Rowan Atkinson has created a number of memorable characters over his career. One of them returns to theaters in Johnny English Returns. English is a British spy who continually succeeds in spite of his own ineptitude, always managing to save the day even if he’s done so accidentally.
This time around he’s been out of the service for several years but is called back into action when the identities of other agents are outed by hackers. He then must find the mastermind behind the attack and recover the list before it’s too late. But the world has changed significantly since the last time he set out to serve Queen and country and he’s more over his head than ever before.
The first poster labels English as “A deadly tool,” which is some quality copywriting there, Karen. Atkinson’s pose is suitably ridiculous without being overly so, just him in what looks like an uncomfortable squat with a confused look on his face and a gun pointed straight ahead.
English strikes a dapper, very Bond-like pose on the second poster, gun in hand and confidant look on his face. Copy in the corner conveys that English has been chosen because this is a situation “When only the best will do.” but you have to squint to see the fine print caveat to that, which reads “…and no one else is available.”
Another just has him looking carefully around the corner, gun in hand and ready for action.
The best part about how the trailer opens is that it, like so many recent dark action dramas, uses a slowed-down version of an originally upbeat pop tune to set a tone that’s emphasized by scenes of empty streets and screaming chaos. That comes to an end when we see English is teaching manners to school children. He’s being called back into action because there are no other options available to British Intelligence and it’s not long before we see he’s as clumsy and clueless as always. As always, English is befuddled by technology and more dangerous to himself and his allies than he is the bad guys.
It’s great to see Atkinson back in action. There’s a whole new generation of spy movies to lampoon and poke fun at, so here’s hoping the movie delivers on the promise laid out here. The trailer likely won’t convert a whole lot of people who aren’t already fans, but that’s alright.
A second, short trailer hits a lot of those same – or very similar – comedic beats as we continue to see how incompetent and dangerous English is to himself and others.
Online and Social
Bios of the cast, photos and the trailers are all found on the movie’s official website but, aside from links to the social profiles for the film, that’s about it.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Some online and social advertising was done but I haven’t seen any domestic TV spots that were released.
Media and Publicity
The movie was also part of the later CineEurope presentation from the studio.
The first clip, released in late August, shows English being slightly perplexed by being issued a smartphone before being sent into the field when he was expecting something a bit more…old school. Another shows the awkward time he has when trying to charm a potential adversary.
Atkinson engaged in a few interviews on TV and in print, all talking about why he thought this was a good time to bring the character out of retirement.
There isn’t a whole lot of word of mouth that’s behind the movie, so it’s likely going to fly under most people’s radar, especially as other bigger movies continue to dominate the conversation and other media attention.
It’s also not a campaign that’s going to bring in many new fans. If someone isn’t already a fan of the character. Some familiarity seems to be required to understand what’s happening and the marketing is pretty inaccessible without the knowledge. There’s some good stuff here, but only if you’re already prone to see the movie.