How 20th Century Studios has sold what’s described as a “sexual psychological thriller”
Adrian Lyne, who previously brought us movies like Flashdance, Fatal Attraction, Indecent Proposal and many more, directs Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas in this week’s Deep Water from 20th Century Studios. Affleck and de Armas play Vic and Melinda Van Allen, a married couple whose relationship is nearing its end. Before they call it quits, though, they begin playing twisted mind games with each other that wind up pulling in the people around them, some of whom begin dying.
The movie is, as many have recently, skipping theaters entirely and debuting this Friday on Hulu, which has become a popular tactic for Disney with their non-franchise adult-skewing titles.
With Tracy Letts, Kristen Connelly, Lil Rel Howery and others also appearing, let’s take a look at how it’s been sold.
announcement and casting
In development by Lyne since 2013, Affleck and de Armas were cast in mid-2019, moving production into gear. At that point Disney acquired the project as a 20th Century Studios release following the merger with Fox and others, including Howery and Letts, joined the cast.
The movie was originally scheduled for November 2020, but various Covid-related delays kept it out of theaters. It was then slated for January 2022 but last December Disney pushed it a bit farther out to the current release date. In between all that it was announced the movie would go direct to Hulu in the U.S. and to Amazon Prime for overseas audiences.
the marketing campaign
With all the delays and the general state of uncertainty that still to a large extent pervades the movie industry, it’s not wholly surprising the campaign didn’t really kick off until just a month prior to release in mid-February.
That’s when the first teaser (2.7m YouTube views) trailer came out. What looks at first like a pleasant picnic with Vic and Melinda quickly turns weird as they discuss why they’re still together until each admits there’s something wrong with them, setting the stage for what’s to come.
Both it and the first poster, released at the same time, use the tagline “The love story is never the whole story” to hint at the twists and turns the audience can expect. The one-sheet shows the couple through what looks like a steamy glass shower door to make sure and communicate there’s a sexual or at least intimate nature to what is happening.
A commercial that came out two weeks later shows Vic approaching a window while attending a party, only to see Melinda and another man outside.This adds on to what was seen in the teaser to make it clear the two are playing games with/torturing each other, possibly in an effort to spice up their marriage.
In the full trailer (2.2m YouTube views), released in the first week of March, we start off with the same picnic scene. But from there we see Melinda engaging in some overt flirting – and frequently much more than that – all in full view of Vic and his friends. It only gets more intense from there as at least one person dies, someone’s car goes off a cliff and so on as the games they are playing, all because Melinda doesn’t want to lead a boring life and Vic has no power in the situation, escalate.
The couple stare out a window seemingly happy, or at least content, on the next poster.
Some of the scenes of Melinda driving Vic crazy are used in additional commercials like this that were released over the course of the next week.
The first clip offers a look at a scene of Melinda using a grilled cheese sandwich to embarrass Vic in front of another man, but Vic knows the games she’s playing and calls her out on it.
The 47% rating the movie has on Rotten Tomatoes offers a potential reason why the movie was shunted over to Hulu exclusively without even testing the theatrical waters, so to speak, but it also may represent that most unfair of yardsticks being used by critics. Namely, it’s being graded lower because it’s not as engaging or mind-blowing as Lyne’s earlier work, some of which transformed the movie industry as we know it and certainly pushed a number of 1980s/90s boundaries.
As for the campaign, it sells the kind of slightly erotic thriller that was pioneered in that era but which now is a harder sell when everything has to have an expanded cinematic universe of IP. But it looks like it might be worth a couple hours for someone who doesn’t mind Affleck and is looking for something a bit darker than Cheaper By The Dozen, the other streaming original a Disney division is releasing this week. I can’t say there’s a ton of great or super-intriguing tactics on display here, though the text message posters are pretty cool, but what’s sold here appears to be a solid double that’s worth seeing.
How Amazon Studios has sold a character drama about family.
Ben Affleck stars in The Tender Bar, available now on Amazon Prime Video after a brief theatrical run at the end of last year. Affleck plays Charlie Maguire, the owner of a Long Island bar who becomes a father figure to his nephew J.R. (Tye Sheridan) after J.R.’s mother Dorothy (Lily Rabe) and father get divorced.
The movie, directed by George Clooney, is based on the J. R. Moehringer memoir of the same name, focusing on J.R. ‘s attempts to become a writer and his family’s determination to get him an Ivy League education.
With all that in mind, let’s take a look at how it’s been sold to the public.
announcement and casting
The project, with Clooney attached to direct and star in, was announced in July, 2020 when Amazon Studios acquired rights to it after Sony let them lapse. Affleck was attached to star a few months later.
Sheridan and Rabe were added to the cast in early 2021 just before filming got underway.
the marketing campaign
Amazon released a first look still from the film back in September showing Charlie and J.R. spending time together at the former’s bar.
The movie’s formal coming out party was held in October at the Director’s Guild of America in L.A.. There Clooney, Affleck and others all commented on how excited they were to be back doing press events but also how they worked together on-set and what attracted them to the project.
As the trailer, also released in October, begins, Dorothy and a young J.R. are moving back with her father (Christopher Lloyd) after her marriage has ended. Charlie and the rest of the family quickly embrace J.R., who begins spending time with his uncle. As he gets older J.R. goes to school and meets a girl, all while trying to figure out how to make his dreams come true and carve out a life of his own.
The first poster came out at the same time. There isn’t any explanatory copy adding context to what we see, but the image of Charlie and J.R. driving together in the former’s convertible communicates the tone pretty well while the vintage car and outfits convey the setting.
Clooney talked about why he made a smaller, character-driven moving during the pandemic and what kind of work influenced his approach to this film in an interview.
How the production team recreated a real life bar and other locations was covered here while Sheridan talked about how working with Clooney differed from some of the other directors on earlier films.
The theatrical poster was released in November still doesn’t have any copy but uses another photo of the two main characters to similar effect. This time there are a number of positive quotes from early reviews to make the movie attractive to anyone who sees the one-sheet.
Clooney appeared virtually on “Kimmel” along with Daniel Ranieri, who plays the young version of J.R. Ranieri got a profile of his own shortly after that. Affleck also stopped by “Kimmel” to promote the movie.
The first clip was released in mid-December and shows Charlie encouraging young J.R. to keep working on his writing.
A profile of Affleck focused on the his evolution over the years from frat boy star to serious actor who’s unconcerned about his public image and other matters.
Two more character posters, one of Charlie and one of Dorothy, were released in early January.
The positive reviews featured on the theatrical one-sheet might be hard to find given the movie’s paltry 52% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. But that’s not the point, really.
As for the campaign itself, it’s not bad but never really makes a strong case for the audience’s time. There are some very strong Hillbilly Elegy vibes coming off it, and given the shelf life on that film was about two minutes, that doesn’t help. So the allure is dependent almost solely on the charm of Affleck and Clooney as the biggest names involved.
How 20th Century Studios has sold a movie of honor and sexual politics
The Last Duel, out this week from 20th Century Studios, is based on the true story of exactly what you would think based on the title.
Set in 14th century France, Matt Damon plays Jean de Carrouges. When his wife Marguerite (Jodie Comer) accuses de Carrouges’ friend and squire Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver) of raping her, de Carrouges challenges him to a duel which would become the last one in France to be legally sanctioned.
