Wrath of Man – Marketing Recap

How MGM has sold the latest from director Guy Ritchie.

Jason Statham reteams with director Guy Ritchie for this week’s new release Wrath of Man. In the movie Statham plays the mysteriously-named H, who as the story begins gets a new job at an armored truck security firm. When his truck is targeted by would-be thieves H out of nowhere displays highly-specialized skills to neutralize the attackers, much to the surprise of his coworkers. It turns out H has an agenda all his own as he seeks revenge for a personal tragedy.

Like many of Ritchie’s movies (not counting his…umm…side quest directing Aladdin), this one comes preceded by a marketing push that’s been slick and violent, both hallmarks of his work for decades now. Mostly positive reviews have earned the movie a solid 75% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, so let’s take a look at how it’s been sold.

The Posters

On what seems to be the movie’s only poster (by marketing agency AV Print), released in late March, H is seen looking dapper but serious, his finely-tailored suit contrasting with the bloody, bruised knuckles of his hands and the wounds on his face. There’s no copy, but that visual does a decent job of communicating the basic ideas of the movie to the audience. Helping that is how Ritchie’s name is the same size as Statham’s, showing just how much of a brand the director is himself and how important a role that name recognition plays in capturing an audience.

The Trailers

The first trailer (18.5 million views on YouTube) came out in late March, opening with H being introduced as the newest member of the team and being instructed on how dangerous the job of guarding cash trucks is. A hold-up shows the rest of the team how precise and deadly H really is, and it turns out he has a personal grudge he brings to the job. But which side of the law he’s working on is up in the air, as he seems to be using everyone to exact his long-festering revenge.

Online and Social

It’s not a bad website MGM/United Artists Releasing put up for the movie. There you’ll find a pretty good synopsis as well as a photo gallery and some of the videos, including the trailer, along with information on where you can buy tickets for theatrical showings where they’re available.

There were also social profiles on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram that have helped promote the movie online. Short clips shared on social channels offered additional looks at the movie, many of which featured footage not previously seen in the trailers or presenting expanded looks at some of those scenes.

Advertising, Press and Promotions

News and rumors about the film began circulating in 2019, noting that this would reteam Ritchie and Statham for the first time in about 20 years.

We get a little bit more of H’s backstory and motivations in a TV spot released a little after the first trailer came out in March.

A featurette released in April has Ritchie and others talking about the story, including how it might be more violent and bloody and any of the director’s previous films.

Two clips from later in April show H enjoying a night out with the rest of his new team, who are perplexed by his standoffish solitude and talking amongst themselves about their concerns over H’s behavior during the first confrontation with the thieves.

Both AMC and IMAX shared short featurettes that included the cast and crew discussing the story and making the case for seeing the movie on the big screen where they could.

Last week the movie was promoted to gamers when MGM sponsored the Twitch stream of a Call of Duty: Warzone tournament, with actual athletes representing the movie’s branded team.

One final clip features a cameo from musical artist Post Malone, with the footage once more taken from H’s first encounter with the thieves robbing his truck.

Overall

From the majority of the campaign it’s almost impossible to make out what the story is actually about or determine what H’s motives might be. That’s alright, though, since selling a story of any kind isn’t what the marketing is about.

Instead the goal is to position it as a violent escapist revenge fantasy from a director and star known for such things. Ritchie’s name being prominent on all the material – including the stills and other images shared on social media – indicates how much of a draw he’s perceived to be.

But other than his unique visual flair, the campaign offers no indication of whether there’s anything original in what generally seems like the 12,000th variation on Death Wish, not to mention that “deal with your feelings by grabbing a gun” seems like a message out of sync with literally everything right now.

an appreciation of the best sequences in: sneakers

My voice is my passport…

A quote attributed to filmmaker Howard Hawks contains the assertion that the secret to a good movie is that it contains “three great scenes and no bad ones.”

