French Exit – Marketing Recap

How Sony Pictures Classics has sold a movie about falling from the 1 percent.

“Schitt’s Creek” became a TV sensation for a number of reasons, including its heartwarming story of a family that finds itself suddenly losing its fortune and having to do without in new surroundings. French Exit, now out nationwide after a limited release in mid-February, covers similar ground but in a slightly different setting.

Michelle Pfieffer stars as Frances Price, a Manhattan socialite who has led a comfortable lifestyle thanks to the sizable inheritance from her late husband Franklin (Tracy Letts). When she finds that the money she’s counted on has been almost completely exhausted, she decides to move from New York to Paris with her son Malcolm (Lucas Hedges). The two try to make a new life there in an apartment borrowed from a friend, with new acquaintances, experiences and more coming along the way.

The studio’s campaign has focused on Pfeiffer (never a bad idea) and sold a family drama about finding a new way after what’s familiar disappears.

The Posters

Frances and Malcolm – as well as their cat that may or may not be the reincarnation of the late Franklin – are shown on the one and only poster, released in December. The two/three are sitting in the back of a town car, but what they’re doing there is unclear as there’s no other context given, including a lack of copy or tagline. Instead most of the poster’s real estate is devoted to pull quotes from positive reviews, largely coming out of festivals and other screenings, to help make the case to the audience.

The Trailers

Frances is being informed, as the first trailer (861k views on YouTube) from early December opens, that the money she inherited and has been living on has run out. When a friend offers her an empty apartment in Paris she takes her grown adult son with her and moves across the ocean. That offers Frances plenty of new opportunities to create uncomfortable situations, be rude (either intentionally or unintentionally) to new acquaintances and otherwise continue on with her odd and unusual life.

Online and Social

The movie’s official website has the basic marketing materials, including trailers and a synopsis, but it’s mostly about selling tickets. Sony Classics’ page for the film has that as well as a gallery of stills.

Advertising and Promotions

Sony Pictures Classics acquired the film in September of 2019. About a year later, in August 2020, it was announced the movie would close the New York Film Festival, which was going to be structured differently because of the Covid-19 pandemic. That NYFF screening was followed by a number of positive reviews, especially for Pfeiffer’s performance.

The first official clip, released in early February, shows the moment Frances finds out she’s broke.

Commercials like this were used online as well as presumably as TV spots.

Media and Press

An interview with Pfieffer and Hess had them talking about getting involved with the film, how they worked with Jacobs and more during NYFF. Pfieffer again talked about being given the opportunity to get weird in her performance.

A later interview with Pfieffer had her talking about how she approached playing her character and working with Hedges. Similar ground was covered in another conversation that also reflected on her place among Hollywood royalty.

Pfieffer talked about shooting the film in France when she appeared on “Kimmel” in January and about her trepidation in taking on the role when she appeared on “Late Night.” Hedges later appeared on “Kimmel” as well.

She and Hedges were interviewed jointly about working together and shooting in Paris and Pfieffer spoke about her career in general and how this film fits into that here.

Overall

Two important points come to me when reviewing the campaign from top to bottom.

First, It’s surprising in some regards that the marketing effectively ended (save for a few additional social media updates from SPC) in mid-February, when the movie’s limited release began. That leaves a long time for people to think about other movies, but given how the press has been dominated by bigger releases, the studio may have been banking on all the oxygen in the room being taken up. And it doesn’t seem it’s making a big awards push, or there would have been more.

Second, this feels like another step in the revitalization of Pfeiffer, a process that began a few years ago with mother!. And I for one am here for it.

Michelle Pfeiffer Mother Movie GIF by mother! - Find & Share on GIPHY

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil – Marketing Recap

The fairy tale sequel is tracking for a $50 million opening weekend.

maleficent 2 poster 4Angelina Jolie returns in the title role of this week’s Maleficent: Mistress of Evil. The Disney release is a sequel to the 2014 original that had her playing the Sleeping Beauty villain in her early, more sympathetic years.