Directed by Ridley Scott, the movie was co-written by Damon and Ben Affleck – who also costars – along with Nicole Holofcener, brought in by the pair specifically to strengthen the female perspective of the story.
announcement and casting
The announcement that the movie was coming and that it would feature an on-screen reunion of Affleck and Damon hit in late July of 2019, though the film had been in development for a few years prior to that. Comer and Driver joined the cast later that year.
the marketing campaign
The first trailer (6m YouTube views) came out in late July, opening with what seems to be Marguerite being questioned after the fact about events we see depicted, indicating there’s been some kind of fall out from what takes place. Those events involve charges that have been leveled against Jacques Le Gris – namely that he raped and assaulted Marguerite – and the challenge to a duel that’s proposed by Jean de Carrouges. But while that duel extends into what appears to be all out war, it’s Marguerite that is about to pay the price if she’s found guilty of making a false accusation.
At the same time the first poster was released, nicely conveying the story by showing two swords pointed in opposite directions, Marguerite’s face shown in the blade of one to indicate she’s somehow the reason this duel is happening.
Comer talked about the movie, including her experience on a Ridley Scott production, in an interview from mid-August. She covered similar grounds in another interview a short while later.
Affleck and Damon talked about reuniting as a writing team and bringing in Holofcener to help them tell a uniquely female-centric story in the best way possible.
The first TV spot came out in early September, cutting down the story to its basic beats and managing to be a lot more clear than the trailer, losing some of the vague mystery and getting straight to the drama.
Damon, Affleck and Comer were joined by Holofcener and Scott at the Venice Film Festival, where the movie had its world premiere.
While at Venice – which also served as the first big public appearance of Affleck and Jennifer Lopez as a couple again – Affleck was interviewed about how the story reminds audiences that women haven’t been treated as full human beings for centuries.
Positive reviews, especially for Comer’s performance, came out of that premiere and kept buzz for the movie building.
Another feature story covered Holofcener’s recruitment into the writing team and what it means for how the story is told.
Additional TV spots/online promos came out after that, most of which focused on the drama over the accusations that’s been made by Marguerite and what results from that. Others focused more on how the movie is based on a true story, showing the gritty nature of the events.
A featurette released in late September goes behind the scenes to show Scott directing and talking about his process.
Marguerite stands at the front of the next poster, released at the end of September. The rest of the characters are arrayed behind her but it’s clear she’s at the center of the story. Again the two sword motif is used here, with copy explaining that not only is this a true story but that the woman in the middle of it will drastically upset the status quo.
More TV spots were released over time that played up how powerful the film and its performances are. The audio for some of the shorter commercials was repurposed for ads on Spotify and elsewhere.
The first clip shows Marguerite confronting her husband about whether it’s her honor or his reputation he’s fighting for as he goes forward with his duel.
Fandango was given the first few minutes of the movie showing preparations for the duel, the king of France looking on.
The cast and crew turned out for the movie’s premiere in New York City last week, with the studio releasing a video of highlights from that event. From that premiere came severalinterviews with Comer, Affleck, Holofcener, Damon, Scott and others.
Another featurette focuses on how Damon and Driver in particular were suited up for the duel and how those outfits restricted their movements.
Things are summed up nicely in one of the last TV commercials released in the campaign. That spot includes pull quotes from some of the positive reviews the movie has accumulated, all of which have given it an 87% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
It’s that word of mouth that has really powered the campaign in the last two weeks. Positive buzz for Scott’s direction, Comer’s performance in particular and the better-than-expected script have all built on a strong start that sold the movie as a powerful experience that must be seen in theaters. That’s slightly different than some other recent releases, which focus on the *size* of the action, not the intensity of the story.
Despite that, tracking projections estimate a paltry $10 million opening weekend. That is *absolutely* an indicator of how established brands and franchises are better-suited for the new normal of theatrical distribution than other stories, especially since the reviews are better or at least similar in aggregate.
When Justice League arrived in 2017, the term “troubled production” was frequently used to describe it. The critical drubbing received by the preceding Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice created tension between Warner Bros. and director Zack Snyder, including rewrites by then DC Entertainment Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns to the script from David Goyer and Chris Terrio. Confusion was created when different interviews with Snyder, Johns and others seemed to alternate between there being one two-hour movie, two two-hour movies, one four-hour movie in two parts and so on.
Then, as the movie moved into post-production, Snyder stepped away, reportedly to deal with the recent death of his daughter. The narrative at the time was that writer/director Joss Whedon was being brought in to handle a small number of reshoots and other pickups because he had already done even more work on the script.
And then of course there’s the issue of Henry Cavill’s mustache.
Kicking off at San Diego Comic-Con 2016, the marketing campaign for Justice League was more or less what audiences expected given both BvS and Snyder’s earlier Man of Steel. It was dark and moody, but after Whedon took over there seemed to be a bit more humor. Throughout, though, you couldn’t help but notice the distinct lack of Superman, an omission informed largely by the movie’s story – he dies at the end of BvS – and not wanting to spoil his return here.
When the finished product finally hit theaters the reaction was “mixed,” to say the least. Critics called it a mess and the $229 million it grossed domestically was a disappointment compared both to Wonder Woman earlier that year and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which at that point was nearing its eventual conclusion.
No…There Is Another…
Almost immediately, the most fervent adherents to Snyder’s nihilistic artistic view began to believe they’d been duped. Demands to #ReleaseTheSnyderCut were soon at full volume online, with those signing petitions and saying “Actually I have more of a comment than a question” at panels believing Warner Bros. had someone in its archives a version of the film free of Whedon’s influence. That version would more fully represent the intent of Snyder, who for years has been referred to in the marketing of his films as a “visionary director.”
WB continually denied such a version existed, pointing out that Snyder left an incomplete movie to Whedon’s stewardship. Snyder himself said much the same thing, that there was only a work print with unfinished effects and some scenes completely missing. There was no Snyder Cut.
That didn’t mean much to those whose very personal brands seemed to depend on the opposite being true. Over the course of the next three years the DCEU was hit or miss, with the same group of toxic fans howling in delight whenever something that wasn’t The Snyder Cut failed to live up to expectations. Not only that, but similar groups made concerted efforts to strangle movies like Captain Marvel and Star Wars: The Last Jedi in their cribs on the grounds that girls are icky and anything that doesn’t cater to the lowest common denominator of male mob mentality shouldn’t be allowed.
Denials from Warner Bros. were said to be the first and last word on the matter, right up until they weren’t.
Snyder’s tune began changing in early 2019 when he started posting pictures that seemed to confirm his cut of the film did exist in some manner. Members of the cast and others involved in the production made similar comments, with people like Gal Gadot and Ben Affleck, who play Wonder Woman and Batman respectively, getting in on the hashtagaction.
Finally, in late 2020, as part of WarnerMedia’s hype cycle for the then pending launch of HBO Max, it became official that the streaming service would be the release platform for the reworked movie.
Just as there was confusion in 2017 as to whether there would be one or two movies and how long they would be, reports have differed over the last several months as to what form this one would take. At one point it was said to be four one-hour installments. At another it was back to being two two-hour movies.
Despite Snyder’s rejection of any mention of “toxic fandom”, the director himself credits fans using every channel at their disposal, including sliding into the replies of Sesame Street’s Twitter account, with turning dreams into reality by consistently pressuring the studio into action.
It’s almost like a demagogic political figure saying he doesn’t want his supporters to be violent but then buying them all airline tickets to attend an event specifically intended to foment insurrection. And then at the end he tells them they’re very special and he loves them, but only after people have died and others have had their life put in danger.
But what do we expect from Hollywood’s leading objectivist? So many of the stories he’s been part of telling focus on heroes or other characters that can’t find anything in life worth living for until they act on the power they have. Possession of that power in and of itself gives them the right to use it in the manner of their choosing. So it’s no wonder Snyder would be on board with a group of individuals claiming whatever power they could in order to achieve whatever goals they wanted, especially if those goals happen to overlap with his own.
