It’s Time For Movie Marketing To Zoom Zoom Zoom

Studios and others seize an opportunity to be part of the new work environment.

Everyone who can is working from home right now because they want to be part of the “flatten the curve” solution to the Covid-19 pandemic. At least those who are empathetic and cognizant of the role we all play in contributing to a functioning and healthy society are.

Few companies are benefiting more from that than video conferencing software Zoom, which has become a favorite among companies, schools and others. The company has seen user acquisition in 2020 already outpace all of 2019, despite the fact that Zoom has frequently – and recently – come under fire for being a privacy nightmare, sending user information to Facebook and others as well as being easily hacked.

Despite that, people have glommed onto it, likely because someone started using it and it just kind of caught on and in defiance of other less creepy options available. One of the first tips to be shared by this new wave of users was that profile backgrounds could be changed, leading to people replacing their unkempt bedrooms with the hallway from The Shining or something else fun.

Studios noticed all of that. Even with no releases hitting theaters anytime soon, there’s still advertising and marketing to be done. And so they’ve embraced Zoom.

Both Universal and Paramount have sought to capture some of this market, releasing Zoom-appropriate backgrounds to promote, respectively, Trolls: World Tour and Top Gun: Maverick.

DC Comics also got in on the fun, but as I pointed out on Twitter, the lack of Zoom background featuring Professor Zoom is a tragic and unforgivable oversight.

There are likely others as well.

Why This? Why Now?

As I stated already, this is an attempt to capture a unique moment in society and quite simply be where people are.

By offering these backgrounds, studios get what is essentially a peer recommendation between individuals. When Carl puts the Maverick background behind him, everyone who’s on the call with Carl takes it as him endorsing the film in some manner. It’s the equivalent of him (or anyone else) putting a movie-branded protective case on their phone or wearing a hat with the logo. So they are generating word of mouth.

It’s also, quite honestly, one of the few options available. People aren’t leaving the house as much as they used to so out-of-home advertising would be kind of a bust. And the entire online ad industry is in disarray as many companies pull back their budgets with tough financial times ahead or seek to place the ads they *are* running on “safe” material. The latter is such an issue media companies are asking advertisers to understand Covid-19 news stories aren’t going to damage their brand.

So it’s a great combination of buzzy and cheap with the potential to stick around for a while.

It’s good to see studios adapting to developments so quickly, but disappointing it’s for something with so many issues. Whatever the case, they’re doing what they can to seize the moment and insert themselves into the general conversation.

Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) – Marketing Recap

You can read my full recap of the marketing campaign for Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) at The Hollywood Reporter.

Online and Social

The key art from the theatrical poster is used on the splash page of the movie’s official website, which otherwise features mostly just the standard marketing content.

Media and Press

While there had been plenty of chatter from Robbie in particular ahead of this, the first major beat for the movie came when the cast of characters was revealed. That news was largely well-received, particularly in that it included Montoya, an openly-gay character. It was followed a bit later by the news Black Mask would be the villain of the story.

Winstead spoke about the training she was about to undergo to get in shape for the role shortly after news of her casting was announced, which landed as she was promoting All About Nina last year. A bit later Robbie revealed the movie’s full title, which was quite cumbersome but also pretty great, on Instagram. While promoting Mary Queen of Scots, Robbie spoke to how that title was meant to lighten up what otherwise might be more serious material.

Screenwriter Christina Hodson offered occasional updates as she was being interviewed while Bumblebee was in theaters.

Late January saw Robbie release first looks of Harley’s new look for the movie both as a photo and a video.

During the promotion for a new Netflix show, Winstead offered more thoughts on the tone of the film and its story. A profile of Robbie had her saying this movie’s version of Harley Quinn would be a bit toned down, with the male gaze removed from the director’s chair.

Her approach to playing Huntress and more was covered by Winstead while she was promoting Gemini Man.

In December Yan commented on the unexpected array of films she pulled inspiration from for this movie.

During the press cycle for Bombshell, Robbie was also interviewed about how she fell in love with the role of Harley Quinn while shooting the first Suicide Squad and how she wanted this movie to show a different side of the character.

That topic was central to a Variety cover story featuring the actor where she spoke about how she wanted Harley to evolve from that movie, especially with the addition of an all-female crew around her. She also spoke in her role as a producer on the film and how she teamed up with Yan and more.

