Terminator: Dark Fate – Marketing Recap

You can read my entire recap of the marketing campaign for Terminator: Dark Fate at The Hollywood Reporter.

Online and Social

The lack of content on the movie’s official site exemplifies how little attention studios are paying to owned web properties in recent years. There are ample opportunities afforded by the Terminator franchise to offer interactive timelines, recaps of the story so far that include clips from (and links to purchase) the first two movies and much more. Only including a “Synopsis” and “Videos” section – there aren’t even stills – indicates no one cares about putting any effort into movie sites, despite their long-term advantages.

Media and Press

A bit later, while promoting other smaller movies, Davis spoke briefly about how this was the biggest production she’d worked on to date.

Just before SDCC kicked off, Miller was interviewed about how he approached making the movie and how he felt audiences would react to the characters and story. EW’s annual Comic-Con issue included comments from Hamilton about why she chose now to return to the character and what it was like to reunite with Schwarzenegger, Miller introducing the requisite new Terminator models,

At the same time the official trailer was released, a feature profile of Hamilton ran telling the story of how she abandoned Hollywood years ago, shortly after Hollywood abandoned her. Miller’s work in recruiting her to return to the series involved him making the case she would be alright getting back into the business. The biggest takeaway from the story is that the actress gives zero cares about what anyone else thinks and is unwilling to do anything by half measures.

Hamilton and Davis sat down for a joint interview where they talked about their admiration for each other and what it was like to work together. Schwarzenegger appeared on “Kimmel” to talk about the movie and returning once more to one of his most familiar characters. Hamilton also appeared on that show to talk about her long-awaited return to the series.


Picking Up the Spare

Lots more talk show appearances by the cast, with Hamilton, Davis and Reyes all showing up on “Kimmel.”

Additional profiles also popped of Hamilton, Davis, Reyes and Luna, while AMC was given an exclusive interview with Hamilton and Schwarzenegger.

Paramount’s extensive mural campaign was the subject of a featurette that showed where they were appearing and who the artists behind them were.

Dave & Buster’s launched “Terminator: Guardian of Fate,” a new VR experience featuring the voice of Hamilton and a story tying into the film.

Miller addressed the movie’s failure at the box office as well as the creative conflicts he had with Cameron and others during production and editing.

Alita: Battle Angel – Marketing Recap

You can read my full recap of the marketing campaign for Alita: Battle Angel at The Hollywood Reporter.

Online and Social

It’s surprising, though I’m not sure why, that a movie with such a deep mythology would get a website that acknowledges none of it. There’s just the very basic information you can find anywhere else online

Media and Publicity

A live-streamed Q&A with Cameron, Rodriguez and Salazar preceded the trailer and offered fans a bit more information about the movie.

A later interview with Salazar and Rodriguez reiterated how different the hero she plays is going to be.

While at NYCC, Rodriguez was interviewed about how he got involved and the kinds of expectations that came with the job.

Salazar finally got a profile of her own that focused on the unusual nature of her role in this movie and how she got it. Another hit similar topics as well as talking about her career so far. Connelly and Cameron went on to make a few late night and early morning appearances, as did others from the cast and crew. Cameron was interviewed about the story and morality of the character as she tries to move past her history as a warrior to be a better person. The issue of Latinx representation was also commented on by Salazar.

Waltz finally joined the publicity campaign with a profile that covered this movie as well as his previous work. Rodriguez was interviewed about his experience working with Cameron.


alita gif

Why Tear Down When You Can Build Up?

It’s interesting to me that director Martin Scorsese has chosen to take issue with sites like Rotten Tomatoes and CinemaScore (which later responded) recently. He has a point when he says they reinforce the idea that every movie can be assigned a quantitative score, something that devalues the artform in real ways. I actually kind of agree with that, as I do with his position on how films being lumped in as “content” alongside quirky YouTube videos and Tweets isn’t helping anything.

While the internet has been great in how it’s allowed a broad range of previously unheard voices to be shared, it *has* also demonstrably contributed to the degrading of expertise. The lack of gatekeepers deciding what should or shouldn’t be published means a lot of garbage makes it into the system that wouldn’t have 25 years ago.

It’s not just citizen journalists who are adding unwanted opinions to the mix, though. In a few recent cases it’s other filmmakers who have added some questionable takes to the conversation.

Most recently we have esteemed filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci offering his unsolicited (it seems) opinion on director Ridley Scott’s recasting of Kevin Spacey’s role in All the Money in the World. That decision, Bertolucci says, was horrific and one Scott should be ashamed of. It’s unclear why, but one can assume it’s because Bertolucci believes Scott should have stuck with his actor and not given in to the mob mentality. I don’t know about you but I’m shocked to see the director of Last Tango In Paris, which has come under fire recently due to comments from actress Maria Schneider, taking this position. (not really)

That all comes after director James Cameron has become notable over the last year for not only continuing to fail to produce any of the 18 Avatar sequels he’s promised but also for offering his thoughts on how Wonder Woman is a bad example for women, how 2001: A Space Odysseylacks emotional balls” and how there has to be something happening in sci-fi/fantasy other than Star Wars and super heroes.

I’m always interested in what other filmmakers think of movies both new and old, but to quote Ron Burgundy, maybe these guys should sit the couple plays out.

Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, of course. And again, there are some interesting thoughts here that can be discussed further. What I really just don’t care for, though, is someone criticizing the work of others in this way or dismissing fandom with the wave of a hand.

Put it this way: Contrast what Bertolucci (who has zero moral high ground to stand on when it comes to taking someone else to task on responsible filmmaking) and Cameron (who is in a position to do something about the inequity he sees regarding IP-based franchises but hasn’t) with the way the last year has seen Patty Jenkins, Taika Waititi, Ava DuVerny, Ryan Coogler, Jordan Peele, Rian Johnson and others all come out as each other’s biggest fans. All of these directors have been active on social media and in the press praising each other’s work and building each other up.

It’s not that there isn’t still a competitiveness or that they’re not making their own artistic decisions. It’s just that they realize this isn’t a zero sum game. If one of them succeeds in bringing in new fans and audiences, it’s good for all of them. They’re all out there hustling for their next gigs and making the most of the opportunities they’ve been given.

That’s much more encouraging to the audience that sees the interactions play out than the squabbling and backbiting some feel they’re entitled to engage in. It rewards fans and has the potential to turn people on to new things they otherwise might not have tried.

Filmmakers, actors and others need to be aware of how their opinions have the power to influence the moviegoing audience in a way that even peer or critic opinions don’t. It’s one thing for a CinemaScore review to weigh in negatively on a new film but a very different situation when it’s a giant of film. Not only do they kind of show their ignorance as to the state of the current marketplace and culture, but they do damage to the entire industry.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day – Flashback Marketing

Later this week Terminator 2: Judgement Day returns to select AMC Theaters locations, a re-release to mark and celebrate a new 4K 3D restoration of the film that was supervised by director James Cameron, taking time away from working on the seven Avatar sequels he’s planning. Unlike some other filmmakers, though, he’s done very little tweaking of the original, finding it sufficient to improve the master print as a way to make the film accessible on the big screen to a whole new generation of fans.

I’m old enough to remember the first theatrical release, though, and how controversial and notable it was that the film had a production budget of over $100 million, at the time an unheard of sum. Now $100 million is table stakes for anything above a title like The Big Sick. While I wasn’t a die hard fan of the 1984 original, I still stood in line for the sequel, not wanting to miss out on what was being hyped and discussed as the most essential film the summer of 1991 had to offer.

The movie picks up several years after the events of the original. Sarah Conner (Linda Hamilton) is in a psychiatric ward because of her insistence that the rise of the machines was coming and that humanity’s days were numbered. Because of her incarceration her son John (Edward Furlong), now 10, has bounced around the foster system and is kind of a punk. One day a Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) that’s identical to the one who hunted Sarah down 10 years prior shows up but this time its mission is to protect John from the T-1000 (Robert Patrick). That new, more advanced machine is made of a living, liquid metal that can take any form it wants and is even more unstoppable than the earlier model. Sarah and John, with the Terminator’s aid, try to find the man responsible for the creation of Skynet and get him to stop before he can build the AI that will cause nuclear annihilation on what in the future is known as Judgement Day.

At first it may not seem like there’s a lot going on with the theatrical poster. It doesn’t include any hints or copy that would allude to the story outlined above. It doesn’t feature anyone but Schwarzenegger, who sits astride a motorcycle while holding an imposing shotgun. The only copy here outside of the title, credits and release date is “It’s nothing personal,” which even with the advantage of hindsight doesn’t seem to be super-applicable to the story.

What the poster does convey, though, is the look. That cool, dark blue. The reflection of street lights off the leather jacket. The matte black of the gun. Those are all the key visual elements of the movie, particularly as the story moves toward its climax. Not only does it focus on the presence of the star, by then the biggest movie star in the world, but it also shares an essential color palate with the audience, setting up the expectation for the tone of the movie they’re being asked to see.

The trailer starts out by catching us up on what’s happening and setting the idea that the Terminator we saw from the first movie is back with a very different mission. We see the Terminator find and work to protect John Conner, the new machine the whole team is up against, the interplay between the Terminator and John and more. The narration over the action talks repeatedly about how the action is even bigger and more intense than before, promising at the end that “He’s back….for good.” which is a much better tagline than what’s on the poster.

It’s surprising how much of the story is actually shown in this trailer. You get a pretty good sense of what’s happening and why here, though the emphasis is certainly on the visual. Not just the action set pieces but the T-1000’s liquid transformations in particular. Those were the big draw, the subject of countless press stories at the time, held up as the next big leap forward in computer-aided visual effects.

That really presents a portion of the campaign that can’t adequately be captured here. Remember that this was only Cameron’s fourth major directorial outing, including the original Terminator. While his reputation was certainly well known, particularly in the sci-fi genre, he was still pretty green. So the focus was, at the time, on the special effects, which were pretty mind-blowing. This was still very much the early days of computer animation, with Toy Story still four years away and only 10 years removed from TRON and Star Trek II. So the innovations coming out of Cameron’s workshop were not only groundbreaking but also a substantial audience draw in and of themselves.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day would go on to enormous box office success, cementing Cameron’s place as a top-tier director (though he’d only helm three more movies over the years) and establishing The Terminator as a legitimate franchise, albeit one that’s had a few spotty subsequent entries without Cameron’s involvement. Still, this campaign stands as a testament to the power of selling the audience on a movie based on the presence of a familiar star and a continued story that was bigger and better than the original.