Let me pause here and make a few clarifications.
First, I’m painting with an overly broad brush here. Not all #ReleaseTheSnyderCut adherents are examples of the worst of toxic male fandom. There are some genuine movie fans who feel Snyder is a great filmmaker, so good for them. Like any other art form, people are allowed to like what they like. People might judge me based on my love of Rush or Kenny Rogers, but all art works differently for different people. That being said, this particular group in my experience over-indexes in terms of members likely to verbally assault a woman cosplaying as Power Girl at Comic-Con, labeling her a “fake fangirl” if she doesn’t know who pencilled a random 80’s comic issue she appears in.
Second, Snyder has harnessed this and adjacent groups for good, working with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars. That effort, clearly borne of the tragedy that befell his family years ago, is a good one, selling t-shirts and other swag to help worthy cause.
Crisis On Infinite Snyderverses
In the months leading up to and following WarnerMedia’s announcement that the movie would finally see the cold, desaturated light of day, the landscape has changed significantly, as has the narrative that framed the release of the theatrical cut of Justice League over three years ago.
Beginning in mid-2020, costar Ray Fisher, who plays Cyborg in the film, began making a series of accusations against Whedon and by extension Johns and others at Warner Bros., saying the pinch-director created a hostile work environment for him and others after Whedon took over on set. Fisher’s claims were enough for Warner Bros. to open an investigation, though then it turned into dueling statements over whether Fisher had or hadn’t cooperated with that investigation. Representatives for Whedon and Johns denied those accusations, but Fisher remained adamant and public. Ultimately Warner Bros.’ investigation recommended moderate remediative actions but was light on public details.
As time went on, Fisher received public displays of support from Momoa and other members of the cast and he discussed the talking points WB had given him and the rest regarding Whedon’s involvement, most of which matched up with how things were framed in 2017. All of that acted as prelude to actress Charisma Carpenter, who had worked with Whedon on “Buffy, The Vampire Slayer” and “Angel,” making similar comments, saying he had become hostile and offensive toward her and others. Those accusations, combined with Fisher’s made WB’s lack of overt action odd, especially since Whedon had over the last couple years, been removed from other Warner projects including a planned Batgirl movie and the HBO original series “The Nevers.” Someone, it seemed, knew something.
While Whedon’s reputation was being dismantled, Snyder’s was being enhanced/rehabilitated.
A major feature appeared in Vanity Fair that offered an official version of the events of the last few years. Quoted in the story are Snyder, his wife and producing partner Deborah and a handful of past and present Warner Bros. executives. According to them, the situation around Snyder’s exiting of the original film was much more complicated, including not only the death of his daughter but a new lack of support from studio heads in the wake of Batman v Superman’s critical drubbing. Whedon’s involvement then grew from script doctor to eventually reshooting as much as three-quarters of the film. Similar points were made in a later interview with Snyder.
With that polishing of Snyder’s image, he’s been positioned by himself and the studio at the forefront of the marketing campaign for this new version of the movie, now officially titled Zack Snyder’s Justice League to emphasize his importance.
The Marketing of Zack Snyder’s Justice League
All of that now brings us to the release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League on HBO Max and the marketing of the movie, which Snyder has been at the bleeding edge of.
Darkseid and DC Fandome
That began in May of last year, when Snyder strongly hinted the movie was in the works during a Vero-hosted “watch party” for 2013’s Man of Steel, hints that were quickly confirmed when HBO Max released the first official announcement later that same month, leaving the official release date as a vague “2021” at the time.
That continued in June, when promotions for the virtual DC Fandome event began. With Snyder and many of the cast scheduled to appear there to answer fan questions and show off more of the upcoming movie, teasers began coming out. In one, Wonder Woman navigates a cave where she discovers ancient wall paintings showing Darkseid.
Cavill spoke briefly about the project in June, saying he was anxious to see the finished product but offering few details.
As a way to prime the pump for the new movie, HBO Max debuted Batman v Superman – Ultimate Edition in July, with this new version containing about a half hour of additional material.
In an interview in July, Snyder hinted that the reworked movie wouldn’t fit in nicely with how the DCEU has evolved – meaning he would not be obligated to acknowledge Shazam or Birds of Prey (both of which have higher Rotten Tomatoes scores than either of Snyder’s previous entries) but work instead as the culmination of the trilogy he began in Man of Steel and continued in Dawn of Justice.
Snyder appeared virtually during a fan convention, discussing his upcoming remade version and making it clear not a single frame of what Whedon had shot would be included. That interview also marked the first shot in the official change in the messaging around the theatrical version’s release, exposing some of the conflicts that emerged between Snyder and the studio and other details.
The full trailer, preceded by a short teaser, then debuted during Fandome in August. How well it and to what extent it delivered on expectations depends greatly on your feelings about the original, Snyder himself and other factors. Set to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and sporting a Super 16 aspect ratio, the trailer features a mix of old and new footage. Added are more scenes featuring Barry Allen, including one where he saves Iris West, and Cyborg. The latter in particular is notable as this indicates more of his backstory would be fleshed out, something that’s been anticipated for a while. The scenes carried over from the theatrical edition feature revised color palettes, adhering closer to what was seen in the original trailers back in 2016. Most importantly, this gives fans their first look at Darkseid, who will be the main villain of the story instead of his henchman Steppenwolf.
Video from the DC Fandome panel was also released to the public.
Reshoots, Trailer Confusion and HBO Max’s Evolution
Much like there were different stories about what the theatrical cut would look like – two movies, one super-long movie etc – there was at this point the beginnings of some confusion about what the new version would be packaged as and what it would include. While Snyder said he wouldn’t use a single frame of Whedon’s footage it was unclear whether he was being permitted to shoot anything new himself. Budget estimates have ranged from $20 million – which would seem to just allow for post-production work on existing footage – to $70 million.
Finally, news came out WB had scheduled a short period of reshoots, though who was or wasn’t involved remained unclear. In October news broke that Leto would be reprising his Suicide Squad role of Joker in the film, something that would require new footage being shot.
In a very odd turn of events, that trailer had to be pulled from YouTube in early November, reportedly because Warner Bros. failed to clear the rights to “Hallelujah,” which is something you wouldn’t expect from a major motion picture studio. The trailer was re-released later that month but was once again pulled for unstated reasons, meaning that beat was almost completely lost from the campaign.
This is unquestionably a weird stage of the campaign, one with so many false starts, walkbacks and other problems you kind of can’t believe a major studio is involved. But this may be the result of allowing one person to lead the campaign, with the studio itself being a fast-follower more than a driving force.
It’s also a period where HBO Max started to carve out its own identity. Instead of being “the place where The Snyder Cut would eventually be available,” it gained some momentum thanks to series such as “Lovecraft Country,” “The Undoing,” “The Flight Attendant,” and other buzzed-about hits.
Not only that, but it was in mid-November that Warner Bros. announced Wonder Woman 1984 would debut on HBO Max on Christmas Day, the same day it was released to limited theaters due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. That was just the first step, though, with WB revealing a month later it would do the same for its entire 2021 movie slate.
All of a sudden it’s a very different ballgame. ZSJL now wouldn’t just be competing against catalog titles, a few exclusive series and a handful of original features but with titles like Godzilla Vs. Kong and other big-budget movies.
Finally, a Campaign
After so many twists and turns through the end of 2020, the campaign itself finally kicked into a higher, more substantive gear in January.
Snyder released a series of posters at the end of the month that finally announced the movie’s premiere date on HBO Max. Two of the three just showed the “JL” symbol in some form of disrepair due to battle damage, but one showed a film canister laying on the ground, as if this had finally been unearthed for the public to see.
