negativity of others.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.