By that measure, 1992’s Sneakers is not just a good movie but among the greatest of all time. To prove that point, here are five of the best sequences in the film, written and directed by Phil Alden Robinson and starring Robert Redford, Mary McConnell, Sidney Portier, Ben Kingsley, David Straitharn, Dan Ackroyd and River Phoenix.

Bishop becomes an honorary blind person

The back and forth between Redford and Straitharn here is remarkable as Bishop, with Whistler’s help, realizes he remembers more details than he originally thought.

Calling Mr. Abbott

It’s the countdown as well as the visuals of the connections being made that adds substantial tension to what in other movies would be a standard scene of the good guys trying to get more information from an unseen character.

Figuring out the black box

It’s not just the giddiness of a bunch of hackers figuring out a new toy, it’s that moment where Whistler’s glasses reflect a sudden flood of data indicating they’ve finally made the right connection.

Posit / Consequence / Result / Conclusion

The reunion of Bishop and Cosmo is the midpoint highlight, the moment the first half of the story has been building toward and it doesn’t disappoint, especially not since it finally gives Redford and Kingsley an opportunity to play off each other.

Breaking into the office

Redford doesn’t get enough credit for being an incredible comedic talent, but he is, and his side of the conversation about how to defeat an electric keypad on an office door proves that definitively.

Of course this is just a partial list. The movie is filled with top-notch 2-3 minute sequences filled with humor, tension and music, the latter composed by James Horner with appearances by Branford Marsalis. It starts with the opening flashback of a young Martin and Cosmo, thankfully made before studios discovered the technology to de-age actors.

You can find the movie on most rental services as well as HBO Max and, I presume, your local library.

The Mitchells vs. the Machines – Marketing Recap

How Netflix has sold The Mitchells vs. the Machines

Produced by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the currently reigning champions of animated storytelling outside the Pixar banner, The Mitchells vs. the Machines has a great premise. In the story, Katie Mitchell (voiced by Abbi Jacobson) is an oddball teen that frequently clashes with the family she’s never quite fit in with. When she’s accepted into film school her dad Rick (Danny McBride) and mom (Maya Rudolph) insist on driving her to college. What starts out as your average awkward family road trip gets intense quickly when the family finds itself in the middle of the robot uprising, with every machine both large and small coming to life and looking to destroy humanity.

The movie, which has an impressive 97% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, is out this week on Netflix, more than a year after it was originally scheduled to be released from Sony, which sold this past January. Netflix’s marketing has played up the fun, colorful aspects of the story while also reminding people how much they liked previous Lord & Miller productions, especially Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse.

The Posters

Just one poster (by marketing agency BLT Communications), which was released at the end of March. It’s a bright and zany poster, showing the Mitchells driving through what is clearly a robot apocalypse of some kind, with lots of little machines chasing after them. Lord & Miller’s previous productions are named at the top, but it’s the little drawings that come in from the edges of the poster that really make this charming and interesting.

The Trailers

It’s telling that the opening sales pitch made in last March’s first trailer (6.8 million views on YouTube) from Sony is that the movie comes from the filmmakers behind Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, the studio obviously wanting to draft off that movie’s popularity. Once the story kicks in we see Rick is having a hard time as his daughter Katie is about to leave for college. He’s frustrated by everyone’s obsession with screens and technology, and cancels her flight to school so they can spend more time together on a road trip. Rick’s technophobia proves prescient when a new robot released to the public immediately turns evil, so it’s up to the family to stop the takeover and save the world.

A slightly different message is conveyed in the second trailer (25 million views on YouTube), released in late March after Netflix announced a new release date. After setting up the robot apocalypse setting, Katie introduces us to her family and explains they’ve never all been on the same page for one reason or another. But when the end of the world is nigh they come together in ways they haven’t before to save humanity.

Online and Social

Netflix inherited Twitter and other social profiles from Sony when it acquired the movie and has kept them going over the last few months while also giving it substantial support – which seems to have grown in proportion to the positivity of early reviews – on its brand channels.

Advertising, Press and Publicity

A video presentation involving Rianda, Lord and Miller was announced for the virtual version of the annual Annecy International Animation Festival in 2019. It was there that the filmmakers revealed some of the first details of the movie, still titled Connected at that time.