Additional shared by Snyder on Twitter at the end of January hinted at the appearance of Martian Manhunter and Joker from Suicide Squad. A more complete look at Joker came out shortly after that.
Another trailer (21.5m views on YouTube), teased by Snyder ahead of its release, came out on Valentine’s Day. Though it largely contains footage we’ve seen before, it does have a few notable elements, including:
Actual footage of Joker, providing a live-action version of the “we live in a society” meme
Reinforcement that the movie will be shown in a 4:3 aspect ratio.
Unlike earlier trailers, this one still seems to be available online.
An interview with Lennix had him talking about finally taking on the role of Martian Manhunter, something that drastically changes how his character is seen in the previous movies and a development that’s completely unearned by those appearances.
Clips from the movie’s soundtrack were released by Water Tower Records shortly after that.
DC then announced a series of movie-themed variant covers for Justice League #59, scheduled to hit store shelves the day before the movie became available.
At the end of February IGN debuted a video showing the members of the Justice League as different sides to a Mother Box, with each character and his or her powers and attributes represented as a relief on the cube.
In a later interview Snyder called out Fisher’s Cyborg as the centerpiece of his version of the story, something that runs in marked contrast to the theatrical cut. He also teased what he had in mind for a potential sequel, though he’s also said on multiple occasions this movie ends his involvement with the DCEU.
The theatrical poster showing a black and white photo of the assembled heroes advancing toward the camera came out at the beginning of March.
One final trailer (6.7m views on YouTube) came out earlier this week. While it features a lot of footage seen in previous clips or trailers, there’s a lot more of Darkseid, showing how dangerous he is, or at least claims to be, and how the heroes are holding out hope their combined strength is enough to take him on.
A virtual watch party was scheduled for 3/18, with the movie’s red carpet premiere planned for 3/17. But before that, earlier this week, a screening that was planned that wound up erroring out for everyone involved, leaving them unable to watch the movie and feeling pretty sore about it. That came after a glitch that had this movie playing when HBO Max subscribers pulled up Tom & Jerry, something that caused no small amount of laughter and confusion.
Overall: For the Fans, Not The Literally Anyone Else
Well, let’s see what we have here.
Reviews of the revamp have been generally positive but mixed, citing improvements in some areas while problems either persist or have newly cropped up in others. Almost universally, it’s said to be much more Snyder-esque, right down to the Randian worldview and carry all the positives and negatives that implies.
The same can be said about the marketing itself. As stated earlier, Snyder is frequently referred to as “visionary” in the campaigns for his films, but that only really resonates in the small percentage of the audience that has fully bought into that vision. For the rest, it almost acts as a sort of warning that the film in question contains more nihilism is recommended over the course of an entire year.
What’s on display here is just that.
The theatrical cut of Justice League is an unquestionable mess, the cinematic equivalent of putting peas in your guacamole recipe. But there’s nothing in Snyder’s previous DCEU movies that would have indicated his original cut would have been any more coherent and there’s nothing in this campaign indicating this version will be so either.
Those feelings are compounded by the multiple instances over the course of the marketing where trailers disappeared for one reason or another and confusion reigned as to what the movie would ultimately look like and what it would include.
Also raising eyebrows is how power dynamics within Hollywood are on display here.
While Snyder has been brought back into the light with multiple profiles and interviews that have allowed him to tell his side and come out as the aggrieved party, Fisher in particular still seems to be sidelined. His complaints about how he was treated by Whedon, though vindicated in the court of public opinion, were still largely dismissed and denied by the studio and his involvement in future projects hasn’t been improved. Why might that be?
For the last three years, fans of the director have been clamoring for this movie, believing it to be the ultimate lost classic, pure bath salts in cinematic form. All art is compromise, though, and the idea that any version would ever be delivered free of influence from outside parties is naivete, and it’s likely the reaction to this when it’s finally available will represent that. If it’s not everything they’ve been dreaming of and speculating about, things will go poorly. More theories will emerge that this *still* isn’t the movie Snyder could have or wanted to make, and those grievances will be taken out the next time a studio casts a woman or person of color in the lead role of a franchise property.
This campaign, though, is meant solely for that group. There’s little to nothing here that might attract someone who isn’t already a charter member of the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement. Even someone who was simply disappointed by the theatrical version and wants to see if this might be an improvement will find no appeal to them has been made.
At least this time we don’t have to sit through the studio pretending like Superman isn’t in the movie.
How Warner Bros. is selling a tale of struggle and redemption.
With tracking reports estimating an opening weekend of $12-17 million, The Way Back doesn’t seem poised to break any box office records. Early reviews have been largely positive, though, especially for star Ben Affleck.
Affleck plays Jack Cunningham, a former high school basketball star who walked away from the game years ago and has since led a life of divorce, alcoholism and other destructive behavior. One day he’s approached by the head of his old school with an offer to come back and coach the current team. Reluctant to go back down that road, he eventually relents. After a rough start he finds the kids have as much to offer him as he does them, especially finally giving him a purpose outside himself.
The campaign has sold the movie for what it is – Hoosiers, but with the focus entirely on Dennis Hopper’s Shooter – but with odd turns into Affleck’s personal life.
Copy on the first poster (by marketing agency Gravillas) reading “Every loss is another fight” makes it seem as if the movie will be one with an uplifting and inspiring message. John’s head is in the middle of a basketball scoreboard, helping to establish the story’s setting. Next to the title, the audience is reminded of the previous films from the director, including an earlier collaboration with Affleck.
Earlier this month a second poster was released that changes the copy to read “One shot for a second chance,” which is more specific to the story of this film. The same shot of John is used, but this time the image behind him is a more full look at a basketball stadium, not floating parts of the scoreboard.
Jack is working construction and drinking steadily as the first trailer (2 million views on YouTube), released in November, begins. He’s approached by an old friend to take on the role of high school basketball coach when the old one passes away, a role he’s a good fit for having been a star player in his youth. His team isn’t great, but the job keeps him occupied, except for the times when his depression and regrets lead him back to a drunken state. As he turns the kids around he continues to struggle with his own sobriety, showing that this isn’t a simple redemption tale being told but one that might be a bit more complex.
One of Jack’s players is asking him why he quit basketball all those years ago as the second trailer (9.2 million views on YouTube), released in early February, opens. Turns out he was trying to please his disapproving father. Despite that, he’s asked to come back and coach at his old high school. His work with the team coincides with his work on improving himself and pulling out of harmful behavior. This trailer presents a much more inspiring and emotional message, less dramatic and more about second chances and making amends for the past.
Online and Social
There’s almost no information on the movie’s official website, showing just how deprioritized that platform has become by studios.
Advertising and Promotions
Affleck and others from the cast introduced an exclusive AMC clip showing the first time Jack meets the team, both sides working to establish dominance. Regal Cinemas got another clip showing Jack giving the team an inspirational speech in the middle of a game.
Shorter versions of the trailers were used as TV spots and pre-roll ads as well as promoted posts on social networks. All focused on the inspirational nature of the story and not so much the troubles Jack has to go through to get to that point.
The movie’s premiere was held in L.A. earlier this week, with the cast and crew all in attendance.
An extensive profile of Affleck touched on the parallels between this story and the actor’s real like struggles with alcohol and relationship issues along with much more. Similar topics were covered in another interview with the actor.
Affleck appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” to promote the film and talk about his other interests. He also showed up on “Kelly Clarkson” and other shows to do likewise. Some of the actors who play the team being coached stopped by “GMA.”