An interview with Yan and Hodson had them talking about how they wanted to subvert many of the usual comic book tropes and take advantage of having a group of all-female anti-hero protagonists, all of whom had issues and messier personalities than might be commonly found in such movies. Yan also discussed how she got involved in the project to begin with and how she turned to director Patty Jenkins for advice on how to steer such a massive ship.

At the #Harleywood premiere late last month, the stars talked about how excited they were for people to see the movie, why the over-the-top violence was appropriate for the story and how the two main bad guys probably have some romantic feelings for each other. Recording artist Saweetioe was there too and talked about getting involved in the movie’s soundtrack.

The cast, often as a group, appeared on shows like “Good Morning America,” “The View” and others in the days before the movie hit theaters. McGregor also appeared on “The Tonight Show” and “Late Night.” Robbie also stopped by “The Tonight Show,” as did Winstead.

They also were featured on a Glamour cover story, while Smollett-Bell was interviewed on her own about what it was like to bring Black Canary to the big screen. Other interviews included Yah, Hodson and the cast talking about Harley’s journey and how they wanted to make the character work on her own. Winstead commented on the fun of having a mostly-female cast and crew as well and more.

Players of Fortnight could unlock an exclusive Harley Quinn skin.

More details on the new Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey comic from Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti here.

The movie’s costume designer was interviewed on pulling from various sources of inspiration from cartoons to movies in creating Harley’s costumes. How the story depicts violence against women and what the bad guy’s motivations are were part of this discussion with the cast.

What future there might be for a Harley/Poison Ivy partnership movie – one of the projects in development at one point – was speculated on by Yan. Winstead also commented on how she never questioned the idea that a comic action movie would have wide audience appeal.

Overall

Picking Up The Spare

Hodson spoke about the movie in general but that viral moment featuring a hair tie in a new interview.

Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti talk about their new “Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey” comic.

The curating of the movie’s soundtrack to match the movie’s theme of women seizing their moment is covered here.

AMC shared an exclusive conversation with some of the stars while IMAX had Yan encouraging audiences to check the movie out on the big big screen.

How that advance screening for DC Universe members went down was shared by DC.

Another interview with Yan had her commenting on how she wanted to make Harley more authentic and not as male-gaze-driven. She also went in-depth on a key action sequence from the film.

What training she did for the role of Cass Cain was the subject of an interview with Basco.

A new video promo for the movie’s star-studded soundtrack was released.

Shazam – Marketing Recap

My full recap of the marketing for Shazam! Is up at The Hollywood Reporter.

Online and Social

In addition to the usual trailers, synopsis and more the movie’s official website prominently features a “Shop” link at the top opening a section where you can buy apparel, action figures and more. There are also links to the official Instagram, Facebook and Twitter profiles.

Media and Publicity

There was all sorts of coverage before the movie ever went into production, mostly from Johnson as he tried to seemingly force it into existence by sheer force of will. Oddly, it was in this pre-production phase that reports circulated a Black Adam solo movie was being greenlit.

Just before San Diego Comic-Con 2017, DC’s Geoff Johns announced Johnson would not be appearing here but was still attached to a solo Black Adam story, explained here, that was yet to be officially announced. Several months later Levi was announced as the titular hero, at least in his adult form.

For the second year in a row a major story hit in advance of Comic-Con. In early July of last year a first-look at Levi in costume as the hero was released along with comments from director David Sandberg about how that costume was designed and more. A second photo came out shortly thereafter. EW also put Levi, in costume, on the cover of its special Comic-Con issue, which included the first photo of a young Billy Batson and comments from the producer on the hero’s potential crossovers with other characters.

In early December Johns was interviewed about both the movie and the Shazam comic series that launched at that time, as well as his general love of the character and how he’s excited to see it back in the spotlight. Around the same time Levi, while promoting another project, also spoke about the tone of the film as well as his work to bulk up for the role and offered his thoughts on a Shazam/Black Adam fight. Another interview with him allowed the actor to talk about his long love of comics.

A big interview with Levi and other members of the cast talked about their experiences bringing the hero to life and making the story so much fun. Sandberg also spoke about the process that went into Levi’s casting while the actor told some funny stories when he appeared on “The Late Show.”

IMAX released one more promotional video with Levi and Angel encouraging people to see it in that format.

