snake eyes: g.i. joe origins – marketing recap

How Paramount has sold an action prequel/reboot of the G.I. Joe franchise

snake eyes theatrical poster

The first two live-action G.I. Joe feature films, released in 2009 and 2013, were not great movies. But they performed well enough – and the innate studio desire for franchises with built-in fanbases great enough – for Paramount Pictures to keep things going with this week’s Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins.

With a title that unfortunately evokes memories of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the movie stars Henry Golding as a loner going by the moniker Snake Eyes who already has substantial fighting skills but lacks direction. When he saves the life of Thomas “Tommy” Arashikage (Andrew Koji) he’s invited to join Clan Arashikage, a secretive group of ninjas with their own agenda. Though they become as close as brothers, the two have falling out. At the same time they’re drawn into the nascent battle between G.I. Joe and Cobra, personified by Scarlett (Samara Weaving) and Baroness (Úrsula Corberó) respectively.

Originally scheduled for March 2020 but pushed multiple times due to the coronavirus pandemic, the movie arrives following a campaign that has leaned into the land-standing popularity of the title character and the affection fans still have for the man who defined much of that character’s backstory and persona.

The Posters

The first poster (by marketing agency BLT Communications), also released online as a motion poster, came out in mid-May and shows Snake Eyes, sans mask, in front of a bright neon version of the Clan Arashikage symbol.

Two posters (by marketing agency Works Adv) came out in early June, both still using the Clan Arashikage symbol. One shows a sword in front of that symbol, the other a pair of dice that have come up snake eyes

Character motion posters (by BLT) for Snake Eyes, Baroness, Scarlett, Hard Master, Blind Master, Storm Shadow, Akiko and Kenta. were released exclusively to IGN in June

Another poster was released in June, this one finally showing a masked Snake Eyes looking very serious against a bright Japanese downtown.

The whole cast of characters – including both masked and unmasked Snake Eyes – is seen on the theatrical poster released in early July in a design that’s similar to most other ensemble franchises, with everyone arrayed around the main character who looms over them in the background.

An IMAX exclusive poster has Snake Eyes staring at the camera with the company logo reflected in his mask’s visor. Dolby’s poster again puts Snake against the backdrop of a city street, that view coming through a window shaped like the company’s logo.

One final poster, released just last week, illustrates the dual nature of the man who is Snake Eyes, his masked and unmasked face bifurcated by his sword.

The Trailers

The first teaser trailer (17 million views on YouTube), which debuted during the “MTV Movie & TV Awards” in May, very much positions the movie as an origin story. It focuses on how The Man Who Would Be Snake Eyes is seeking purpose in his life and so joins a ninja clan devoted to maintaining peace and justice in the world. There are glimpses of his training as well as supporting characters like Storm Shadow, Scarlett and The Baroness, but the short running time means this is a teaser first and foremost, not offering many details.

Another trailer (3.7 million views on YouTube) came out in mid-June, starting off by establishing how Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow were once friends. Their falling out isn’t shown, but we do see how Snake becomes involved with the Joes and their fight against Cobra.

One last trailer (2.5 million views on YouTube) came out just days ago. It hits many of the same notes but focuses a bit more on Snake Eyes attempting to outrun his past. Also, it ends with Tommy fully embracing his new persona as Storm Shadow, which is a nice touch.

Online and Social

Not much on the official website, which is mainly about selling tickets to local theater showings, just a basic synopsis and a few videos.

Advertising, Publicity and Promotions

A brief video in January 2020 marked the beginning of production in Japan, showing the cast and key members of the crew assembled to start getting things going.

Back in February of last year Golding offered a first look at the title character via his personal Instagram.

Unsurprisingly, in August of last year Paramount delayed the film’s release a full year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Around that time Golding made an appearance during the virtual Hasbro Pulse Con event, talking about the movie.

Golding talked briefly about the movie at the end of 2020 while promoting other projects, including showing off some footage of him training on “The Tonight Show” in November.

At CCXP in December Golding, Corbero, Weaving and others all made virtual appearances to get fans excited for the movie. Also joining them was G.I. Joe legend Larry Hama, who gave his endorsement to the movie and its cast for their portrayal of characters he was integral in laying the foundation of nearly 40 years ago.