As I stated in the opening, the campaign bears more than a passing similarity to elements of a previous basketball film. That’s giving this movie short shrift to an extent, but it’s also a handy way to understand what’s going on.
Throughout the marketing there’s a consistent effort to portray the glass half full elements of the story, sometimes artificially downplaying the rougher parts of Jack’s story. That’s a shame since it’s that part which gives the uplifting half its emotional heft.
What’s disappointing is how the press has latched on to the similarities between Affleck and the character he plays. That’s low-hanging fruit and kind of disrespectful to Affleck, his ex-wife Jennifer Garner and other real people and doesn’t even sell the movie well since it becomes a sideshow to what’s happening in the campaign proper. The whole effort would be stronger with less of a tabloid sheen.
Picking Up The Spare
AMC shared an exclusive interview with Affleck where he talked about the movie and its story.
How Netflix is selling a movie that mixes political and family drama.
The Last Thing He Wanted, coming to Netflix Friday, is based on the Joan Didion novel of the same name. Directed by Dee Rees, the movie stars Anne Hathaway as Elena McMahon, a journalist who goes off-script when she gets involved in the government-sanctioned gun-running activities of her estranged father Richard (Willem Dafoe).
That puts her on the radar of Treat Morrison (Ben Affleck), a government agent involved in those activities. Elena must navigate the turmoil of mid-80s Central American politics to have any chance of making it out alive, all while the dangers around her increase the deeper she gets into a world her father long wanted her to stay away from.
Netflix’s campaign for the movie hasn’t reached the level of pushes for its high-profile releases at the end of 2019 but still sells an entertaining feature from a talented filmmaker with a high-profile cast.
All the main characters, including local aide Alma (Rosie Perez), are shown on the movie’s one poster (by marketing agency Mocean). McMahon, her father, Morrison and Alma are placed around the poster, all looking off into the vague middle distance as they clearly are pondering serious matters. The colors and way the white stripes are arranged give the design the feeling of a business lounge at an airport-adjacent hotel, but it’s close enough to “serious geopolitical drama” to convey that basic message.
The first trailer (1.2 million views on YouTube) was released by Netflix at the end of January. It opens with McMahon and other journalists on the run as soldiers in a South American country break into their office and seize their operations. Her reputation precedes her in U.S. government circles, but when an investigation into arms sales reveals the involvement of her estranged father things get complicated. Undeterred, she embarks on a mission to find out what he’s gotten himself in to, at which point she crosses paths with Morrison, sent there to put an end to the operation. It’s a tight thriller being sold here, one with lots of tense situations and dramatic expressions on the faces of the main characters.
Online and Social
There not being a stand-alone website for the movie isn’t surprising given Netflix rarely creates such sites for all but a few select titles. What is unusual is that it didn’t even give the movie any great volume of promotion on brand social channels, focusing instead on recent romantic comedies and continuing to highlight its association with other high profile filmmakers.
Advertising and Promotions
The first real news about the movie was big as it was announced in 2018 that Netflix would finance and distribute it, obviously loving is previous experience with Rees. That preceded the film’s screening at the Sundance Film Festival last month.
Media and Press
Rees shared her process during Sundance, talking about how she worked to highlight what she felt was a key element of the source book, the kinds of influences she pulled from for the story and more. The cast also talked about working with Rees and getting in the heads of the characters they were playing.
An interview with Rees had the writer/director talk about working with Netflix again on this project as well as how it represents the next step in the progression her career has been on for years.
This movie barely got an off-hand mention in a profile of Affleck that instead focused on the other projects he has in the works.
As I mentioned in the opening, it’s clear Netflix hasn’t put the same kind of muscle behind this campaign it did for The Irishman and other releases at the end of last year. It’s not even as robust a push as it game the To All The Boys… sequel that came out last week. It’s an indicator that even Netflix, that great disruptor of the exhibition industry and champion of the mid-tier “I mean it’s alright” drama knows where to invest resources and when to just get the movie out and let it be what it will.
It’s just kind of hard to tell what the movie is about or what the focus of the story is in the context of the limited marketing on display here. The relationship between the characters isn’t unclear, the story a bit convoluted and the dynamics in play muddled. So even those who are big fans of solid geopolitical dramas aren’t going to get much to sink their teeth into here. Whatever brand recognition Didion’s original novel, combined with a bit of interest generated by the well-known cast, then becomes the biggest selling point, albeit one that isn’t featured prominently in the campaign.
Picking Up The Spare
Rees was the subject of a new featurette talking about her inspirations for the movie and more.
Joint interviews with Rees and Hathaway had them talking about the movie’s twist ending and how they were able to adapt the source novel while also exercising their own creative freedom.
Well after the film was released, Rees commented on some of the road bumps she encountered and the lessons she learned from the audience’s mixed reactions.
Kevin Smith brings cinema’s favorite stoners/slackers back to have some fun with franchise reboots.
It’s been 13 years since writer/director Kevin Smith last visited one of the first major shared cinematic universes of the internet era, The Askewniverse. In that time he’s taken a few side jaunts into crazy horror comedies as well as directing a handful of superhero TV show episodes.
Now he’s back to the characters he introduced in 1994’s Clerks. This week’s new movie Jay and Silent Bob Reboot brings back the popular Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith) in more or less a direct sequel to 2001’s Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Where that movie had the pair heading to Hollywood to try and stop a movie based on a comic inspired by them from being made, this one has them heading to Hollywood to stop a reboot of the movie based on a comic inspired by them from being made.
The first film poked a bit of fun at the super hero movie genre that was barely learning to walk at that point, certainly nowhere near the heights it would reach several years later. Now he wants to tweak the tendency of studios to reboot franchises ad infinitum. To help with that, Saban Films has run a campaign that’s heavy on humor familiar to Smith’s fans as well as those who have enjoyed all the comic book adventures on the screen in the last dozen years.
Jay and Silent Bob are shown in a very familiar setting on the first poster (from marketing agency BOND), released in July. The two are propped up against a gray concrete wall, indicating they’re still very much committed to their personal brand. Copy tells us “Weed love to tell you a story.”
Two more posters came out in September. The first uses the same “arrange all the main characters around a few key elements from the story” design approach found on many action and sci-fi movies. The second has Jay and Silent Bob back to back like super heroes in a design reminiscent of that used on the character posters from the Avengers: Endgame campaign. That latter one was created as a special giveaway for fans attending select screenings of the film.
A final poster puts drawings of all the characters from the movie – a whole universe of major and supporting players – in the image, all in front of hand-drawn blueprints like Jay uses when planning pranks in Mallrats.
The first trailer (696,000 views on YouTube) – released in July during San Diego Comic-Con – is full of so much meta humor it’s almost overwhelming. We get the message that this is the same general idea as Strike Back and is filled with many of the same jokes, just slightly updated for the nearly two decades since then. Only now everything has an even more meta twist and a whole new series of stars doing cameos in some form or another. A green-band version came out in October.
Online and Social
The official website has lots of information on the roadshow Smith is taking the film on, with screenings at individual theaters across the country, many of which include appearances by Smith and others.
Advertising and Publicity
Smith first teased the project in mid-2017 but it wasn’t until over a year later at the start of 2019 that he announced pre-production had officially begun. Just a short while after that Saban Films announced it had acquired it for distribution.
Beginning in late February Smith launched a series of behind-the-scenes videos tracking production. That’s similar to what he did during the filming of Clerks II, but something filmmakers have gotten away from in recent years after being a popular tactic in the mid-2000s.
A panel for the film was announced for San Diego Comic-Con, a natural setting given Smith’s love of all things pop culture. That panel included the debut of the first trailer.