Overall

shazam gifPicking Up the Spare

The hero is getting his own DLC for the LEGO DC Super-Villains game.

Levi continued to be interviewed about taking on a super hero role and more.

Aquaman – Marketing Recap

Recapping Warner Bros.’ marketing campaign for AQUAMAN.

aquaman poster 11Let’s state facts at the outset: This week’s release of Aquaman is merely a holding action by DC/Warner Bros. to distract fans from continuing to demand they make public The Snyder Cut of last year’s Justice League.

OK, not really. But it is hitting theaters in the hope that audiences and critics find it more palatable than that muddled mess of a movie, adhering closer to the quality of Wonder Woman. Once more Jason Momoa takes on the role of Aquaman/Arthur Curry, the son of a human lighthouse keeper (Temuera Morrison) and the Queen of Atlantis (Nicole Kidman).

Raised on land, Arthur teams up with Mera (Amber Heard) to unlock the secrets of the long-vanished kingdom and stop the threat posed by his half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson). That also means Arthur is asked to embrace his destiny as the rightful ruler as well as a hero of the seas.

The Posters

aquaman posterThe first poster, released just before San Diego Comic-Con 2018, shows Aquaman perched on an underwater reef looking serious and determined as sharks, whales and various other creatures swim behind him. The copypoint “Home is calling” at the top provides some clues as to the story and what the hero will be searching for in the movie. Author Chuck Wendig didn’t care for that tagline, though, and offered some suggestions of his own.

It’s notable how bright and colorful the poster is, a stark contrast from the one-sheets for Justice League and some of the other DCEU movies. Warner Bros. clearly wants to create a distinct visual identity for the movie that’s not as dark and grim as some of the previous films have been.

That same colorful approach was taken on the promotional poster handed out at San Diego Comic-Con 2018, which shows Aquaman out in front of all the other characters, Orn and Black Manta looming over everyone in the back of the group.

“A tide is coming” we’re told on the next bit of promotional art, which shows a gloved hand being raised out of the water while clutching a trident.

Each character got their own turn in the spotlight courtesy of a series of posters in early November that featured their name and a good look at their costumes. Two more were released shortly thereafter, one with both Aquaman and Mera and the other with just Aquaman where he strikes a pose similar to that seen at the end of the Comic-Con trailer from a few months prior.

There were two IMAX posters created, one showing Aquaman posing with trident in hand as sea creatures swim around him and one simply showing his hand grasping his trident. Both sell audiences on the promise of seeing even more of the picture by seeing it in that format.

The Trailers

The first trailer, which debuted at Comic-Con earlier this year, starts out with a simple explanation as to Aquaman’s origins as the son of both the land and sea. There’s a scene of him as a kid being teased about how he’s talking to the fish before we get to modern day. Mera shows up and explains he has to return to Atlantis to stop his brother from launching a war against the surface world, something he’s reluctant to do. Things get increasingly dramatic from there until we’re shown a massive underwater battle involving war sharks and other creatures.

Momoa really seems to be enjoying the space he’s finally given to expand on the character significantly and it’s great to see Heard’s Mera has what seems to be a significant role in the story. There’s not much about Black Manta, though. Generally this is showing off a fun, action-packed movie that stands in stark contrast to some previous DC releases.

An extended first look video was released around the time of New York Comic Con in October that offers a much fuller picture of the movie and its story. Arthur and Mera are on a quest to find the secrets of Atlantis (which helps establish that this takes place before Justice League) while Orm has been maintaining control of the city, planning to wage war against the surface world. The centerpiece of the video is a rooftop chase sequence involving Black Manta, though the real treat for comics fans is seeing the movie borrows elements from new of Geoff Johns’ comics story arcs. Also serving as a highlight is Aquaman standing at the end of the video in his classic orange and green costume, established by Johns as being the outfit of a king.

The final trailer from just before Thanksgiving focuses on Arthur’s history and how he’s been preparing for his role as king and hero his whole life, but now he needs to find the ancient trident of his ancestors in order to truly claim the throne.

A week later a “fan reaction” video was released that showed how people online were responding to the trailer.

Online and Social

The movie’s official website is primarily concerned with getting you to buy advance tickets, at least on the splash page.

Moving to the content menu at the top of the page, the “Videos” section has a collection of the trailers, featurettes and other promotional spots that have been released over the last few months. After that is the “About” section with a quick recap of the story followed by posters and more in the “Gallery.”