The new movie picks up five years after the events of the first movie. Maleficent has been acting as the protector of Aurora (Elle Fanning) as well as the kingdom her family rules over. An uneasy truce between humans and fairies, which Maleficent leads, is tested when Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson) proposes marriage to Aurora and Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfieffer) sees it as an opportunity to cause further division.

It’s part of Disney’s trend of breathing new life into classic animated characters by adapting them into live-action, albeit with the twist here that the focus is on the antagonist. That’s something the studio will revisit with next year’s Cruella.

For now, though, the popularity of the original film necessitated a sequel and Disney was happy to oblige. The marketing for the second installment has been full-throated, but the message has been shallow, hoping that sheer spectacle will make up for what seem to be crudely-constructed characters whose motivations remain unclear.

The Posters

The teaser poster (by marketing agency BOND) released in early March offered the first real good look at the movie, showing Jolie as the title character bathed in darkness and looking more than a little evil.

Two months later a triptych was released with Maleficent in the middle while Queen Ingrith and Princess Aurora flank her, each set against a background that’s in keeping with the character. Individual posters breaking out each character were released shortly thereafter.

maleficent 2 poster 2

Another widescreen promotional image was released when the movie was being touted at D23 in August.

maleficent 2 poster 3

In August the theatrical poster was released showing Maleficent looming in the background while all the other characters are off to the side. More character posters (by marketing agency eclipse) followed later in the month offering closer looks at Aurora, Ingrith and Conall.

It’s a very dark, fairy tale image used on the IMAX poster, with Maleficent spreading her wings to their full terrifying breadth as thorny vines spread all around her, a green ring’s glow providing the only source of light. Similarly, the RealD 3D poster has her hovering in the sky as feathers fly from her wings. The Dolby Cinemas poster looks almost like a Rorschach drawing, with Maleficent’s face and headdress appearing as light, feathery, detailed brushstrokes.

The Trailers

The first teaser (6.1 million views on YouTube)from mid-March promises “this is no fairy tale” as we see Maleficent threatening royalty and causing all sorts of other chaos. Her motivations are unclear and not much of the story is offered to viewers as this is all about promising the character is returning and looks fabulous in her various costumes.

There’s more of the story in the second trailer (11.8 million views on YouTube) from early July as we see Aurora has grown and is engaged to be married. That news is going to ruin Maleficent’s morning. Even worse, Queen Ingrith has decided this is the moment to reclaim motherhood of Aurora, prompting Maleficent to declare the wedding will not happen. So begins a battle between the two women for Aurora’s soul and future, one filled with all the creatures and settings you’d expect to find in a fairy tale land.

Online and Social

In addition to trailers and a story synopsis, Disney’s official website for the film has some character descriptions but not much else. I’m surprised to find there aren’t a number of promotional partners listed here.

A movie-themed collection of stickers could be accessed by iMessage users to add some zing to their messages.

Users of the site/app PicsArt could add their own photo and enhance it with Maleficent’s headdress and other paraphernalia, the finished product then available to share with others.

Advertising and Publicity

The first waves for the movie were made when the expanded cast list was confirmed by the cast themselves via social media. Months later in April Disney shared footage from the movie as part of its CinemaCon pitch to exhibitors, promising a spooky story for audiences to enjoy.

A more audience-centric appeal was taken at Essence Fest in early July as a photo booth featuring images from the movie was part of the studio’s presence at that convention.

Early August brought the first TV spot, which shows the kind of fairy tale action and drama audiences can expect from the film.

Later that month the movie was part of Disney’s D23 Fan Expo, with Jolie appearing on stage along with the rest of the cast to promote the film to attendees. Costumes from the movie were on display on the show floor.

Disneyland hosted a sneak preview of the film for guests at the part, with Fanning stopping by to give fans a treat in late September.