Fathom Events put out a promotion in September for the roadshow screenings at Regal Cinemas locations.
EW shared a clip in early October offering an extended look at the scene where Jay is introduced to the daughter he never knew he had.
Media and Press
Smith was interviewed at the same time as Comic-Con about the geek-friendly cast he assembled to do cameos and how making the movie lead to him rekindling a friendship with Affleck.
In the last couple weeks both Smith and Mewes appeared on “The Late Show” to talk about returning to the roles and more. The two also made a number of other stops at various media outlets to talk up the movie and generally chat with hosts and sell the return of the Kevin Smith brand.
So…this is what a Kevin Smith campaign looks like without the help of long-time patron Harvey Weinstein backing him.
I’m a little surprised a movie like this isn’t going straight to streaming. The roadshow release Saban is giving it plays to Smith’s strength as an in-person storyteller and helps generate word of mouth to hopefully warrant a more traditional release.
The movie being sold in the campaign *looks* like a Kevin Smith movie, warts and all. Smith has always been a stronger writer than director, and you see that here. Adding a few actors known well for their super hero work is a nice bit of stunt-casting, but nothing Smith hasn’t done to various degrees in the past.
It’s not going to light the world on fire, and it’s certainly not going to compete against major releases coming out this week. But it does look like a return to form for Smith, and it’s nice to see him back to having fun after his recent health scares.
Picking Up the Spare
Smith spoke about how making the sequel allowed him to update and “correct” a plot point in Chasing Amy that hasn’t aged well but which was well-intentioned at the time. A profile of the writer/director also (rightly) categorized his entire career as an act of sheer will.
Saban Films released another short trailer as the movie was beginning its screening tour. It’s not drastically different than the primary trailer, just shorter. That tour was the subject of another interview with Smith where he admitted a massive marketing campaign would have wasted a lot of money chasing a very niche audience.
The former Special Forces operatives at the heart of Triple Frontier have had enough of being underappreciated by the country they defended. Directed by J.C. Chandor, the story follows five disgruntled specialists who, tired of having to scrape by after dedicating their lives to public service, decide to to use some of the intel they’ve gathered for their own benefit.
To that end they set out to rob the estate of a notorious South American drug lord. Determined to get what they can so they can retire in some comfort, they face the reality that they are out on their own for the first time without a sanctioning country and military at their back. That means when the mission goes south they have no one to rely on but themselves. The movie features an all-star cast including Oscar Isaac, Ben Affleck, Pedro Pascal, Garrett Hedlund and…not…Garrett Hedlund.
The primary poster sets up the story pretty effectively, showing all five of the specialists who are engaging in the heist walking toward the camera in full gear and with bags – presumably full of money – in their hands. The green foliage shown in that photo as well as in the title treatment establish the setting while the movie’s creative bonafides are communicated by name-dropping Chandor’s previous well-known films.
Character one-sheets showed all five ex-soldiers who embark on the mission along with Adria Arjona, who plays a character who’s ill-defined by the marketing.
The beginning of the first trailer from last December is much like many others, focusing on a core team of special operators who are about to embark on a mission so dangerous they’re being given an out. Text shown over the footage, combined with the briefing being given by Davis, explains that they’re about to try and steal a massive amount of money from a drug cartel and that this operation is a robbery, not a sanctioned mission. After this they’ll be on their own. But they’re willing to take that risk because they feel they’ve been left on the side by the military they swore allegiance to.
The second trailer, which debuted on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” shows how it’s Garcia that recruits the team, playing on the money problems and overall dissatisfaction the rest of the team are experiencing. There’s more of the same setup from the first trailer, but we see that the mission goes south unexpectedly, leading the team to have to improvise and make harder choices than they expected to just to survive.
Online and Social
While there wasn’t an official website, Netflix did create at least a Twitter account for the movie which it used to share the same sort of videos, links and other information other movie profiles offer.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Online ads used shots and video elements of the main actors, all in full combat gear, to sell the movie as a star-studded action film.
The movie sponsored a special basketball draft event from online betting site DraftKings
Media and Publicity
The movie was originally set up at Paramount, which dropped the project in 2017, at which point Netflix picked it up and moved forward with a different cast and crew.
Isaac, Affleck and others were all featured in a story including a first look still from the movie. Affleck showed up on “Kimmel” to talk about the movie and, as mentioned before, debut the second trailer. The actor also spoke about Netflix and how he saw it as the future of film distribution and viewing while he and Hunnam appeared on “The Today Show” to talk about the story.
The Playlist hosted an exclusive piece from the movie’s soundtrack composed by Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich. Chandor revealed in an interview just before release that he found a rescue dog while filming, as did other members of the crew.
An exclusive clip hosted by IGN showed a pivotal moment from the story as the characters make an important decision about the mission. That site also interviewed the whole cast and crew, while Hedlund went solo to try and distill the movie’s story for audiences.
Honestly the most exciting part of the campaign is that the movie comes from director J.C. Chandor, who has a track record of crafting tight, emotional stories around a simple premise. He’s not a big part of the marketing push, which isn’t surprising given the star power on display here, but he’s still noticeable as the latest in a strong of high-profile directors working with Netflix on original features.
Outside of that, the campaign sells an emotionally conflicted action drama that has the potential to not only tell a harrowing story but also one the focuses on how treats its veterans and how they feel neglected (at best) following their years of service. There are some good visual elements to the marketing that are a mark above what Netflix usually offers in terms of effort, another sign they see treating talent well (including a limited theatrical release) as a key tactic in their long-term strategy.
Picking Up the Spare
Netflix released a featurette on the music from a key sequence in the movie and one that focused on the work out costar Adria Arjona did to get in shape for the production.
Isaac showed up on “The Tonight Show” to talk about the movie but of course the conversation turned to Star Wars. He and Pascal also did one of those Wired features about frequent web searches about them.
Chandor was interviewed about the lessons the movie offered to himself and the audience. He also offered his thoughts on working with Netflix and how he got involved with the project.
There was also renewed discussion of the long road the project took before finally being filmed.
Affleck spoke about the movie and other aspects of his career.
Justice League hits theaters this weekend, the seeming crowning moment of the DC Cinematic Universe, or whatever we’re calling it. It comes four years after Man of Steel launched the new continuity, though that debut wasn’t without its critics. Shockingly, it was a full three years before the story continued in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which made it clear that someone didn’t know what to do with Superman on his own and needed to get Batman into the story as soon as possible. The mediocre reception continued in Suicide Squad but then things turned around when Wonder Woman finally got a solo film, showing offering audiences a bright attitude and an alternative to the brooding male stereotype could turn things around on a number of fronts.
Now there’s a whole team of heroes that have been assembled by Wonder Woman/Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) and Batman/Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) to fight a growing menace to our planet. With Superman (Henry Cavill) out of the picture (sure), they recruit the Atlantean Aquaman (Jason Momoa), the speedster The Flash (Ezra Miller) and the high school student/machine Cyborg (Ray Fisher). These cast of disparate characters will need to learn to work together if they’re going to stop the forces of Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) from laying waste to the earth.
The first teaser tells us to “Unite” as it shows the logo with a bright beam of light bursting out of the middle of it. There’s not much that’s being conveyed here, it’s just about building or reinforcing awareness.
After that there was a series of character posters that featured each of the five heroes standing on a rocky outcropping and posing for the camera. The same JL logo appears in the background of each and it all culminated in a single poster that brought all five of them together and includes the “Unite” call to action as well. Still missing is Superman, which is notable.
All five of the heroes came together on a poster that shows them all in profile, facing some unseen, off-camera threat. “Unite the league” is the copy that’s laid over the image in big, bold type.