Commerce is the focus of the next few sections, beginning with the “Shop” where you can by action figures, apparel and more. “Partners” has links to the companies who have signed on to help cross-promote the movie.

Finally, aside from the links to the movie’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram profiles, there’s a side-scrolling game allowing you to play as Aquaman and navigate the dangers of the deep sea.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

As part of the movie’s presence at San Diego Comic-Con 2018, DC Collectibles announced and revealed a whole series of statues of the title character, Mera and Black Manta. DC also helped out by putting movie-themed variant covers on a big Aquaman/Justice League crossover story that hit shelves beginning in late October.

TV spots began running in mid-October with a commercial that poked a little fun at the title character while also setting him up as the fish-man who would be king. Mera’s efforts to recruit Arthur – and his reluctance to embrace his destiny – were conveyed in a spot from early November.

Outdoor ads featured Aquaman rising out of the sea in some manner or another.

aquaman billboard

When tickets went on sale Fandango offered those people making purchases through its service five free digital Aquaman comics, including a mix of classic and newer issues to introduce new fans to the character’s history. The site later reported that first day ticket sales outpaced those of both Venom and Mission: Impossible – Fallout, both of which went on to box-office success.

Amazon gave Prime members the chance to buy tickets to screenings at select theaters almost a week prior to release, the better to seed word of mouth for the official release date. The number of theaters participating was expanded shortly thereafter to meet resulting demand. Those screenings ultimately netted about $3 million.

Over the weekend following Thanksgiving Warner Bros. took over The Grove in Los Angeles with an immersive experience recreating the grandeur of Atlantis. Fans visiting the activation could not only interact with a waterfall effect that revealed scenes from the movie and have their picture taken for sharing on social media.

Momoa appeared in a promotional video for the movie-themed DLC for the LEGO DC Super-Villains game coming out around the same time as the film. A bit later Wan offered a behind-the-scenes interview that ended with promotions for Sideshow Collectibles figures based on the look of the movie and characters.

DC Universe, the OTT service devoted exclusively to DC properties and characters, offered a sweepstakes giving the winner a replica of Aquaman’s trident from the movie signed by the cast. Warner Bros. also put costumes from the movie on display on its Hollywood studio tour.

Promotional partners included:

  • Various locations of Atlantis hotels and resorts
  • Carhartt, which slapped the Aquaman symbol and name on a cold weather hat meant for those working or playing outdoors
  • Cold Stone Creamery, which created a movie-branded blue velvet sundae served in a cup sporting the movie’s key art
  • Padi, which made Aquaman part of a recent contest giving the winner a movie-branded PS4 console and pointing out how much divers are like a real life Aquaman.
  • Pinkberry, which created its own themed frozen concoction that accompanied a sweepstakes giving people the chance to win a hometown screening of the movie.
  • Oceana, which used the movie to encourage people to join its fight to clean up and protect the oceans, an effort that included a PSA featuring Patrick Wilson.
  • Visa Signature, which ran a sweepstakes tied to the movie.
  • Roblox, which offered a handful of prizes that could be won by completing games created by the company. That effort was promoted with a video featuring both Momoa and Heard.

About a week prior to release, WaterTower Records dropped “Ocean to Ocean,” a new song from Pitbull and Rhea that, to the dismay of God and everyone, is essentially a nightclub cover of Toto’s “Africa.”

Media and Publicity

While everyone was talking about Aquaman in the wake of his cameo in Batman v Superman, director Wan kept things going with comments about how he wanted to bring a fun tone to the character and movie. He also talked about how he was taking the character very seriously and not leaning into the jokes about him.

Not only was Aquaman a big part of the Justice League footage that debuted at San Diego Comic-Con in 2016 but director James Wan had a chance to talk about how he was going to bring his own unique touch of horror to the story in the hero’s solo movie. Always, because the press is insatiable, Momoa would talk about the movie while he was meant to be promoting other projects. Even Kidman was asked occasionally about her decision to join the movie, which she summed up by basically saying the director is also Australian so why not?

A small feature on Momoa called out his role as Aquaman as being part of the actor’s big breakout push. The character was a big part of WB’s 2017 Comic-Con news not only for his role in Justice League but also because the crowd in Hall H got a first look at footage from Aquaman’s solo outing. Wan later talked about the troubles he was having with the whole “most of this happens in or around water” thing, which presented quite the technical challenge.

