the northman – marketing recap

How Focus Features has sold a movie of Viking revenge.

The Northman movie poster
The Northman movie poster

Director Robert Eggers takes a break from filming Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson in a lighthouse to bring us The Northman. Alexander Skarsgård stars as Amleth, a man who since being found after escaping the murder of his father (Ethan Hawke) was raised by Vikings as a berserker. Discovering terrible secrets about his mother (Nicole Kidman) and with the help of Olga (Anya Taylor-Joy), Amleth sets out to exact bloody Nordic revenge against those who assassinated his father and reclaim the kingdom that should have been his.

Dafoe, Björk and others costar as the sorcerers, seers, warlords and others Amleth – widely regarded as the historical inspiration for Shakespeare’s Hamlet – encounters on his quest.

So with a story steeped deeply in Norse mythology and folk tales, a director known for making some of the most visually-interesting movies in recent history and a whole bunch of Serious Actors, let’s take a look at how this has been sold to the public that will completely ignore it at the box office.

announcements and casting

The movie was announced in 2020, including most of the main cast. It wasn’t until May of 2021 that Lionsgate added an official release date.

Kidman commented on the weird process of filming the movie while also praising Eggers in an interview from January 2021.

Ineson talked about shooting the film and how he responded to some of the first footage in this interview from later that year. An interview in June with Dafoe had him talking about the larger scale of this film when compared to his previous work with Eggers, saying while it was a bigger story it still wouldn’t lack for detail or nuance.

Universal gave CinemaCon attendees in August 2021 a look at footage from this and other upcoming movies.

the marketing campaign

“Conquer your fate” declares the first poster, released in December of last year. Amleth stands atop a cliff looking out over the sea and the handful of ships sailing there. It very much establishes the visual tone of the movie and the campaign, offering the audience a fiery and violent experience in theaters.

The first trailer (21.3m YouTube views) came out at the same time. It opens with a young Amleth enjoying the love and company of his parents before his father is brutally murdered, Amleth barely escaping the same fate. Cut to an older Amleth, making his way through the world as he looks for those responsible. When he meets Olga he finds someone with her own agenda as well as abilities that could help him, leading to lots of bloodshed and violence.

In February Skarsgård was interviewed by Kirsten Dunst about his role and what it’s like being part of a big family of actors. There was also a conversation with Eggers about creating the costumes and other design elements of the film as well as the physical transformation Skarsgård underwent for the role. Taylor-Joy spoke about filming in the Irish wilderness and how much she enjoyed getting out in nature for an extended period of time.

More here from Skarsgård about filming such a violent story as well as how he got in Viking-appropriate shape.

TV spots like this began airing in late March focusing on the revenge story and Viking violence, keeping some of Eggers’ more esoteric visual stylings kind of hidden behind quick cuts and heavy music.

The second poster came out shortly after that, this one using the same tagline but now featuring the whole main cast.

A profile of Eggers covered what inspired this story and how the director set out to make an epic that was also an ambitious visual film while being historically accurate. How the movie finally moved into production was also covered in a later profile of Skarsgård that included how he collaborated with Eggers both before filming and during production.

The cast and crew assembled for a special screening of the movie in Rome at the beginning of April. They also appeared for an event in London, which led to first reactions from critics that were overwhelmingly positive.

Clips began coming out then. One shows Amleth leading his warriors on a raid while another has Amleth getting something of a pep talk from Olga.

A set of three character posters was followed by a Dolby-exclusive poster showing a close up of Amleth on a bloody tear through his enemies. More character one-sheets came out later.

Eggers and others from in front of and behind the camera contributed to a featurette about the technical aspects of making the movie. Similar ground was covered later on in an exclusive featurette from AMC Artisan Films.

At this point Focus Features announced a movie-themed RPG tie-in with Fortnight featuring locations and costumes from the film.

An exclusive Nerdist clip shows an extended look at the killing of King Aurvandill that sets Amleth on his quest for vengeance.