During the virtual Annecy festival, Rianda was interviewed about the making of the film and working with the Lord/Miller team. He also mentioned how the technical tools used by that pair in making Into The Spider-Verse were utilized on this film.

Stills were shared via Entertainment Weekly along with comments from director Mike Rianda in early 2020 about the origins of the story and characters.

The movie was part of the virtual Light Box Expo in September of last year. It was around that event that Sony launched a website for Pal Labs, the company that creates many of the machines that go haywire in the story. Later on there was a faux commercial for the Pal Max, one of those devices.

The movie, like many others, was moved off of the release schedule in September. Originally slated for mid-October, Sony gave it a vague “early 2021” date at that point. In January Netflix announced it had acquired the film, now renamed from Connected back to what had actually been its original name.

Rianda and Head of Story Guillermo Martinez were in attendance at New York International Children’s Film Festival in March, where they participated in a Q&A while offering a first look at footage from the movie.

A final release date was revealed toward the end of March.

Netflix promoted the BTS song that’s heard in the trailer, though it isn’t in the film itself.

Rianda and others, including co-director Jeff Rowe were interviewed about the making of the movie, the origins of the characters and more.

A handful of activity sheets were created that people could download and enjoy while anticipating the movie’s eventual release.

Rudolph appeared on “Today” to discuss her role in the movie.

In a pretty cool move, Netflix took over a Santa Monica gas station just prior to release and turned it into a PAL location with lots of movie branding and photo opportunities.

It’s also worth mentioning that internet-famous dog Doug The Pug became an integral part of the publicity campaign by virtue of his being chosen to “voice” Monchi, the Mitchells’ family dog. Doug gave the movie lots of shout outs and mentions on his social media profiles, tapping into that audience to get them excited for the film.

Overall

I think Monchi says it best.

Without Remorse – Marketing Recap

How Amazon Studios is selling Without Remorse.

Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse is a movie that was originally intended to come out about 25 years ago, shortly after the release of the book it’s based on. Like most of the first several books from the prolific Clancy, the story is rooted in the generational experiences of those who came of age in the 1960s, living through the Vietnam War, America’s Cold War with the Soviet Union and other conflicts both militaristic and political.

The original book, published in 1993, follows Navy Seal John Kelly through a series of personal vendettas in the U.S. and CIA assignments in Vietnam, ending with him assuming the moniker John Clark and becoming one of the CIA’s leading clandestine operators. It was the first time Clark had been moved into the spotlight after becoming a favorite supporting character in some of Clancy’s earlier books. Clark went on to be featured in Clancy’s Rainbow Six, which served as the foundation for the popular video game series.

On the big screen, Clark was previously played by Willem Dafoe in 1995’s Clear and Present Danger and previous attempts to adapt Without Remorse have had Keanu Reeves, Tom Hardy and others attached. But this week it’s Michael B. Jordan finally bringing the character to life once again in a modernization of the story that’s similar to what Paramount Pictures did in 2014 with Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, though this doesn’t seem to be connected to that Chris Pine-starring movie.

With a new, younger lead, the story has also been updated and largely changed. Clark here is already a CIA operative whose family is killed by Russian agents after he disrupts their mission in Syria. After recovering from his own wounds, Clark embarks on a vendetta against those who enabled the attackers with the help of his friend and colleague Lt. Commander Karen Greer (Jodie Turner-Smith).

The Posters

Released in February, the first poster (by marketing agency Concept Arts) shows Clark armed and ready for anything while in the middle of a very dangerous situation based on the amount of bullet holes in the wall he’s hiding behind. There’s no copy about the story itself here but you can tell what kind of audience Amazon is going after by the inclusion of “From the author of Rainbow Six” toward the top.

That same appeal is made on the second poster, released earlier in April. This time it’s a close-up of a very sweaty Clark that forms the primary image, the background showing the smoke from an explosion on one side and the Kremlin on the other.