Because of the delay in release Golding made his second appearance at Hasbro Pulse Con this past February, talking more about what fans could expect and showing off more of the toys and other products coming to store shelves.

Official first look stills came via EW in May, showing off maskless pics of Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow, Akiko and others along with comments on the characters and how the story developed and evolved over time from Golding and others, including producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura.

The trailer’s debut during the “MTV Movie & TV Awards” in May was teased by Golding in advance and introduced by him during the show.

A featurette released at the same time as the first trailer has Golding and others praising Hama’s work in creating the characters, teasing what the story will cover and showing a bit of behind-the-scenes footage in addition to clips from the movie.

Golding presented at the Billboard Music Awards in May.

Short videos like this were released occasionally, not adding much but calling out different aspects of the movie. Other promotional spots and commercials came out regularly in the last month or so, each hitting on various story or character points.

An interview with di Bonaventura had him talking about various parts of the film, from the questions that came about casting Golding to turning one of the great “mystery” characters of pop culture into an action hero and more.

Fandango MovieClips had an exclusive featurette that focused on the stunts and choreography that went into the movie and its ninja-tastic action.

There was a big promotional presence for the movie at ComplexLand in June, including a recreation of Snake Eyes home neighborhood. Visitors there could also get a free poster designed by Japanese-American artist Adam Fujita and register to win other exclusive merchandise.

Another featurette had Golding, Hama and Koji talking about the backstory of the friendship between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow.

The “Robot Chicken” team created a video that has Golding voicing Snake Eyes in a twisted version of the PSAs that were included in the classic cartoon series, though this includes the rest of the G.I. Joe team feeling pretty hurt that they were left out of the movie.

Snake Eyes had been added to Fortnite a while ago and recently made an appearance in the Batman: Fortnite comic series from DC. A video of Golding playing the game as Snake Eyes was released in July.

Online ads like this started running in the last few weeks, driving traffic to the official site where people could get ticket-buying information.

snake eyes online ad

An exclusive apparel line of movie-inspired products was released by Steve Akoi’s Dim Mak Collection earlier in July.

Just days before release there was a virtual cast panel as part of Comic-Con @ Home. This is one of the *very* few movies to make an appearance at SDCC, with studios apparently feeling the value wasn’t there this year.

Golding also appeared on “Kimmel” to talk about shooting the movie and more.


There are some good elements to the campaign, particularly the slick visuals seen on the posters. And Golding deserves a lot of credit for taking on a lot of heavy-lifting, using his personal social media in combination with a number of awards show and other appearances to sell the movie to his fans.

The marketing deserves special credit, though, for bringing the legendary Larry Hama so deeply into the effort. Having him as part of so many featurettes and interviews goes a long way toward making the movie attractive to those who may be wary, either because they’re concerned a Snake Eyes movie won’t be as good as they want it to be or because they still feel slightly burnt by the previous G.I. Joe franchise entries.

Gi Joe Mask GIF by Snake Eyes - Find & Share on GIPHY

quick takes on: the first snake eyes trailer

Move with the wind…

After a handful of first look stills came out late last week the first trailer for Snake Eyes debuted during the recent MTV Movie & TV Awards and I have some thoughts.

the only origin story we really need

OK, so it’s an origin story, but not only did we get an abbreviated version of that origin in the earlier G.I. Joe movies but Larry Hama wrote what every Gen X comic book reader knows is the *definitive* version in issues #26 and #27 of the Marvel Comics series in 1984.

Along those same lines, why does everything have to be an origin story? Even if Paramount wasn’t on board for a full-on adaptation of “Silent Interlude” it would have been cool to see a movie where Snake Eyes is already at the height of his skills. Give me a movie where Snake is dropped behind enemy lines and has to ninja his way to completing the mission without support.

It’s a relatively short trailer so I’ll forgive that we only get a brief glimpse of Samara Weaving as Scarlett, but let’s not repeat this blatant oversight and give people what they want next time.

Incredulous Killer Queen GIF by NETFLIX - Find & Share on GIPHY

If I’m reading between the lines correctly this movie *is* connected to the previous G.I. Joe movies, acting as a prequel to them, but does it need to be? Are those so beloved that this couldn’t have served as a chance to restart things along different lines?

