Six years after “Breaking Bad” ended its critically-acclaimed run on FX, creator Vince Gilligan and star Aaron Paul are back to continue the story.
Paul returns as Jesse Pinkman, former associate of meth kingpin Walter White, in this week’s Netflix original feature El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie. The story picks up immediately following the events of the show’s finale, with Jesse on the run from law enforcement as well as other criminals.
That Netflix is the venue for releasing the movie makes loads of sense. Stories about how the streaming service helped boost the show’s ratings, particularly in the later years as more seasons became available online, were commonplace. So it’s a natural fit for the continuation of a story many people watched on that platform, though it will air on the show’s native FX in a few weeks.
The movie has been rumored to be in the works since about five minutes after the show ended. To celebrate the arrival of such a, Netflix’s campaign has made sure to let audiences know what to expect while offering almost nothing in terms of story details.
The first poster (by marketing agency The Refinery), sets a suitably vague tone for the campaign, showing the movie’s title treatment at the bottom while at the top a long car speeds along, kicking dust up in its wake. There’s no explanatory text, just a bright visual to hook audiences.
There’s little additional detail on the second poster, but this time Pinkman’s face is the primary visual element. That photo is partially obscured by what seem to be racing stripes. It’s another stark image designed to capture the interest of anyone who sees it while being careful not to spoil any plot points beyond Jesse being back.
The release of the first teaser (8.8 million views on YouTube) in August served as an announcement of the movie’s official title as well as it’s release date. It’s not clear if what’s shown is from the movie itself as it’s simply Skinny Pete in an interrogation room refusing to answer questions about where Jesse is or what he’s involved in.
The official trailer (14.7 million views on YouTube), released in late September, focuses on how Jesse is on the run following the events depicted in the show. He’s looking for help from Skinny Pete and obviously struggling with the pressure he’s under and the consequences of his actions. There’s not much dialogue except at the very end, but the trailer definitely conveys the dark tone of the film.
Online and Social
Surprisingly, Netflix gave the movie an official website, primarily to support the limited theatrical run it’s getting. The site isn’t fully stocked by any means, but it’s got the basic information available, including ticket sales links.
Advertising and Publicity
The announcement the movie was happening came out of relatively nowhere in mid-February 2018, with the news that the main cast was returning in some manner as well as that it would premiere on Netflix. That’s notable since the show itself gained a lot more attention when it came to that service than the more niche audience it had on FX.
Footage from throughout the show was used in a promotional video released by Netflix in September that featured “Enchanted” by Chloe X Halle.
Netflix announced in mid-September the movie would receive a limited theatrical release the same day it was available for streaming.
The second trailer was teased in a paid commercial run by Netflix during the Emmys broadcast in September. That teaser shows Jesse panicking in his car as he listens to radio reports of the shooting that closed out the series.
A commercial released in late September shows someone watching news reports of Jesse fleeing from police, with someone answering a call that seems to be coming from the fugitive.
Media and Press
A feature interview with Paul and Gilligan had both of them talking about returning to a defining project, the challenges they faced in doing so and how they managed to keep production largely secret right up to the point a release date was announced and the marketing began.
Another interview with Gilligan allowed him to talk about the process of revisiting the characters and how the movie wouldn’t likely hold any appeal to anyone not already well-versed in the show.
Paul was the subject of a feature profile that had him talking about his career as a whole as well as what it was like to return to what’s likely his most famous character.
“We just want to whet people’s appetites” seems to be the guiding principle of the campaign. Netflix knows how to put together trailers for bigger movies that show plenty of details about the movies being sold, so the decision to pull back here and present almost no dialogue in the footage and not have the talent talk almost at all about the story can’t help but appear to be deliberate.
The company is hoping there’s still enough interest in the Badiverse (I just came up with that) to justify producing an original movie that continues where the series left off. Given that “Better Call Saul” has kept things alive, that’s not an unreasonable assumption. It’s also likely Netflix is using metrics that aren’t released to the public as part of its decision making process, responding affirmatively when Gilligan and Paul came calling with their pitch.