The Trailers

In November of 2019, when the movie was still on Paramount’s release schedule, Skydance released a brief teaser showing flashing video of trauma and violence projected on Clark’s face, showing the kind of past he’s dealing with and problems he has to overcome

The full trailer (7.2 million views on YouTube), teased ahead of time, finally came out in March of this year. It begins with Kelly recovering from injuries sustained when a group broke into his home and killed his family and almost him. After a few shots from his past military career as well as his happy home life we see the reign of terror he goes on to avenge his family and find out who’s responsible for his loss.

The final trailer (21.6 million views on YouTube), released in early April, offers the same basic pitch, but with the additional detail that someone on the inside is working against Clark and Greer, telling the bad guys exactly where the team will be and how to stop them.

Online and Social

No website, but Amazon did create stand-alone social media profiles for the movie and provide support on its own brand channels.

Advertising, Press and Publicity

Jordan was named CinemaCon’s “Male Star of the Year” in March of last year, when the movie was still slated for later in 2020. He was also named “Sexiest Man Alive” for 2020 by People back in November.

In April 2020, Paramount moved the movie’s release back by two weeks as it shuffled much of its schedule due to the Covid-19 outbreak. A bigger shift was announced in June, as the movie was pushed all the way to February of 2021.

A few months later in July reports emerged that Paramount was in final negotiations to sell the movie to Amazon Video, one of many titles the studio was taking off its books as the pandemic dragged on.

This one seemed different, though, because it showed a studio abandoning what was intended to be a potential franchise-starter. It was unclear if future films that may have been planned were included in the deal as well. Before that deal was finalized, Paramount took the movie off its release calendar with no context given for the change. Amazon finally acquired the title in January, adding it to its “Jack Ryan” series as another Tom Clancy property it managed.

Amazon’s Super Bowl commercial in February for Alexa didn’t explicitly sell the movie as well but, between the fact that Jordan stars as the personification of Alexa and that a bus with the film’s branding appears in the background of one scene, it certainly was meant to help.

What kind of workout the star engaged in to achieve his Navy SEAL physique was covered in this interview.

Shorter cutdowns of the trailer were used as TV spots and online promos, with these videos mostly focusing on the action and big emotions of the movie.

A featurette from early April has Jordan, Smith and others talking about updating the story from the original book, honoring the characters, the legacy of the popular video game series and more.

An interview with Solima had the director talking about bringing the story into the modern period and his overall approach to telling big action stories and more. Turner-Smith was interviewed about what drew her to the role, what it was like to film such action-heavy scenes and more.

IMDb shared a short exclusive featurette on filming some of the action sequences.

Additional interviews with Jordan included him talking about his acting process and how he felt about being a black man playing a character written as white and previously played by a white actor. There were also a couple interviews with Lauren London, who plays Clark’s ill-fated wife whose death kicks the story into gear.

Promotional partners for the movie included:

  • Omaha Steaks, which offered a custom surf-and-turf package that people were encouraged to order in time to enjoy while watching the movie.
  • Scotch Porter, which offered an exclusive movie-themed bundle of grooming products.
  • 511 Tactical, which ran a sweepstakes for a collection of its pseudo-military gear.

Overall

Initial reviews of the movie have not been great, calling it a grim and depressing throwback to Cold War military politics, but that doesn’t necessarily come through in the campaign. It’s certainly presented as a standard action flick, but that is elevated by Jordan’s charm, especially in the press and promotional component of the marketing.

While I’m a sucker for anything Clancy-related, that this movie seems completely disconnected from any of the other recent character reboots – including Amazon’s “Jack Ryan” series – is somewhat disappointing. And though the story seems to discard a lot of aspects of Clancy’s original book that are now likely seen as problematic (prostitutes and other women are killed with abandon), fridging Clark’s wife to spur him to action isn’t exactly an improvement.

Still, this campaign will likely appeal to die-hard action fans and get some moderate interest from players of the “Rainbow Six” video game series and Jordan’s fanbase.

Life Lessons From: Defending Your Life

Long coma, Art. Long coma.