A poster was given away to attendees at San Diego Comic-Con and released online that assembled the team (still sans Superman) around the copy “You can’t save the world alone.” That copy featured the icons and symbols of each character, including Superman. It’s lit and arranged to give the impression, at least among comics fans, that it’s the artwork of Alex Ross with his hyper-realistic style. Upon closer impression, though, it seems just to be photographs of the cast. Either way, it’s a striking image.
Another series of character posters put each hero in profile against a solid background, their unique symbol interlaced with the team logo at the bottom.
More featured the character in action. All the symbols for each hero appeared in a row at the top, with the relevant one highlighted. Notably, Superman’s symbol *is* shown here but he didn’t get a poster of his own. Some of these better than others and a couple are just ridiculous. Each featured the copy “All in,” presumably conveying their commitment to the team and its cause.
Another series had each character’s face half-covered by the mask they wear.
I’m not sure what the art department was thinking with the next poster, which brings all five heroes together in action poses centered around the title treatment. The photos used show no sense of motion or energy. This looks more like the kind of awkward imagery that would be used for licensed product signage than a one-sheet for a tentpole release from a major studio.
A couple posters were created specifically to be given away to customers buying tickets through Fandango, select IMAX screenings and so on.
The first look at the movie came at San Diego Comic-Con 2016, when WB released a pseudo-trailer that centered around Bruce Wayne’s quest to assemble a team to fight the coming evil. The biggest part of that is recruiting Arthur Curry/Aquaman, for which purpose he travels to a small fishing village where he frequently pops up. Curry’s not hugely on board, but the same can’t be said for Barry Allen, who accepts Wayne’s invitation almost before he actually makes it. Wayne is working with Diana to build the team and we see some of the interplay between the two of them. Also coming along is Vic Stone, who we see both before and after his transformation into Cyborg.
It’s actually a pretty great trailer and seems to address one of the big complaints about Batman v Superman, which is that it was so super-serious. This one, in contrast, is full of humor and little jokes and funny moments. It doesn’t seem WB and Snyder are going full-on Joss Whedon’s Avengers here but it does play much more light-hearted than what has come before, showing the team dynamic may be a little more spirited than in BvS.
The first “official” trailer starts off with Wayne wandering through the frozen tundra on his trip to recruit Aquaman. After that we meet Cyborg and Flash as they’re pulled into the team alongside Batman and Wonder Woman. Aside from the team building shots, there are quite a few scenes of them fighting parademons in various ways, either hand-to-hand or, if you’re Batman, in the Batmobile or other machines. Along the way we get glimpses at Barry Allen’s imprisoned father, Mera swimming through the sea and, at the end, Commissioner Gordon giving Batman some encouragement.
This one is alright but it looks sooooo dark. There’s no light in the trailer, either from an actual lighting or from a tonality point of view. Sure, there are a couple jokes or funny lines here and there but overall this looks just as humorless and slightly depressing as Batman v Superman, where the tone was one of the major points of pushback from critics and audiences alike. But when you have Zack Snyder at the helm, you’re going to get a Zack Snyder movie.
A year after the first footage WB once again released a new “sneak peek” trailer at Comic-Con that opens with a scene of Wonder Woman handling a terrorist incident easily. That’s not surprising given this is the first big asset following her solo movie’s massive success. Diana and Bruce discuss the need for heroes to rise once again before we see Steppenwolf arrive on Themysciria. He narrates that there are no protectors on Earth, specifically no Kryptonians and “No Lanterns,” a nice nod to the existence of that intergalactic police force. The heroes do join forces, though, to take on the bad guy and his army and we’re shown lots of cool shots of Cyborg taking over the Batmobile, Aquaman knocking a parademon out of the sky and lots of things exploding. It all ends with Alfred meeting someone he’d been told to expect while all we see is the red shoulder of the visitor, a heavy hint that it’s Superman finally showing up.
I like this trailer a lot as it shows more of the team dynamic than earlier spots have. It’s still all very attitude-heavy, with lots of glowering and brooding, but let’s also note that it’s Wonder Woman who’s providing a lot of the inspirational uplift for the other heroes. And, again, the Amazons get quite a bit of screen time to take advantage of their popularity with audiences. Basically, the character types each hero will play to are shown clearly here, as well as how they integrate together.
The final “Heroes” trailer lives up to its name by including a slowed down version of David Bowie’s song of the same name. It opens with a scene of Lois greeting Clark in the cornfield, but we see that’s likely just a dream. Superman is dead, we hear via a news broadcast, and the world is having problems. Bruce talks about the threats that are coming, which Diana identifies as an invasion. They enlist the help of the other heroes, with Bruce convincing them they’re stronger together. That all is followed by lots of fighting between the Justice League and parademons who are looking to unleash hell on Earth.
Online and Social
The movie’s official website opens with the final trailer and once that’s over or you close it you’re greeted with a version of the painting-like key art of the team. In the upper left are links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles. You can also see it’s “wrapped” in the branding and navigation of DC Comics, bestowing the traffic to the home of the IP and encouraging any casual visitors interested in the movie to check out more of the comics and characters offered. Along the bottom are prompts to get tickets or watch the recent red carpet premiere event.
Moving to the top of the page, the content menu there starts with “Video” which surprisingly just has the same trailer that opened the site. After that, “Unite the League” gives you a couple options to either create your own superhero symbol or create a 360-degree image that you could add your friends to. The results of the first option could be downloaded either as a JPG or an MP4 video but not as a GIF, which seems like an oversight.
“First Look” just has the team image that has been used sporadically throughout the campaign, including on licensed products, and which notably includes Superman among the heroes. That’s followed by a link to “Join the League” to access exclusive material and get early updates on new merchandise.
You can find out more about the “VR Game” that lets you play as Batman as he tests his own abilities as well as those of his new teammates but you’ll need the required equipment to play. After links to get tickets and find release dates, “Partners” finishes off the site with links to the companies helping to promote the film.
A virtual reality experience came in four flavors. The first, accessible via mobile devices, allowed just small snippets of gameplay for each of the main characters. An HTV Vive version at New York Comic-Con provided for enhanced gameplay. Next, a couple IMAX locations in the country had an exclusive version that let you test your superhero abilities and learn to use your powers. Finally, a fully-featured version was available for commercial VR platforms that took players inside the actual superhero experience.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
TV commercials started running after the release of the final trailer, about a month prior to the movie hitting theaters. Most all took slightly different approaches to selling the same concept, which is that the team has to come together to be more than a team to defend the world. A better look at Mera was offered in another spot that was also used as a promoted post on Twitter.
Promotional partners for the movie included:
AT&T, which created a portal for all its Justice League-themed material, including character profiles featuring cast interviews and explanations of his or her powers and role on the team. Clips and excerpts from those videos were also used in paid ads on Twitter leading the audience back to that portal.
Mercedes, which launched a campaign involving TV, outdoor, online and print advertising to promote the movie as well as its new AMG Vision Gran Turismo, which is featured in the movie. The TV spots positioned the car as the perfect mode of transportation, even for heroes who can fly, run and more. There was also a co-branded digital comic that was created and promoted across social channels by the car company.
Hot Topic, which created a line of clothing and apparel based on the characters and heroes of the movie.
Google, which added “bots” based on the five heroes in the movie to Android Pay, allowing users to unlock and collect them.
Gillette, which sponsored the above-mentioned VR game and created movie-branded packaging (conspicuously omitting Wonder Woman) that was supported by a TV campaign. It also ran something called the “League of Influencers” involving social media celebrities, but there was no information that could be found about that campaign.