Jolie was praised by her costars in a short featurette released in early September that emphasized how incredibly she inhabits the role. Another featurette focused on how time had passed in the story and where all the characters are when we see them again.

Disney released a “Back in Black” time lapse video of Jolie having her makeup applied. The event of advance tickets going on sale was marked with a new TV spot promising the return of everyone’s favorite villain. That was followed by a longer commercial that showed off more of the characters and conflict from the movie. Additional commercials hit similar themes, showing the dark nature of the story and the fantasy-based action it contains.

A new song for the film’s soundtrack was released by Bebe Rexha in mid-September. The official video came out a month or so later.

Promotional partners for the movie include:

  • Kohler, which ran co-branded commercials promoting its high-tech mirrors that come equipped with voice controls, something that’s very on-brand for the movie’s subject matter.

The first clip was released by Disney in late December showing Maleficent confronting the King and Queen about problems in the woods.

Disney shared footage from the movie’s premiere in early October that showed all the cast and others in attendance. That came along with a brief video showing Jolie getting ready for that premiere.

Beginning earlier this month Disney released videos from the movie’s worldwide premiere events, including Japan, Rome, Tokyo and London. There was also a stop in Moscow. A short sizzle reel recapping all those and other global stops came out days before release.

Additional TV and online video spots hit various aspects of the story, always coming back to the visuals of Maleficent exercising her full power to threaten the humans she’s been betrayed by. An extended “Special Look” came out just days before the movie came to theaters that promised audiences a story that may not have a happy ending for all involved.

An LA building wall was transformed into a movie mural thanks to a local artist.

The three leads sat down for a conversation about the story and characters, agreeing that Maleficent isn’t actually evil, just wild and a little misunderstood.

A partnership with YouTube influencer Promise Phan promoted the availability of an augmented reality tool allowing people to add effects that transformed themselves into the title character.

Media and Promotions

In August Jolie wrote an essay on the issue of women’s rights and gender equality that was part of a cover story she was featured in.

A feature on Fanning focused on her fashion choices and how she’s become more comfortable with expressing herself through clothes and more.

The members of the cast showed up on various morning and late night talk shows to promote the film.

Overall

Jolie is being positioned here as an almost Beyonce-like figure, someone who immediately dominates any room she enters by virtue of her strange, otherworldly energy. That’s the message conveyed by the videos shared from D23 and the global premieres, including all those spots showing her putting on makeup and preparing for those events. It’s one that’s in line with the character she plays, someone who literally descends from the heavens to inspire or terrify those around her.

But that’s the only message the campaign really has for audiences. The story itself is never more than hinted at or alluded to in the trailers or TV spots. And the interviews with the cast include lots of discussion about how Maleficent isn’t bad, she’s just acting within the confines of her nature when she threatens humanity, making it clear it was humanity that betrayed her first.

In that regard it’s much like many of the other recent campaigns from Disney for their various franchises. It knows the story isn’t what will convince people to pop for IMAX tickets, so it just shows larger-than-life characters in large-scale set pieces to act as the primary value proposition.

Picking Up the Spare

The movie’s costuming and makeup work was the subject of this profile. Meanwhile, the film’s director talked about specific inspirational sources he drew from.

Another fun little video with Pfeiffer and Fanning answering fan questions.

Ant-Man and the Wasp – Marketing Recap

ant man and the wasp posteI don’t hit this point very hard in my Hollywood Reporter recap of the marketing campaign for Ant-Man and The Wasp, but it’s important to remember that the first Ant-Man in 2015 shouldn’t have been, and wasn’t expected to be, a box-office hit.

While the character has a long and rich history over 50+ years of comics stories, the name is kind of silly, a product of the 1960s when push-button technology was just starting to break out of the realm of science fiction. So trying to make a big-screen action adventure starring him was a gamble, not to mention how the casting of Paul Rudd in the title role very clearly identified the movie as a comedy, something that was still unproven despite the success of Guardians of the Galaxy the year before.