To refer to Defending Your Life as one of my favorite movies of all time would be an understatement. Albert Brooks’ script about a man who, after he dies in a car accident, finds himself in a bureaucratic afterlife waystation where he needs to justify his existence to determine if his spirit can “go forward” is as lean and airtight as they come. It ranks right below Much Ado About Nothing as a pure example of how dialogue and character development can move a story forward in lieu of big flashy set pieces or artificial “moments.”

The movie, much to my chagrin, turned 30 earlier this month, prompting retrospectives including this interview with Brooks on how the project developed and how a friendship with Carrie Fisher led to Meryl Streep being cast. If you haven’t seen it or just feel like it’s a good time to rewatch the film (it’s never *not* a good time, btw), it’s currently streaming on HBO Max.

In the meantime, from a script that contains more dryly funny bon mots per pound than nearly any other, here are a handful of quotes you can use in a variety of life situations and circumstances.

(Find more Life Lessons From the Movies here.)

When you use more than 5 percent of your brain, you don’t want to be on earth; believe me.

For when you need to exit a situation – party, job etc – in a hurry but want to leave everyone slightly confused until you have made a clean getaway.

It’s not a car, it’s a battering ram. This is what Patton drove.

For when you request a compact sedan from the car rental place at the airport and they give you keys to a van that could seat 15.

Don’t worry, and don’t kick yourself forever. Just take the opportunities when they come.

For when you realize the half-price Blizzard sale at Dairy Queen ended two days ago but only after you drove there already and ordered one.

Y’know if you really wanna make this place feel like Earth, you should open a few of those mini-malls.

For when you’re sitting in the backyard and really want frozen yogurt but can’t muster the energy to stand upright much less actually go anywhere.

Even though this feels like a trial, it really isn’t. It’s just a process that helps us decide, and as imperfect as it may be, we think it works quite well.

For performance reviews, relationship talks or literally any call with your parents.

Welcome to the Past Lives Pavilion.

For when you make the mistake of looking back at stuff you wrote 10 years ago.

I’m fine.

For when you are absolutely, definitively, unmistakably not fine.

Mortal Kombat – Marketing Recap

How Warner Bros. is selling Mortal Kombat.

Outworld. Earthrealm. Netherrealm. Ancient prophecies.

If any of the above ring any sort of bells for you, you’re likely part of the target audience for Mortal Kombat, this week’s adaptation of the popular arcade video game of the same name and a reboot of the film series that ran briefly in the mid-1990s.

Any distillation of the plot will only end in abject confusion and likely more than a few tears, so let me simply share the brief synopsis shared on IMDb: MMA fighter Cole Young seeks out Earth’s greatest champions in order to stand against the enemies of Outworld in a high stakes battle for the universe.

So you get the gist. What Warner Bros. is really selling in the campaign below, though, is an uber-violent fantasy story with fan-favorite characters and the promise of at least one spinal column being removed from a fighter. The lukewarm critical reception to date has earned the movie a 68% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, so let’s dive into the marketing and see what’s what.

The Posters

The first teaser image came out in December of last year, showing no characters or anything else, just the recognizable logo and the promise of a release in both theaters and on HBO Max.

Scorpio and Sub-Zero, two of the most popular characters from the games, are featured on the next poster (by marketing agency Concept Arts), released in February. Their two faces are split by a knife in an image that likely became the mobile device lock screen for a great many individuals.

A similar division is made on an IMAX poster that puts the two biggest characters as the most prominent faces on their respective teams. It’s a familiar design, used by many of the biggest recent franchises and is meant to tell audiences that no matter who their preferred fighter is, they’re featured in the film.

The Trailers

A long-running history and cover-up are hinted at in the restricted trailer (3.3 million views on YouTube), released in mid-February and teased ahead of time by a series of short character previews. We learn this because a paramilitary unit has learned of a secret organization – and their tournament – whose members have enhanced abilities and oh who cares what the actual story is. Sub-Zero, Scorpion and other popular characters are all on-screen here, and someone says “Finish him!” so it’s all good albeit very violent.