Ray Park *was* great as Snake Eyes in those movies, though, and if he doesn’t at least get a background cameo in this one I will be calling my congressman.

My presumption is, though this is an origin story, Henry Golding was not cast in the title role only for him to have his face burnt away. So Snake’s wearing of a balaclava will likely once more be explained as a choice instead of a necessity.

You can’t ignore the fact that Paramount and Hasbro timed the release of the trailer to coincide with Batman/Fortnite: Zero Point #3, which features Snake Eyes, hitting comic shop shelves this week. Snake has been in Fortnite for a few months now, so this is a nice extension on a number of fronts.

Any additional thoughts?

Bill & Ted Face the Music – Marketing Recap

How Orion is selling the return of history’s most excellent duo.

There are only a handful of examples of truly iconic pop culture duos. On that list has to be Theodore “Ted” Logan and William S. “Bill” Preston, Esq., better known as Bill (Alex Winter and Ted (Keanu Reeves).

Nearly 30 years after their last adventure, the pair – collectively known as the Wyld Stallions – are back in Bill & Ted Face the Music. Now middle-aged, the two find themselves still not having fulfilled their destiny, writing a song that would unite the world and usher in a utopian era of everyone being excellent to each other. When they’re contacted by Kelly (Kristen Schaal), the granddaughter of Rufus (the late George Carlin), and told the future is in jeopardy, they hop back in the time-traveling phone booth and try to set things back on track.

When problems develop with their own quest, help arrives in the form of Ted’s daughter Wilhelmina (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Bill’s daughter Theodora (Samara Weaving), who have their own destiny to fulfill. Along the way there’s the return of Death (William Sadler), who has a grudge against the families.

Generally positive reviews have given the movie an 82 percent “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and it’s been sold as a rocking good time for audiences who want some pure escapism without the burden of a massive Marvel-esque mythology and franchise history.

The Posters

The first poster (by marketing agency Art Machine) came out this past February and really tells the audience – at least those who are familiar with such things – all they need to know by showing the time machine phone booth lit up as if it’s just landed. It’s simple but effective, using a key bit of iconography from the first movies to promise more is coming in a new installment.

A similar picture of the phone booth is used on the second poster, released in June. This time, though, Bill and Ted are shown from behind walking toward it.

Finally, the theatrical poster from July has the two, along with their daughters, facing the camera. Behind them the supporting characters are packed into the phone booth, promising audiences that a lot of others will be along for the ride.

The Trailers

The first trailer (16 million views on YouTube)came out in early June, introducing us to the fact that Bill and Ted are still rocking after all these years, though their popularity and influence aren’t what they once were. That means they’re failing in their goal to unite the world through music. To fix this, they decide to travel to the future and steal the song they *will* write, encountering various problems – including Death himself – along the way.

A second trailer(26.7 million views on YouTube) came out in late July that offered a much more complete look at the story, including how and why Bill and Ted are recruited to play their one song that will save the world, the problems they get into along the way and how their daughters are absolutely following in their footsteps. There are some great moments here that show the spirit of the originals is still intact, even if the title characters are a bit older, and that there’s a lot of comedy still to be had with them.

Online and Social

The takeover of the official website’s landing page shows a grid filled with options for VOD viewing along with a link to buy tickets to the movie’s limited theatrical bookings.

Close that and you have a fun site, with an interactive pay phone that lets you dial a couple numbers to hear a brief audio clip from either Bill and Ted or Death himself. Also on the page are links to find out more about the movie’s sponsored Snapchat filter, listen to the soundtrack, get a downloadable background and lots more.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

After a long period of rumor and speculation, Reeves and Winter (kind of in character) announced the movie was officially happening in March of last year.

It may not have been part of the formal marketing campaign, but Bill – two versions, actually: one young and one old – appeared in a Walmart commercial that was part of a campaign from the retailer featuring vehicles and characters from many classic and recent sci-fi films.

A site was launched in April that encouraged fans to upload videos of themselves playing or air-playing along with select tracks, with the promise that some of them would wind up in the movie in some fashion.

Winter and Reeves made a video appearance in the graduation video for San Dimas High School.