Also working against that first movie was the behind-the-scenes drama, namely the last-minute exit of writer/director Edgar Wright, who’d been involved in developing the movie for years only to leave just before production started citing disagreement with the studio on the tone and vision. That’s the kind of thing that has scuttled other movies, putting a persistent cloud over the release that shades all further coverage and even impacts reviews.

It was successful, though, even if it didn’t hit the heights of other Marvel Studios releases. Rudd reprised his role in Captain America: Civil War and now has costar Evangeline Lilly finally suiting up as his partner in crime-fighting, Michael Douglas returning as Hank Pym and Michelle Pfeiffer joining as his lost wife Janet Van Dyne.

Online and Social

There isn’t much happening on Marvel’s official website for the movie, which just has the usual collection of trailers, posters, stills and links to both promotional partners and the social profiles established for the film. It’s alright, it’s just not going to blow anyone’s doors off.

Media and Publicity

A series of stills, including a photo showing Lilly in full hero costume was released by Disney during D23 last year. Rudd spoke briefly about the film on other occasions while promoting other projects, including while at Sundance for the premiere of The Catcher Was a Spy.

During the Avengers: Infinity War press cycle Lilly also talked about this film, explaining that the story revolved around the search for Janet Van Dyne. After that movie was released Disney/Marvel started shifting the focus and began explaining, to clear up audience confusion, that this one takes place during the events of Infinity War and that’s why neither Scott nor Hope are over there fighting Thanos.

The press tour started a couple weeks prior to release as Lilly showed up on “Kimmel” and then went on to call out male actors for being too used to comfortable fashion. Rudd has shown up on TV several times to talk about the movie specifically as well as his career in general.

The movie’s premiere allowed Reed to talk about the story and what approach he took with gender-swapping Ghost, a topic explored more in-depth in a feature story with comments by everyone from John-Kamen to the movie’s writers to the creators of the character’s comic incarnation. Reed also mentioned how much stronger Lilly’s work ethic was than Rudd’s. A later interview allowed the director to share how he was able to convince Pfieffer to return to comic book movies.

IMAX offered a few more exclusive videos, including a TV spot, a goofy video featuring a tiny Paul Rudd and an interview with Reed in addition to what they’d already released. Marvel also promoted the animated shorts featuring Ant-Man that were produced for Disney XD.

Overall

What struck me from the outset of the campaign is how much the studio has worked hard to position this as a movie starring The Wasp just as much as Ant-Man. She played a big role in the very first trailer and has been a big presence throughout the push, especially on the publicity circuit and in the TV ads. Marvel Studios obviously wants to play up her role, presumably as another example of how it really does want to bring more female heroes to the forefront.

Taken in whole, the movie is being sold more or less in the same way the first one was, which is a good thing since that worked. If there’s anything about it that makes me scratch my head it’s that the attitude taken toward how closely to tie this release to Infinity War seems inconsistent and a bit confusing, moving from “Nope, it’s totally its own thing” to “Oh yeah, there’s lots of connective material.” That likely won’t impact its success to any great extent, but it is a bit questionable.

I also question why there wasn’t more of a focus on the search for Janet in the Quantum Realm. That seems like it would give the story a more personal appeal, making the stakes for everyone more real and concrete than whatever vaguely-defined scheme The Ghost has. Mostly I just wish there were more Michelle Pfeiffer, or that there were more of an effort to tie this into her recent wave of high-profile releases that signal a return to prominence in the movie world.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

There have been a number of additional TV commercials like this one released in the last few days, all of which hope to sell the audience on a funny, light-hearted summer action movie. There are also spots like this that hit just today and which play up the shocking ending of the movie.

Marvel Studios also released a fun “Tiny BBQ” video to mark the Fourth of July.

