Steve Carell stars in this week’s Welcome to Marwen, the new movie from director Robert Zemeckis. Based on a true story, Carell plays Mark Hogancamp, an artist who one day experiences a violent attack by a bunch of ignorant rednecks in a bar and suffers injuries requiring surgery and later physical therapy.
The attack also leaves Mark with few memories of his pre-attack life. To try and regain those memories Mark channels his artistic tendencies into creating a miniature town named Marwen. Populating the town are figures representing himself as well as the various women in his life, including his new neighbor Nicol (Leslie Mann). The fantastic stories he concocts for these characters channel his feelings, which come to a climax when he’s asked to testify against those who beat him.
Hoagie, Mark’s figurine alter-ego, is shown on the first poster but nothing else about the story is shared. Instead the main value proposition offered here is that the movie comes from the director of Forrest Gump and that he’s inviting you “to a most unexpected place.”
A series of posters uses the action figure incarnations of each character to introduce them to the audience, offering their name and their status in the story as as “The new recruit,” The leader” and so on.
The final theatrical poster puts Mark and Hoagie next to each other on adjoining seats, the audience being told that “You can’t put this hero in a box.”
The trailer gives us a good look at the fantastical world created by Mark. It follows him as we hear about who he is – a well-respected artist – and see him meet the lovely new neighbor from across the street. When he’s jumped by a gang of Nazis, his injuries limit how much he can do so he finds inspiration to go on from the characters in the art he makes, including the determination to testify against his attackers.
It shows a movie where reality and fantasy are going to bleed into one another but features what looks to be a strong performance from Carell and yet another tragic underuse of Mann.
The second trailer focuses more firmly on how Mark was attacked and how his injuries left him with no memories of his life before, meaning he lives out the stories in his head through the figures he’s created. He explains how every one of them represents someone from his life and are part of his healing process.
It’s a much stronger trailer because it’s more clearly about the story of Mark dealing with the repercussions of what’s happened to him, without getting too bogged down in the relationship with Nicol.
After introducing us to the main characters that live in Mark’s stories, the third and final trailer offers the same explanation of the story we’ve seen before, but with a slightly stronger emphasis on how he’s created this fantasy world to deal with being the victim of a hate crime.
Online and Social
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Short videos like this were used as Promoted Posts on Twitter starting in mid-November.
An augmented reality experience was promoted, offering users the chance to not only view 360-degree versions of a scene from the movie but put themselves in that scene and share pictures elsewhere online.
Media and Publicity
The movie was part of the CineEurope presentation from the studio. Carell was named as a host for a mid-November episode of “Saturday Night Live” to help promote the movie closer to release.
Things were pretty dark on the promotional front until the movie’s red carpet premiere a couple weeks prior to release, where the cast and crew talked about the true story and the process of creating the world of the film.
Mann stopped by “The Late Show” to talk about the movie and everything else, with Kruger appearing there a couple days later. Other members of the cast, including Janelle Monae, did their own media rounds, as did Zemeckis himself. Carell also did “The Late Show” to chat with his old buddy Colbert.
A short featurette released just before the movie came out included Zemeckis talking about the inspiring true story and more. A bunch of clips offered expanded looks at scenes glimpsed in the trailers.
The release of the movie also brought new attention to the documentary that tells Hogancamp’s story and which is available to stream or download on a few platforms.
For a movie that seems to be so focused on emotions there’s an odd coldness to the campaign. It’s so concerned with the idea of watching Mark’s figures act out his stories that it doesn’t offer audiences much in the way of empathy toward what he as a person is actually going through.
It makes sense as those sequences are interesting and, most importantly, part of Zemeckis’ brand that’s focused on innovative visual effects. But the campaign fails to connect those visuals to anything meaningful no matter how many times we see Carell struggling.