Just as the publicity for Justice League was winding down the first official still for this movie was released, partly to capitalize on how Aquaman was frequently identified as one of the best parts of the team story. Shortly after that Wan dispelled some of the rumors that had been circulating online regarding the number of villains the movie would have, though there was some hedging in there a bit.

He eventually revealed the trailer would finally debut at San Diego Comic-Con 2018, a full year after the first footage was shown. As part of what seemed to be a substantial presence at the show for the movie, Funko revealed a convention-exclusive POP! figure of the director. It was also one of the WB movies whose title and key art were featured on the swag bags given out to attendees.

The next we heard about the movie was again Wan putting some speculation to rest, this time insisting the lack of a trailer in mid-March wasn’t because of problems with the movie, just his own perfectionism at play as he didn’t want anything less than stellar being released. Wan di, though, bring a bit of footage to WB’s CinemaCon presentation to show it off to exhibitors and press. A trailer was reportedly shown at CineEurope.

Before that trailer was officially released the movie’s producers and writers were interviewed to assure the public that the movie was still coming out and that it would be a big, fun spectacle of a story, not dour and depressing like some of the other DCEU films. That was part of a cover package on the film that included first looks at Black Manta, Orm, Queen Atlanna and more. Notably included in that package was an interview with producer Toby Emmerich about the tone and style of this movie and how it reflected a shift in the DCEU. Heard was also interviewed about how she wanted to make her character more than one-dimensional.

EW offered the first look at Fisherman King in advance of SDCC 2018 as well as a giant sea monster from the movie and an interview with Momoa about how his job was just to make sure the character came off as cool. Momoa kept talking elsewhere about what he wanted to do with the character now that he finally had his own movie to really explore things.

A couple different interviews with Wan allowed him to talk about the various challenges and opportunities involved in making the film what it was like trying to work within the DCEU. He also clarified there would not be appearances by other members of the Justice League.

A big press event allowed Wan to further explain what had influenced him, what kind of tone he was hoping to strike with the movie and more.

A featurette released in mid-November had Wan talking about how the focus remains on the characters despite the big set pieces and action, with the cast also sharing how they fell in love with the story. It also showed just how big some of that action will be, selling audiences on the scale as well as the look and feel of the film.

Heard finally got a chance at the mic with an interview detailing how she was skeptical about how she was approached for the role. In a shot across the bow of another release, it was later revealed Julie Andrews had a voice role in this movie, a role the movie’s writers discussed more later.

A conversation with Heard and Momoa discussing the difficulties their costumes presented.

Momoa was named one of the recent hosts of “Saturday Night Live” on an episode to coincide with the release of the movie. A few weeks before that in early December the actor made a surprise appearance in New York City, first wielding a trident in Times Square and then showing up to the delight of an early screening audience. Additional appearances by the whole cast at early screenings were captured in a promotional video showing how hyped those fans were.

Wilson was interviewed on “The Late Show” to talk about the movie and his physical preparation for such an action-intensive role. A bit after that Momoa appeared on “The Tonight Show” to talk about the movie and show off his trident-throwing skills, with Heard making an appearance shortly after that to talk about Momoa’s on-set antics.

THR profiled Heard on a variety of subjects, including her role in the movie. She also appeared on “Good Morning America.” Around the same time two profiles of Kidman were run in The Los Angeles Times, one showcasing the multiple films she’s been in this year and one including Wan among the directors who have worked with her on those films touting her abilities.

In the last few days before release Wan was interviewed a number of times about how he wanted to do something new and different with the super hero genre and how he should bare the brunt of criticism if it doesn’t work for people. The whole cast spoke about the movie at its premiere while another profile of Wilson allowed him to share his experiences during filming and more.

Overall

Warner Bros. has focused its marketing of the movie on this year’s major comics conventions, seemingly aware that by effectively reaching that crowd of hardcore fans it can potentially avoid the kind of poor word of mouth that has plagued other DC-based movies, particularly last year’s misfire.

Not only have those conventions been the venue where major trailers were released but the campaign as whole has embraced and tried to showcase the character’s backstory and history. Hardcore fans should be pleased to see those elements on display while their use in the trailers and other elements provides an on-ramp for those only casually familiar with Aquaman, or who know him only as a pop culture punchline.