One narrative that has been picked up in the last few days is that this is the first MCU movie where a female character shares top-billing with the male hero, something addressed here as Evangeline Lilly talks more about crafting a character little girls could relate to and connect with.

Another profile of Hannah John-Kamen, who plays the villain Ghost, where she talks about how a recommendation from Steven Spielberg helped her land this role and Peyton Reed helped her create the new version of the character.

There was a special poster created for Real 3D screenings of the first movie and this new one as a double feature. The poster shows both Ant-Man and Wasp seeking cover behind a coin that has “Opening night fan event on it.”

Peyton Reed covers a whole range of issues here, including his reaction to how offended some idiots were by Wasp receiving equal billing in the movie’s title. And the NYT covers how the filmmakers consulted with scientists to bring at least a bit of believability to the goings-on at the same time it offered a quick interview with Rudd.

The movie’s successful opening weekend let it run a “#1 movie in the world” TV spot to tout how well it was received.

The search for Janet Van Dyne was almost completely missing from the campaign but now that the movie is out, Marvel released this short video emphasizing it and focusing the Quantum Realm where she disappeared years ago.

Marvel released a new video promoting the movie-themed sponsorship of Girls Who Code, the popular tech-based educational program. It shows director Peyton Reed and others speaking to groups about the science of the story and how important a STEM-based education is.

There was also a new interview with Hannah John-Kamen where she talks in particular about working with Michelle Pfeiffer.

Murder on the Orient Express – Marketing Recap

Director Kenneth Branagh assembles an all-star cast for this week’s Murder on the Orient Express, an adaptation of the classic Agatha Christie mystery of the same name. Branagh himself takes on the role of Christie’s famous detective Hercule Poirot, who finds himself on a train running through parts of the Middle East and surrounding areas.

Along on the ride are over a dozen other passengers, not to mention crew. When one of those passengers, Edward Ratchett (Johnny Depp) is killed, Poirot uses the time available to him to investigate who the murderer might be from a collection of society figures and others. Daisy Ridley, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Leslie Odom Jr., Michelle Pfieffer, Josh Gad and others all play the assembled passengers/suspects.

The Posters

“Everyone is a suspect” we’re told on the first poster, which is quite a statement considering the impressive cast list that’s on display. The primary image is of a train speeding along the track, with oddly red smoke pouring out of its stack.

The theatrical poster does inside to the interior of the lounge car, the various characters arranged around the inside of that car, some with a drink in hand and all glancing purposefully somewhere.

Each member of the impressive cast, as well as the substantial supporting cast, was featured individually on their own character poster, some shown inside the train and some outside.

The Trailers

The first trailer sets the stage of being set on a train trip through the wilderness. We get some narration about how interesting the forced-collection of strangers into a confined space can be. Seen we hear a passenger has died and we see the roles each passenger will take on. All of them are a suspect and we finally meet Hercules Pirot, who introduces himself as the greatest detective in the world.

It’s short but it’s to the point, selling the all-star cast being involved in a murder mystery.

The second trailer is no less focused on the cast being a major selling point but also has more of the story to offer. A conversation between Pirot and the gangster played by Depp provides a framing device to show how the detective’s investigation expands to involve everyone aboard. That’s good, but there’s also a lot of shots here of trains derailing and other action sequences that seem designed to assure audiences it won’t all be thinking. I get the sense the studio is trying to dumb it down a bit, at least here in the marketing.

Online

A photo of the room Ratchett was killed in is used on the front page of the movie’s official site, which has a notable domain name, the victim’s own feet visible at the bottom of the image, which keeps bouncing around like the train is still moving.

Some of the objects scattered around the Crime Scene are clickable, bringing up a closer look and a text box where you’re supposed to write notes about that piece of evidence. Those Clues were scattered throughout the marketing and publicity campaign and are assembled in that section of the site, though with no further guidance or hints as to what they might be. The Suspects section then has pictures and names for all the passengers and others on the train who are being investigated and evaluated for their role in the murder. By logging in to the site (using your Facebook credentials) you can track your progress in solving the mystery.