Shortly thereafter reporting came out it had become the most-viewed red-band trailer in the first 24 hours ever.

A “fan reaction” video showing people enthusiastically freaking out over the first trailer came out about a week after the trailer did.

Online and Social

The movie’s official website has the barest volume of information, with a “Synopsis” and the various trailers along with links to the official social network profiles.

A mobile site allowed people to put an AR-powered version of their favorite character’s mask on their own face.

Advertising, Press and Publicity

A first look at the movie came via EW’s 2021 Movie Preview in January, including comments from the filmmakers and cast along with a handful of photos. Just ahead of the trailer in February an advance look at Sanada as Scorpion was released, with more character photos coming out shortly after that.

Like the rest of WB’s 2021 slate, the movie was among those shifted to a hybrid theatrical/streaming (via HBO Max) release when that announcement was made in November of last year. A January promo showed off a bit of initial footage.

Artwork like this, released in March, shows more of the cast, splitting the characters into teams led by Sub-Zero and Scorpion. That and similar art was used for online ads and likely for outdoor billboards and other units as well.

JoBlo got an exclusive clip at the end of March.

The first TV spot came out about the same time, showing the military unit’s efforts to stop the conflict before it destroys the world. Additional spots hit different aspects of the story and focused on different characters, but all carried the same violent pitch to audiences.

Costar Lewis Tan, who plays Cole Young, an MMA fighter at the center of the story, was interviewed about the evolution of his career from behind-the-scenes to leading man and how he’s working to undo stereotypes of Asian-American actors. The training Tan underwent in preparation for the role was shown in a video from advocacy group GoldHouse.

In early April a “Meet the Kast” featurette was released that had the actors talking about the story, the action and living up to fan expectations with the characters. Another video focused on the combat training the cast underwent to get ready for the film.

The first clip of music from the movie showed off a new techno-remix version of the game’s theme song.

One commercial created for and by Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim programming block featured a “felt-band” trailer mixing movie footage with homemade figures of the characters inflicting one “felt-ality” after another on each other.

Warner Bros. sponsored maker YouTube channel Hacksmith Industries to create a real-life version of Scorpion’s chain attack.

Additional promos included comments from the select critics who were invited to a screening of the movie’s first 13 minutes.

There were additional interviews with costars Ludi Lin (playing Liu Kang) about his career to date and with Joe Taslim (playing Sub-Zero) about his blazingly fast fighting skills.

A premiere event with the stars in attendance was held in Sydney Australia earlier this week.

In the last few days a handful of clips, most of them showing some of the movie’s key fights or action sequences, have been released.

One more featurette from IMAX had the cast and crew sharing how excited they were to see the movie on the biggest possible screen. And Warner Bros. took one more chance to get people excited by releasing the first seven minutes of the film to show more of what people could expect.

Overall

Whatever you think about the individual elements of the campaign, we can likely agree this is the overall message Warner Bros. is sending to the audience and sufficiently summarizes the marketing efforts the studio has put forth.

Come Here Warner Bros GIF by Mortal Kombat Movie - Find & Share on GIPHY

Stowaway – Marketing Recap

How Netflix is selling a movie about a space mission gone unexpectedly wrong.

Stowaway, out this week on Netflix, tells a different type of story about a potential way a mission to Mars can go sideways quickly. Shamier Anderson plays Michael Adams, an engineer that’s part of the team preparing to launch three astronauts (played by Anna Kendrick, Daniel Dae Kim and Toni Collette) on a trip to Mars. After an accident, Adams goes missing from his crew, eventually turning up on the spacecraft after it’s already irrevocably hurtling toward its destination. That creates a major problem in that the ship is only stocked for a three-person crew, meaning they have to decide whether to adjust for the stowaway or make a dark and terrible decision to survive.

Directed by Joe Penna, who also cowrote it with Ryan Morrison, Netflix has given the movie a short campaign that emphasizes the drama of the situation the astronauts find themselves in.

