Captive State – Marketing Recap

captive state poster2(Note: Once again my calendars lied to me as I thought this was scheduled for later this month.)

An alien invasion forms the crux of the story in the new movie Captive State. It’s not an invasion that’s happening now, though, but one that was successful a decade in the past. The presence of those aliens is welcome by some but resisted by others.

In the latter category is Gabriel Drummond (Ashton Sanders), a young man living in Chicago who joins the secretive resistance movement. Aiding him is police officer William Mulligan (John Goodman), the partner of Drummond’s late father. Mulligan must walk the fine line of aiding his fellow humans, including Drummond, and continuing to appear to be an aid to the conquering species.

The Posters

captive state posterA lone figure stands in the middle of the poster, red smoke rising all around him from a flare or beacon he’s holding. Copy at the top explains that “Ten years ago, they took our planet.” That’s continued at the bottom, which explains “Today, we take it back.”

The second poster shows the view outside a car window, a dashboard hula dancer in the foreground. The image is strangely pixelated, though, as if the window is a screen that’s glitching. Visible in the sky, though, is one of the mysterious ships.

The Trailers

Things start off relatively alright in the first trailer, as a voice tells us the state of the union is strong, with low employment and other benefits to the general populace. But a few scenes show us those blessings come because of a police state that’s been invoked, with the population surveilled and detained at the whims of a power that may be alien in nature. That latter point is emphasized when, at the end, a floating ship is introduced to a football stadium filled with people as “the legislature.

The threat is a little less vague – something alien is hovering over cities – in the second trailer, but the focus here is on presenting all those claims of low unemployment and so on as false information, lies spread by those who want to keep the populace in place. Instead, it’s shown there’s a resistance that’s forming and just waiting for the signal to rise up.

In mid-December the “official” trailer was released showing more clearly what has happened. The arrival of the alien “legislators” has brought about an era of peace and harmony, but at the cost of individual freedom. Some are happy to go along with that while others form an underground resistance. This one gives us a good look at those aliens and just how swift their reaction to any infraction is and the state of fear that has most people living in.

Online and Social

Focus Features offers the usual content mix on the official website, but in addition to that there’s a site for The Legislature, the governing body of aliens and collaborators. That site has news stories about the world of the movie that have been hacked by the resistance, so you see words crossed out, with euphemisms replaced by more realistic descriptions of what has happened and what is going on.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The first trailer was used as a Promoted Tweet in mid-September. Further paid social posts used cut down versions of the trailer that were similar to TV commercials.

A TV spot took the tone of recruiting members for the resistance while also encouraging the audience to Tweet about the movie and enter a sweepstakes at the same time.

Media and Publicity

This movie was one of quite a few featuring Sanders that’s come out in the last several months.

A Fandango-exclusive clip hit just a week or so out from release showing a tense standoff from the story. Tracks from the soundtrack were also shared.

The studio tried to get some buzz going by hosting, with Nerdist, a movie-themed party at the recent SXSW film festival.

Writer/director Rupert Wyatt was interviewed about his goals for the story and more as well as what inspired him to make the movie.


As is the case with many films like this, what is really needed is more world-building. The website for The Legislature goes in this direction but the trailers could have done more to set up the situations of the story so audiences would better know what to expect.

Despite that there’s still some good stuff here. Even without a single clear brand identity in the campaign it still offers a decent picture of what the story will be, or at least what the tone of that story will be. Certainly a message of political resistance against a totalitarian government is going to hit some nerves in this day and age.


Author: Chris Thilk

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist with over 15 years of experience in online strategy and content marketing. He lives in the Chicago suburbs.

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