There are also links encouraging you to Get Tickets as well as follow the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The first TV commercial sells a high-tension thriller involving multiple suspects trapped in tight quarters, making sure to show off the all-star cast and with music that adds to the suspense and sense of urgency involved in finding the real killer in a sea of motives. Further TV spots would hit slightly different beats but all sell the same basic idea.

Some of those commercials wound up being used as promoted posts on Twitter and pre-roll spots on YouTube. Other online ads used the key art of the star-studded cast as well as short video clips.

There were also at least a couple brand that helped with promotional efforts. Godiva released a number of movie-themed collections of chocolates and other sweets and ran a sweepstakes awarding a train trip through California’s Napa Valley. HSN meanwhile offered a bunch of fashion items inspired by both the look of the movie and the time period the story takes place in.

Media and Publicity

While there was certainly coverage of the movie during production, the first big push was kicked off by a cover story in Entertainment Weekly that included first look photos of the cast, comments from Branagh about the production and the ensemble that was assembled and much more. That came around the same time as a big press event in London where the cast was brought together and talked about the movie while the studio showed off a bit of footage.

A first look photo in EW’s fall movie preview was accompanied by a brief interview with Branagh where he talked about how he had the cast shoot one of the movie’s most difficult sequences on the very first day of filming. A later feature profile of Pfieffer focused on this and other upcoming or recent movies that mark the return to regular work for the actor, who talked about shooting such a star-studded production and why she’s taken a few breaks over the last decade. The New York Times did a similar feature interview.

Later on there was a profile of Branagh that talked about the big year he’s having in a number of films and stage productions, this included. The director/star also did the media interview rounds on TV and in print to talk about the movie and taking on such a well known story.

Overall

First off, it has to be noted that like this week’s Daddy’s Home 2 this movie features some problematic casting, particularly as the media’s attention is turned to sexual harassment and toxic masculinity in the entertainment and other industries. That Johnny Depp is not only in the movie but featured so prominently in the marketing (though not in the publicity) shows there are no real consequences for domestic abuse or other behavior if you’re white, male and popular enough at the box-office.

Perhaps that’s why so much of the publicity has focused, with the exception of Branagh, on both Ridley (partly in conjunction with her Star Wars notoriety) and Pfieffer, who’s enjoying a much-needed career resurgence.

Putting that to the side, the rest of the campaign sells a movie that may be based on an old musty book today’s young people may have seen on their grandmother’s family room shelves but never picked up as a slick, colorful, energetic thriller. From the neon lighting that’s shown on the posters to the Imagine Dragons tracks used in the trailers and the pacing of the TV spots, the studio is working hard to liven up the story and make it appear to be the polar opposite of a dry, slow thriller. It’s action-packed, the campaign promises, and filled with stars you’ve already enjoyed.

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

Batman Returns (Flashback Marketing)

Tomorrow is Batman Day, the day DC Entertainment established in 2014 as part of the company’s celebration of Batman’s 75th anniversary.

[extreme tim curry in clue voice] I know because I was there.

The day has persisted over the years because…well…he’s Batman. Similar days have been marked for Superman and last year Wonder Woman entered the mix thanks to the combination of both her big screen solo adventure and the character’s own 75th anniversary.

To celebrate both tomorrow’s pop culture holiday and the recently-passed 25th anniversary of its release, today we’re going to turn our attention to one of my favorite movies starring The Dark Knight, 1992’s Batman Returns.

