robin hood poster 12A few initial thoughts about Robin Hood, coming to theaters this week:

  • This movie looks like another “let’s turn a classic literary character into a super hero” adaptation like Sherlock Holmes and King Arthur, but more like the latter, unfortunately
  • There’s nothing here that looks like it deviates from the standard Robin Hood story, about a returning Crusader (Taron Egerton) who’s upset that his home has turned into a den of corruption at the hands of the Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn) and so gets training on vigilantism from an ally (Jamie Foxx).
  • The story about a social justice warrior engaging in criminal but morally righteous behavior to redistribute wealth to the disadvantaged is 100% going to be received poorly by the MAGA crowd and the “Fox & Friends” hosts who love them
  • If there isn’t a Bryan Adams song over the end credits, what are we even doing here?

With that being said, let’s dive into the campaign.

The Posters

Two character posters – one featuring Robin and the other Little John – were released at the same time as the first teaser trailer. A more general poster came out as well showing Robin standing in the middle-distance in a forest made up not of trees but of arrows shot into the ground. It’s not bad and certainly works to set the tone and visual feel of the film. Another shows a collection of arrows arranged in an “R” symbol that looks like what’s sported by the Batman sidekick known as Robin, not one that’s associated with the social justice warrior or Nottingham.

A whole batch of character posters introduced us to the main players in the story, putting their headshots in front of an arrangement of arrows and other ornate decorations.

A couple theatrical posters featured the whole cast. While each has them in different opinions, they both seem like variations on the kind of generic action-oriented super hero movie one-sheets we’ve seen over the last several years, with the hero looking stoically at the camera while supporting characters stand or run around in the background.

The Trailers

If the first trailer is any indication, this is another in a long line of recent movies that seek to turn the characters of classic literature into super heroes. The basic outlines of the Robin Hood mythos are there, including his desire to exact justice upon a corrupt ruler and redistribute wealth to the common folk, all with the aid of Little John and with the suspicious eye of Marion on him. But it’s all dressed up by incredible, superhuman capabilities, technically-advanced arrows and all that. There’s humor and romance amidst all the action as well, but no really coherent story is being sold here.

Honestly, this looks like a promo sizzle reel for “Arrow” season two. You can’t convince me it’s not, especially with the repeated usage of “The Hood” to refer to the vigilante.

The second trailer is a little better, but only a little. We see more of Little John training Robin to use the bow and arrow as a tool for stealing from the rich in order to give to the poor, as well as the Sheriff’s frustration at having his power questioned by some vandal. But between the slick jacket the Sheriff is wearing, the modern attitudes sported by all the characters and the Occupy Wall Street bandanas worn by Will Scarlett and the other members of Robin’s gang, this still looks like it could be set in the not-too-distant future, not the far-off past.

The whole “rob from the rich, give to the poor” angle is hit a bit harder in the third trailer, which positions Robin as a social justice vigilante who sets out to steal from the sheriff’s treasury and thereby remove his base of power.

Online and Social

A variation on the key art greets visitors to the movie’s official website. When you open up the menu in the upper left the first section there is the “Synopsis” and you can navigate through the other sections by clicking the arrow at the bottom of the page. It’s a nice touch from a user experience perspective.

The movie also became the latest to get a “VR Experience” with a game that puts players in Robin’s shoes to shoot arrows and exact justice. The game was created by Qualcomm for the Oculus Go and Samsung Gear VR platforms.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A series of TV spots started hitting in late October, with different commercials covering different aspects of the story, from the plan Robin and John hatch to the justice they try to achieve with their actions.

Online ads used the key art while sponsored social media posts used the trailers and other video assets.

Two promotional partners were listed on the official website: Qualcomm, which created the VR game mentioned above, and Laser Quest, which offered a sweepstakes awarding a hometown screening for winners.

Media and Publicity

Comments on the movie from Egerton, Mendelsohn and others accompanied a first look photo that kicked off the publicity and marketing of the movie. Things went dark for a while until it was part of Lionsgate’s pitch to industry and press at CinemaCon, with footage being shown to prove the movie was actually happening.

While the movie didn’t have a huge promotional presence at San Diego Comic-Con, it did run a contest awarding prizes if you unlocked the secret phrase and told it to staffers at a location outside the convention center.

A behind the scenes “sizzle” featurette had the cast and crew talking about the story, how different this version is from what you’ve seen before and how big the action is.

How Little John begins training Robin was the subject of the first clip released in mid-October. Another showed how the Sheriff “redirects” funds from the church.

Egerton and Foxx showed up together on “The Tonight Show,” part of the studios’ strategy to sell this as a buddy movie in addition to everything else. Foxx later appeared on his own as well while Egerton sat on “Kimmel”s” couch.

Another interview with Egerton had him talking about the character’s unlikely status as action hero and more.

Overall

This looks ridiculous, the latest ham-handed attempt by a studio to use well-known cultural icons and characters to ram a franchise down the throats of the audience whether they want it or not. That’s seen in every part of the marketing but especially in the generic, bland and badly-designed posters whose characters could easily be swapped out and replaced with those from any other movie.

Considering projections have the movie opening with an anemic $14-17 million, it doesn’t seem the campaign is doing much of anything.

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