A virtual panel for Comic-Con@Home, moderated by Kevin Smith and featuring Reeves, Winter and others, was announced in June. That panel wound up including Winter, Reeves and others from the cast and crew, all of whom shared a few details about the film and talked about how much they enjoyed returning to or entering the world of these characters.

The release date was pushed by two weeks so Paramount could avoid going head-to-head with Tenet, which Warner Bros. shifted the release date of in late June. A month later Orion announced the film would be released via premium VOD along with whatever theaters happen to be available instead of sticking to a traditional theatrical release pattern. The final release date came earlier in August.

A short featurette released at the beginning of August had the cast and crew talking about the chemistry between the leads. Another focused on the cast and how much fun they had on set.

Weezer released a video for “Beginning of The End,” that featured footage from the film and more.

TV advertising kicked off with spots that condensed the story down to its core attributes, showing people that Bill and Ted still have some adventure left in them. Those spots debuted at about the same time tickets went on sale, with bonus content available to those who pre-ordered the movie.

There was also a sponsored Snapchat lens.

The only promotional partner that was evident was Bazooka Bubble Gum, which offered a movie shirt and some gum as the prize for a sweepstakes.

Lionsgate put out a call in mid-August for people to join together to set a Guinness World Record for the most people air guitaring simultaneously. A compilation of some of the submissions received was put out earlier this week.

A 360-degree VR experience was released in late August that took people inside Bill and Ted’s world, from their garage rehearsal space to a trip through time in the phone booth.

The first clip came out around that same time showing Bill and Ted once more encountering Death, who is obsessed with simple games.

Reeves and Winter put out a “Thank You” video aimed at the fans who have spent decades longing for more time-traveling adventures.

Media and Publicity

The first still was released in December of last year showing adult Bill and Ted reuniting with an old friend, namely Death himself. A month or so later another photo, this time showing the leads with their daughters, came out.

Winter and Reeves were interviewed here about returning to these characters and their own friendship. That was just one of a series of articles and interviews with the two along with other stories that covered how the project finally turned from a dream into reality.

A series of technical-centric interviews came out in the last couple weeks that covered how the production design team worked to create the film’s look and feel, how the costume designers outfitted all the characters, how Steven Soderbergh played an integral role in making the sequel happen and how creator Ed Solomon approached getting back into the groove with these characters.

There were also additional interviews with Reeves and Winter about their return after so many years, including how music played a key role in creating a vibe on set, the process of getting the project approved and how the filmmakers assembled a band that would be suitably iconic.

That point was also touched on when the pair appeared on “The Late Show” to thank the fans for continuing to plead for a new installment.


This is just a fun campaign, one that seems like a much-needed antidote to the relatively dark times we seem to be living through at the moment. There are dozens of essays that could be written about the “Be excellent to each other” ethos espoused by the title characters, but it’s a message that comes through loud and clear in this campaign, which shows that two best friends supporting each other through thick and thin and following their passions can truly change the world.

Just a big, fun effort that works far more than it falters, especially in the moments where it lets the younger generation share equal screen time with the older one. Everything fans have loved about Bill & Ted for over 30 years is, based on this campaign, still there, and it’s nice that so much time has been devoted to acknowledging their commitment to making the film happen.

Picking Up The Spare

A couple of additional commercials came out playing up the return of the characters and their adventures. There was also a fun little video fo Death giving people a “Cribs” type look at his humble abode. 

MGM released a new short featurette on Reeves and Winter coming back to these roles after 30 years. 

New profiles appeared of musician Dave Grohl and how he wound up with a cameo in the film as well as of music supervisor Jonathan Leahy and actor Anthony Carrigan

The first few minutes of the movie were released online to help people get excited and decide to see it.

Ready or Not – Marketing Recap

Tracking shows Fox Searchlight’s horror-comedy will bring in over $6 million opening weekend.

ready or not posterThis week’s new release Ready Or Not has a familiar premise: Grace (Samara Weaving) is about to marry Alex (Mark O’Brien), whose family is incredibly rich and powerful, having made their fortune selling games. As is the case in many stories, the members of the Le Domas family have concerns Grace is only marrying Alex because of his money.