The sequel to the 1989 blockbuster brought back the powerhouse combination of director Tim Burton and star Michael Keaton. In the story, Batman is now well-established in Gotham City. That’s good because the city faces a new threat in the form of Oswald Cobblepot (Danny DeVito), who was abandoned by his wealthy parents as a toddler because his birth defects were too much for them and their haughty lifestyle. Now grown, Cobblebot positions himself as the returning prodigal, anxious help the city and run for mayor. That bid is just a cover, though, for his more devious plans to exact revenge. At the same time, Selina Kyle (Michelle Pfeiffer), has evolved into a feline-inspired symbol of feminine power after she was killed by her boss Max Shreck (Christoper Walken) and revived by a group of stray cats. While Batman takes on The Penguin, Bruce Wayne begins a flirtatious affair with Kyle until it all comes crashing together at the end.

When I walked out of the movie I turned to my friend Todd and said “Wow…Tim Burton really loves directing snow,” a reference not only to its use in this film but also Edward Scissorhands. In fact, the movie plays much more like what at the time was considered a Tim Burton Film than a Batman movie. With themes touching on the place of outcasts in society, a blue/gray color palette and explorations as to the duality of the human mind, it fits much more neatly with the director’s overall work than the first Batman, which by contrast seems like well-made if slightly generic studio film.

The teaser poster is an amazing piece of promotional artwork. Like the iconic poster for the first film, the primary element is the Bat symbol that bleeds out over the sides of the frame. Instead of the bright yellow and dark black of the first one, this one is covered in windswept snow, showing audiences what the tone of the movie was going to be. The expanded character list isn’t named but only referenced with copy at the top reading “The Bat. The Cat. The Penguin.” It’s simple and it’s stunning, showing the restrained colors that would dominate the movie and telling audiences what they could expect to see.

The theatrical one-sheet arranges the faces in the same order as they were previously listed, with Batman followed by Catwoman followed by Penguin. That allowed a good look at just the kind of characters we were going to be following and clearly signaled to anyone well-versed in Burton’s style that his design aesthetic would be well-represented in the character designs. Catwoman looks fierce in her obviously homemade costume while Penguin looks grotesque, like a twisted version of a fairy tale character. Some of the story, but not much, is conveyed at the bottom with a scene showing dozens of penguins huddled around, all with brightly-colored rockets strapped to their backs. Again, the contrast of the dark scene and the pops of red show that Burton’s unique visuals would dominate the movie.

The trailer opens with Penguin plotting his return to Gotham as we see him walking through the sewers he’s made his home since his exile. Then we see Selina become Catwoman in the wake of her death, becoming an empowered anti-hero. Batman is then the only hope for the city, but he’s consumed with feelings for Catwoman. We see Penguin executing his plans and Batman taking on the circus gang that’s part of that. There are shots of the Batmobile, the Bat-boat and just of Batman punching his way through the guys.

What comes through here is the focus on the villains the movie would take. Penguin and Catwoman are positioned in the trailer as the ones driving the story and whose journeys we’ll be following. Batman is the hero, yes, but he’s seen here as almost a side character who’s only interesting as he relates to the other two.

That’s…well, it’s not exactly accurate because Bruce Wayne plays a big part in the stories of both characters, one that’s bigger than what he does as Batman, but we don’t see that here. Instead we’re focusing on the twisted personalities that drive Batman’s adversaries. That, on the other hand, is pretty accurate to the movie that’s being sold. Burton, in his second outing, was not able to more fully integrate his design sense but also give outlet to his love of the outsiders, the characters shunned by society because of their differences. It’s that message that’s sold loudly and strongly in the trailer, that we’ll be watching a Tim Burton film with comic book characters as the medium for his worldview.

As has been well-documented by others, the superhero cinematic genre learned exactly the wrong lesson from Batman Returns. The takeaway was a simplistic “more villains” approach to sequels, something that’s sunk more than one movie. In reality, what Burton did was use characters he identified with to explore the topics that were near to his heart. That goes for Batman as much as it does for Catwoman and Penguin. Everyone here, as Selina says at point, is struggling with their own “difficulty with duality.”

While the campaign may not get that deep, it does present the movie as both an action-filled blockbuster and a study of characters who all walk the line between the light and the dark.

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