The Posters

It’s important that the poster, released in March, shows Levenson (Kendrick) talking with Adams is important, in that she’s the only member of the crew who feels they shouldn’t kill their unexpected passenger in the name of saving the mission as a whole. The two are seen having a conversation in front of a window showing how far away they are from the world while the tagline explains the story, saying “Millions of miles from home, survival comes with sacrifice.”

A set of posters, each featuring one of the four main characters, came out just days before the film was released.

The Trailers

The first trailer (1.8 million views on YouTube), released toward the end of March, opens by showing how the crew of the ship initially reacts to the discovery Adams is on board and work to assess the situation. They do their best to make him part of the mission to help ease his (understandable) anxiety and fear, but an unexpected problem puts everyone in danger, leading them to take big risks just to survive.

Online and Social

Advertising and Promotions

Netflix announced it had acquired the film in early December.

An exclusive clip was shared with Yahoo showing the moment Adams’ presence on the ship is discovered.

Scott Manley, a physicist and astronomer who consulted on the film, released a video explaining the design of the ship in the movie and more.

Media and Press

A batch of stills that came with comments from most of the primary cast as well as Penna were released last month.

Kendrick and Kim were interviewed about the logistics of filming while wearing bulky spacesuits in confined quarters.

Overall

Movies that ask interesting moral questions of its characters – and by extension its audience – are inherently more interesting to me than ones that just present a dramatic story of some sort. So this campaign has my attention on that front.

But as with many recent Netflix marketing pushes, there’s just not a lot going on here. It would have been great to see another featurette or two in advance of release or more of a presence by the actors on the publicity circuit. But those are missing, so here we are.

Life Lessons From: National Lampoon’s European Vacation

We’ll be pigs!

It’s not likely many people would call National Lampoon’s European Vacation the best of the Vacation series. Despite solid directing by Amy Heckerling and an all-time great recurring cameo from Eric Idle, the movie was too high concept, trying to horn in a subplot involving international money laundering or something on the story of the Griswalds taking a family vacation around Europe.

Despite this, the movie does have some important life lessons to impart. So, inspired by an HBO Max compilation of travel tips from the film, here are a few of those lessons.

Hey look kids, there’s Big Ben, and there’s Parliament… again.

IFC GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

For when you keep asking your coworker for clarification but keep getting the same extremely unhelpful response.

Those bells haven’t rung in years.

Chevy Chase Dancing GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

For when there’s no way you can explain what’s about to happen but know it’s going to be bad.

Rusty, you don’t want to look like a rooster do you?

For when you are just incredibly confident in how you present yourself to the world and want others to feel likewise.

Clark, why don’t we just forget the “Pig-in-a-Poke” itinerary, and just play it by ear, like normal people?

For when you can no longer manage to operate within the confines of so-called “society” and must break free from all the constraints imposed on you at all costs.

Release Date Shuffle Shows Streaming Confidence

It’s all about what cards you’re holding.

The state of the theatrical feature film release seems rosier than it has in a good long while following two of the strongest weekends of the pandemic era thanks to Godzilla Vs. Kong. The gross domestic box-office for that movie is now $69.5 million, an impressive total, especially given the film is also available on HBO Max. Adding to that success is that downloads of the HBO Max app hit an all-time high in advance of its release.

It’s a validation, at least for the time being, of WarnerMedia’s 2021 strategy of day-and-date distribution to both theaters and streaming. Things will go back to relative normal in 2022, when big releases will head to theaters exclusively for at least 45 days before becoming available to streaming subscribers.

WarnerMedia’s strategy was uber-controversial several months ago but now seems common, so much so that it wasn’t surprising when Disney announced Black Widow would do likewise on Disney+ but via its Premier Access payment tier.

Some studios aren’t feeling quite as sure about things, though. Just recently Paramount announced a handful of release date changes, notably moving Top Gun: Maverick out to November from July. That has been seen as a sign the studio can’t afford to have a Tom Cruise blockbuster be anything but just that. (Though the shifting of Snake Eyes from October back to July then would say the opposite, right?)