How this movie fits into his daily life as well as career to date, along with other topics, were covered in another profile of Skarsgård.

Last week Skarsgård made a promotional appearance at NASCAR’s Geico 500 in Talladega. He also talked about the movie in an appearance on “Today” and later on when stopped by “The Late Show.”

All that came just before the film’s Los Angeles black carpet premiere that included a Q&A with the cast and crew. That generated plenty of comments from everyone about the process of making the movie, working with Eggers and more. The director also talked about filming a nude Skarsgård, making the production work despite the location and Covid restrictions and more. Another profile of him included him sharing how he convinced Björk to take on a role in the film.

A short red-band trailer was released right after that, just days ago, that doesn’t break much new ground in terms of the story but does feature even more visceral action.

How Skarsgård got in shape for the role was covered here.


With an impressive 88% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and some incredibly positive word of mouth that’s been generated in the last two weeks, tracking projects an opening weekend of $10-15 million, which would be great for a movie of this type.

But really, what matters is that this campaign has been a brutal, bloody good time and that Skarsgård’s glistening abs seem to be the main draw for a substantial portion of the audience. So it’s effectively sold itself to the groups interested in those things, which means this has been a success.

Alexander Skarsgard Kill GIF by Regal - Find & Share on GIPHY

The Hummingbird Project – Marketing Recap

hummingbird project posterThe cutthroat world of high-end finance and securities training is the setting for The Hummingbird Project. Jesse Eisenberg and Alexander Skarsgård as investor brothers who are angling for any advantage over their competitors. Like everyone else in the industry they know that with automated electronic trading the dominant tactic, shaving fractions of a second off the receipt of information to make those trades can mean a difference of millions of dollars, if not more.

So they set out to create a high-speed fiber connection between a major junction in the Pacific Ocean and their East Coast operations that’s straighter and therefore more fast, by a couple hundreths of a second. Their project gets the attention of their rival, played by Salma Hayek, who sets out to quash their efforts and stop them from gaining an advantage.

The Posters

The three main characters are shown on the one-sheet standing on the single element still connecting two frayed ends of a split wire, showing the tenuous nature of the ground they’re operating on. “Everything is on the line” is the copy that conveys the story’s stakes.

The Trailers

Vincent and Anton want to demolish everything in the way of them creating a straighter, faster connection to financial information in the first trailer. That connection will allow them to get data a millisecond faster than competitors, which has implications adding up to millions of dollars a year. They set out to grab the land rights for that connection but face competition from Torres, who wants that money for herself. It’s a fun, tight trailer that sells a story of boundless ambition that’s occasionally derailed by physical or legal realities.

Online and Social

There’s really only the usual content on the movie’s official website, offering visitors the trailer, a synopsis and so on. A minimal effort on display here along with links to profiles on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing here that I’ve seen.

Media and Publicity

A screening at the Toronto Film Festival generated good reviews, with the movie being picked up by The Orchard.

In the last week or so before release The Orchard has put out a series of clips, including one that was shared exclusively by Moviefone and one that was exclusive to The Playlist.

Eisenberg made appearances on late night and morning talk shows to bring some attention to the film. He was also profiled in pieces like this but those interviews often mentioned several other projects the actor has in the works as well. Skarsgård, meanwhile, was promoting another movie he has coming out this week. There was also a substantial profile of Hayek where she talked about this movie and various other topics.

The studio raised some eyebrows among critics when they sent out real chainsaws as promotional items, relevant since the movie is about how the brothers are willing to cut down trees to build their information pipeline. While contextually appropriate, that’s also a substantial item to send to people and one that’s not going to be immediately useful to a lot of people.


I feel there might be a pretty decent movie and interesting story hiding behind a campaign that could use a little more juice. While the trailer and poster are interesting, the whole push is a little dry, lacking a solid hook for the audience. It’s almost as if there’s a bit too much story that’s being included in the marketing to distill the message down to a single, compelling idea for the audience to latch on to.