Dave & Buster’s, which offered a special Justice League Platter along with an exclusive Injustice arcade game, supporting those efforts with a TV advertising campaign and presumably in-store signage.
Kendrick Motorsports, which, in conjunction with Great Clips, had Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr. driving movie-themed cars at the Texas Motor Speedway. This is just the latest partnership between WB/DC and Hendrick.
Orville Redenbacher’s, which offered a variety of actives and promotions, including an AR selfie tool and more.
Warner Bros. worked with IMAX on a virtual reality experience that would be available at theaters around the country. An augmented reality game was launched wherein Walmart shoppers could take pictures of themselves alongside characters from the movie when they found in-store displays and also play a game involving the Flying Fox, the team’s transport.
Both WB and DC ran social media ads on Twitter and Facebook that either included the trailers as they were released or encouraged people to visit the movie’s official website and “Join the League” for access to exclusive content and merchandise. Licensed product partner Mattel created a nifty version of the trailer involving stop-motion animation featuring action figures.
DC Comics took two additional moves to promote the movie, declaring November 18th to be “Justice League Day,” coordinating local events and giveaways and putting movie-themed variant covers on its November comics releases.
Media and Publicity
Outside of casting and other production news, the first big news cycle came as the result of a set visit by various members of the press. That brought lots of cast and crew interviews as well as details about who some actors were playing, who the villain of the story was going to be and the first official logo. It also brought with it plenty of confusion as there seemed to be conflicting stories as to whether there was going to be just one or, as originally announced, two Justice League movies.
Later on there was a new photo featuring Flash, Batman and Wonder Woman released along with some brief comments from Miller who talked about Flash’s role in the group dynamic. Another new photo came in an interview with Snyder about the story and characters. A small feature on Momoa called out his role as Aquaman as being part of the actor’s big breakout push.
Unfortunately some bad news came up back in May, when Snyder announced he was stepping away from the movie due to a family tragedy a couple months prior. WB kept things on track for the release date, though, by bringing in Joss Whedon to handle the rest of the additional filming that was planned as well as post-production. Helping make that a seamless transition was the fact that, as the story reveals, Snyder had already reached out to Whedon to help write additional scenes deemed to be missing from the initial production, so he was already in the Justice League mindset. Eventually that situation led to this movie being the latest to have its reshoot budget and schedule picked apart by the press for signs of trouble and other issues, including how much time and money was being spent digitally removing Cavill’s facial hair. No, I’m not kidding.
Costume displays, as well as consumer products, were shown at the annual Licensing Expo show. Another new still, this one featuring Flash, Batman and Wonder Woman, appeared in EW’s San Diego Comic-Con preview issue. Comic-Con also provided a venue for the studio to show off costumes from the movie as well as a full-size Batmobile.
The future of the movie was thrown into doubt with a story that appeared just the day before Warner Bros.’ big Hall H panel at San Diego Comic-Con. That story reported Affleck’s future as Batman was up in the air for various reasons relating to both the age of the actor, the physical demands of the role and more. It’s something Affleck had to spend no small amount of time rebutting, or at least addressing, saying he was happy to play Batman for as long as WB would let him.
In addition to their presence as part of Warner Bros. Hall H presentation, where the official trailer was shown, the cast showed up to sign autographs at the DC Comics booth on the show floor. It wasn’t all sunshine and roses, though, as the movie’s big San Diego stage was preceded by a story that cast Affleck’s future as Batman in doubt for various reasons. It’s something he wound up addressing and which took up some of the space that would ideally have been used on more positive angles.
EW’s fall movie preview issue showed off the first look at Batman’s big team transport The Flying Fox, which was also the subject of a later LA Times feature. It also had Affleck talking about how the film reflected the work of both directors and that the movie would show DC’s universe was really hitting its stride and more, as well as promising a more traditionally heroic version of The Dark Knight, not the rage-fueled character of BvS.
Later on an Empire Magazine cover story contained more first looks and other stories. More new photos and comments from the actors like this one focusing on Momoa continued to trickle out. There was also the fact that the movie introduced so many characters the general audience may not be completely familiar with.
In the last week or so before release, Affleck made the media rounds to talk about what both Snyder and Whedon brought to the project, his early near-brush with the world of Batman and more. Gadot also did her share, though in light of the conversations currently dominating Hollywood many of those appearances turned to her thoughts on sexual harassment. The rest of the cast put in the miles and time as well.
The theme of sexism, in general, came back up in a big way when Melissa Silverstein, among others, noticed the drastic difference in the warrior garb donned by the Amazons in this movie compared to what they wore in Wonder Woman. The addition of more bare mid-riffs and other exposed skin was quickly called out as being indicative of how women view women and how men view women.
More late-breaking controversy when, despite the fact that reviews had been posted already, it was announced the movie’s Rotten Tomatoes score would not be revealed until the day before it hit theaters. While that news was couched as being an incentive for people to tune into the first episode of the site’s new Facebook Live show, it raised the spectre of corporate control over information. That wasn’t a huge leap given how studios have stepped up their fight against Rotten Tomatoes, saying it’s poisoning fans against certain movies. Oh, and it’s owned by Warner Bros. So…yeah.
I’m hard-pressed to think of a campaign in recent memory that’s had so many unexpected twists and turns to it. To name a few:
Snyder’s replacement by Whedon for the final phases of production. While it’s understandable, it’s also very odd and unusual.
The continuing will he/won’t he conversations about Affleck’s future as Batman, a situation that’s changed with each new publicity cycle.
The impact Wonder Woman’s success had, which likely resulted in her becoming a much bigger part of a campaign that started well before that movie was released.
All that has made is kind of hard for the campaign, particularly the publicity element, to remain focused and on track. While Fisher, Miller and Momoa have kept up the theme of just having a good time and living the dream playing superheroes for a living, Affleck’s attempts at that same tone have come off as stilted and been undermined by the ever-changing narrative about his future. And let’s be honest, there hasn’t been a whole lot of Gadot here, which is surprising. So it’s been hard, at least from an outside observer’s point of view, for the publicity to get its footing for any length of time.
In the marketing components things have been a bit more consistent, but whether or not that’s a good thing is going to be in the eye of the beholder. All the trailers, while they sell different plot points, have been very similar in terms of tone and style, presenting a dark and violent action movie. Yes, there are certainly more laughs on display than in the marketing of BvS, but that’s not a high bar to clear. It seems as if no matter how much the studio may have wanted to change perceptions in the wake of Wonder Woman it was limited by the material available to work with.
In short it looks like another Zack Snyder movie, for good or ill. Lots of heavily-stylized characters and a story that’s only hinted at from time to time lest it take the focus off the special effects and action sequences.
It also can’t go without saying that the inconsistent approach to Superman’s presence in the story is somewhat laughable and almost amateurish. 95% of the official marketing materials keep him off-camera, but then he’s just standing there like it’s no big deal in the other 5%, as well as in all the imagery for the licensed products on store shelves. Adding to the disconnect is that the character’s absence is only mentioned once or twice in the campaign, so it’s not as if him being gone is clearly what’s motivated Batman and the others to rise up and join together. If you’re going to hide a character from the marketing, do so for a reason.
I can’t say I don’t like the campaign. I’m still a comics nerd, after all. But there are some real issues that weren’t addressed at all or, if they were, only made the message to the audience that much more muddled and somewhat confusing.
PICKING UP THE SPARE
Henry Cavill says what everyone else was thinking last year, that it was a ridiculous conceit to hide Superman in the movie’s marketing since not only was he on the publicity tour but *of course* the character was going to come back. Plus, he was on like 22% of the marketing materials anyway, especially the cross-promotional stuff.