Tom Cruise GIF by Top Gun - Find & Share on GIPHY

The difference in approaches – continuing to play the release date shuffle versus coming up with a streaming/theatrical hybrid model – indicates how good the respective studios are feeling about their streaming positioning.

Reading the tea leaves above, it would seem that:

  • Paramount doesn’t yet think the newly-rebranded and relaunched Paramount+ is a suitable outlet for new releases. That’s understandable given it doesn’t have the market penetration of some of the other players. Still, the studio announced in February that a number of upcoming films will be available there 45 days after theatrical release, so it’s getting there.
  • NBCUniversal doesn’t have a dog in this fight. Peacock is an entirely adequate streaming service, but if there’s a strategy it’s unclear what it might be. And it certainly doesn’t seem to be factoring into conversations about new releases or anything else.
  • Sony knows it hasn’t even anted up. That’s why it just signed a deal that replaced Starz with Netflix as the studio’s first post-theatrical streaming outlet.

Warner and Disney are out in front of this pack, pushing new models and doing what makes the most sense given all the craziness of the last year while also working to build something sustainable for the future. That confidence is borne, to likely a great extent, by the strength of their brand, something the other studios are still struggling with.

Thunder Force – Marketing Recap

How Netflix has sold a new super-powered comedy.

The world of Thunder Force, out this week on Netflix, is one that is already filled with super-powered bad guys the police force is unqualified to fight. That’s why Emily Stanton (Octavia Spencer) uses the resources of the biotech company she owns to develop a serum that gives people powers to take on the villains. When her estranged best friend Lydia (Melissa McCarthy) accidentally takes that serum, the pair decide to team up to fight crime, becoming Thunder Force.

Netflix has been selling the movie in exactly the way you’d expect, highlighting the comedic pairing of Spencer and McCarthy and the outrageous super-powered situations they find themselves in.

The Posters

Lydia and Emily strike heroic poses on the poster (by marketing agency The Refinery), which came out in early March. But the two are seen to have slightly different attitudes, exemplified by how Lydia’s wearing a few sponsor buttons on her uniform. The “New super. Nearly heroes.” copy makes it clear that while they might have powers they still have some work to do on using them.

The Trailers

Lydia and Emily are, we see in the first trailer (2.6 million views on YouTube) from early March, friends that have drifted apart, with Emily becoming super-successful and Lydia less so. When Lydia takes the super power-granting formula Emily’s been working on she gets powers, only to find Emily has already done so. The two decide to go become a pair of crime fighters, but the bad guys up their game as well, with hilarity ensuing.

Online and Social

No website and only a little bit of support, it seems, from Netflix on its brand social media channels.

Advertising and Promotions

The first footage came in January, part of Netflix’s announcement of its ambitious 2021 feature film slate. A pair of first look stills came out in early March, just ahead of the first trailer.

Thunder Force GIF by NETFLIX - Find & Share on GIPHY

Two clips came out late last month, one showing Lydia foiling a robbery and the other showing her throwing a bus, both extended looks at scenes glimpsed in the trailer.

Media and Press

Most of the press included interviews with both Spencer and McCarthy together, including an appearance on “Kimmel” where they talked about being super heroes and how the genesis of the movie is wanting to mess with costar Jason Bateman.

Writer/director Ben Falcone also made the rounds a bit, talking about using the tropes of super hero movies to comedic effect and working with McCarthy and Spencer on the film.

Overall

This is the same campaign that’s been run for a number of McCarthy’s other movies, but that’s alright since it seems to work just about every time. That is to say, each works on an equal level and makes roughly the same pitch to the audience and has about the same result. McCarthy is a known quantity and this campaign, like those before it, reinforces that message.

The major difference here is the addition of Spencer, who’s a great partner for the comedy. Whether or not all of that makes this a funny sendup of the ubiquitous super hero movie remains to be seen, but if you enjoy McCarthy and her frequent collaborations with husband Falcone, this should be in your interest area.

Thunder Force GIF by NETFLIX - Find & Share on GIPHY