The studio also seems to understand that Momoa’s larger-than-life personality is a strong selling point and so, with him in the lead role, it seized the opportunity to put him front and center, leading traditional haka dances and generally selling the movie by sheer force of will.

Picking Up the Spare

Dafoe finally got in the publicity game with an appearance on “The Tonight Show” to talk about the ridiculousness of the filming process.

Wan talked more about not feeling beholden to dropping hints about other DC movies or referencing what came before but just making his own story. And Wilson shares more about his workout routine for movie.

More details on the Roblox cross-promotion here.

Celebrate the Minifig’s 40th Anniversary With These LEGO Movie Posters

Given how pervasive LEGO construction sets based on movies have become, it might be hard to believe the first ones appeared less than 20 years, one of the tie-ins promoting Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. Over the subsequent two decades there have been plenty of other partnerships for franchises including Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, Jurassic World and more.

Since 2012 The LEGO Group has kicked up their film marketing activities significantly, producing officially-sanctioned posters for a handful of movies – usually the same ones they’ve created toy sets for – that have gotten lots of attention and helped both sides of the partnership.

In general, these alternate versions are recreations of a movie’s theatrical or teaser poster, taking the same layout and arrangement and simply replacing the human actors with minifigs and the ships or buildings with their LEGO equivalents. The results are often charming and playful where the originals may seem more serious and dour.

In the six-plus years LEGO has been producing these posters it’s focused primarily on a handful of key franchises with broad audience awareness and passionate fanbases that are likely to be interested in these kinds of variants, sometimes available exclusively as promotional swag at San Diego Comic-Con or other events.

To celebrate last week’s 40th anniversary of the LEGO minifig, let’s look at the times when minifig versions of movie characters have graced posters for some of Hollywood’s highest-profile releases.

Marvel Cinematic Universe

Beginning with 2012’s The Avengers, LEGO has produced poster variants for many Marvel Studios releases. Those include Iron Man 3, Thor: Ragnarok, Avengers: Infinity War, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Black Panther and Ant-Man.

Star Wars

force awakens lego posterNo movie series is perhaps more closely associated with LEGO than Star Wars. It was, as mentioned above, the first licensed franchise the company got involved with and kicked off a 20 year relationship.

It wasn’t until 2015, though, that LEGO Group started producing themed posters for the franchise. That started with bricked versions of the one-sheets for the Original and Prequel Trilogy films. Specifically, the theatrical posters for the Prequels were recreated while it was the Special Edition versions of the OT movies that were updated. Of course that was all part of the build up for The Force Awakens, which got its own LEGO poster later in the year.

Since then each new Star Wars movie has received LEGO promotional posters. That includes Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Star Wars: The Last Jedi – for which there both theatrical and character posters – and Solo: A Star Wars Story.

DC Comics

Putting aside the fact that much of the marketing for 2014’s The LEGO Movie and 2017’s The LEGO Batman Movie was focused around selling LEGO-ized versions of the Dark Knight, the toy company has provided support for the more…serious…cinematic takes on DC’s stable of heroes.

There were LEGO versions of the character posters for 2015’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice came out as well as for 2017’s Justice League and that same year’s Wonder Woman.

batman v superman lego

Apple even got in on the fun, putting out LEGO recreations of the posters for the first four Batman movies – the ones released between 1989 and 1997 – to help promote the home video debut of The LEGO Batman Movie.

LEGO’s promotional activities for these and other movies doesn’t end at the occasional poster, of course. This year saw a life-size LEGO recreation of the Millennium Falcon cockpit from Solo at San Diego Comic-Con. The annual convention also frequently features full-size sculptures of heroes and villains from that year’s big super hero movie, including Thanos, Wonder Woman, Captain America and others. SDCC attendees can also usually buy exclusive movie-tie in sets at the company’s booth.

There was also an official LEGO version of the Solo trailer released earlier this year as part of the hype cycle for that movie and a minifig recreation of the first promotional photo for Rogue One. On social media LEGO also has some fun with its preferred franchise partners, sharing a GIF from Spider-Man: Homecoming, reacting to the trailer for the new Fantastic Beasts movie and more.

So here’s to 40 years of the ubiquitous minifig. You’ve been stepped on in the middle of the night by many a barefooted parent, but you’ve also provided some fun movie marketing moments.

Marvel Sells Characters, DC Sells Heroes

A new study, reported by Adweek, breaks down a key difference in the movies being released based on Marvel Comics characters and those from DC: Audiences immediately, when the trailers are released, connect with Marvel characters on an emotional level they just don’t with DC characters. Here’s the key graf:

ZappiStore says the data shows the DC trailers received a positive response from their special effects and explosive action, rather than from their characters. However, fans show a strong affinity toward Marvel’s superheroes and react positively toward its trailers’ humor, driving the higher levels of emotional engagement with its trailers.

What’s interesting about the results of the study is that this sounds so familiar. If you’re at all aware of the history of Marvel Comics, you’ll know that Stan Lee (and plenty of others, including Jack Kirby) set out to create characters that were very different than the heroes published by DC Comics at the time. Those heroes – Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Shazam, Hawkman and others – were seen as being too godlike to be relatable. They were a kind of new Roman Pantheon, great and powerful beings who could do anything, without the kinds of real-world issues and personalities people could easily relate to.

Continue reading “Marvel Sells Characters, DC Sells Heroes”

How He Got Those Scars: DC/WB Prep Joker Origin Film

A bit of news that came out of the blue yesterday: Warner Bros. and DC Comics are reportedly actively working on a solo Joker movie that would focus on his origin. The movie is said to be directed by Todd Phillips, he of The Hangover and Old School, and Martin Scorsese might be interested in producing. The story says it will be released under a new banner that seems to mark it as what amounts to Elseworlds to the main DC/WB Justice League universe, allowing for original stories that don’t need to tie into the main cinematic continuity.

OK…that’s a lot to digest. So let’s try to break it down into a few points that I can more specifically disagree with.

Scorsese?

This one just doesn’t track for me. The director has shown no indications or inclinations toward being interested in comic book properties before so producing on a movie that seems as inessential as this just makes almost no sense in my head. I don’t have a problem with this, it’s just the most incomprehensible of the many incomprehensible elements of this story.

Todd Phillips

I’ve liked some of the director’s movies, but he’s not exactly a great one at action sequences, something a Joker movie would almost certainly have plenty of. He has a long history with Warner Bros., which is likely why he got the call when this project came in, but he’s not my first choice.

The Elseworlds Banner

This makes the most sense to some extent, but it also bucks what DC/WB publicly tried to in the wake of Man of Steel, which is create a unified cinematic universe. While this strategy makes a lot of sense with comics, where creators can come in and tell one-off stories that don’t impact the core universe at all, the stakes for films are a bit higher. What happens if this movie is successful? Will there be a sequel? What about spin-offs? How far will things go before there are competing cinematic universes?

The Origins of The Joker

Here’s where I have some very real issues, where things move from “chin-scratching” to “oh heck no.”

I realize that The Joker’s origin has been told in various ways at various times and in various media. “Batman: Year One” included the early days of the low-level criminal that would go on to become Joker. 1989’s Batman gave him a name and showed how Batman himself was responsible for his creating his enemy. Other comics have at other times provided hints and clues as to his origin. But in the last 20 years at least the edict seems to be to keep the real story (if there is one) under wraps.

That’s most clearly shown in 2008’s The Dark Knight, with Heath Ledger as Joker. On two separate occasions he tells the people he’s terrorizing what terrible events of his past lead to him breaking down and taking up a life of crime. But those two retellings are contradictory and it’s likely an aborted third attempt late in the movie would have contained a wholly different version. The very point, one of the key parts of the movie that made the character so dangerous and compelling, was that he was sowing confusion for its own sake. Did he even know the truth? Did it matter?

Inevitably a story that purports to give The Joker’s true origin story is going to do two things: 1) It’s going to be more dark than fun, focusing on the psychosis of the character, 2) It’s going to explain away or rationalize his violence and sociopathy. It’s that last point that I’m most concerned about. We don’t need an Explaining Hitler for The Joker. It’s OK for the bad guy to be the bad guy without casting him as a sympathetic, misunderstood character who’s just doing what *he* feels is right.

I’m sure whatever the final product here looks like it will be fine. This isn’t me flying into a nerd rage and announcing a boycott of the movie. I just think this is the least essential that could be told. It’s indicative, though, of how DC/WB defaults back to the Batman universe whenever possible, even after Wonder Woman was such a critical hit as well as box-office powerhouse.