With that in mind, the family has the tradition of playing a game whenever someone new joins the family. In this case the game is Hide and Seek, which sounds innocent enough. What Grace finds, though, is that this version involves her being hunted in the massive Le Domas mansion. If she survives the night, she is deemed worthy.

The studio has run a campaign that’s heavy on shocks and laughs to try and bring in an audience looking for something original as the summer winds down.

The Posters

Grace looks ready for action in her bridal gown on the poster, with the members of the family she’s marrying into arrayed around her similarly armed and apparently very hostile and dangerous. The mansion where the action takes place is burning in the background, setting the location of the action while also promising things are going to take a very nasty turn. It’s a dark image but it matches the tone of the trailer.

The Trailers

Things seem fine, if awkward, at the opening of the trailer. Grace is about to marry into Alex’s extremely wealthy family. After the ceremony she finds there’s one more hurdle to clear, she has to play a game of the family’s choosing, a kind of rite of passage. Only this game of Hide & Seek has her hiding from her new in-laws as they chase her around a massive estate with weapons, promising she’ll be welcomed if she manages to stay alive. Seems there’s some sort of ritual she’s meant to be a part of, and the chase is filled with accidental shootings, bloody revenge and more as the movie is shown to be a dark, violent comey.

Online and Social

Unlike many recent movies, Searchlight’s website features a nice design and some unique features. Click on any of the names in the “Cast” section and you get a short video of the character they play interacting with Grace in some manner. Brief information on the “Filmmakers” is available along with a “Story” synopsis, the red-band trailer and links to the social profiles for the film.

Advertising and Publicity

Weaving and the filmmakers brought the movie to Fantasia Fest in late July to reach those fans.

In early August the first clip was released showing an extended look at the scene where the game being played that night is chosen. A second has Grace being found by Daniel but being given a head start by him.

The Midsummer Scream event in Long Beach, CA included a movie-themed “experience” that attendees – largely horror fans – could be part of.

NCM’s Noovie Backlot got an exclusive spot showing Grace being told the rules of the game and realizing there may be more going on here than she initially thought.

A featurette released shortly after that offered a bit of insight into the story while focusing on the wedding dress that Grace wears throughout the movie. Another featurette had Weaving lounging on a couch while explaining the movie’s story, from Grace meeting Alex to the terrible night she endures. The craziness of the movie is shared in another video that includes a focus on Radio Silence, the group that includes the producers and director while Weaving offers tips on wedding dress maintenance in another.

Commercials like this positioned the movie as one of the most shocking things audiences could choose at the tail end of summer, showing it to be filled with bloody and outrageous chases and characters. Others ran a little longer and showed more of the backstory but still ended by selling a movie designed to make audiences gasp in astonishment.

The cast and crew assembled for the movie’s premiere, which featured plenty of marketing branding. That event seemed to include some sort of movie-themed party including creepy waitresses serving drinks and boxes from the games created by the movie’s family out on tables.

There seems to have been a concerted effort – visible if you scroll through Twitter updates using #ReadyOrNotMovie – to reach #Earpers, or fans of the show “Wynnona Earp.” That’s because Melanie Scrofano, the star of that show, is also part of the Le Domas family in the film.

Media and Press

Press activity for the film didn’t really seem to get started until the last few weeks before release. That included a brief profile of Weaving, interviews with the directors and costar Adam Brody. They, along with Andie McDowell and others, also made appearances on various talk shows in recent weeks.


I previously took issue with the idea that this movie has received none of the scrutiny directed toward The Hunt, despite how the two share a “people hunting other people for sport” premise. While reviews have labeled Ready Or Not as being a sadistically fun and engaging horror comedy, the fact is that the two films don’t appear substantively different based on their marketing campaigns. That this one is being reviewed at all shows the importance of judging the final product before calling for boycotts or passing judgement.

That issue aside, the campaign does look like it’s selling a fast-paced good time at the theater. Weaving is really a standout here, bringing significant charisma to not only the clips of the movie that are used but the various featurettes that show more of the story’s sense of humor. It shows that horror – including the more comedic areas of the genre – is among the last bastions of truly original storytelling in modern film.

Picking Up the Spare

Another fun video with Weaving that had her investigating a mysterious “cursed” box.

The actress spoke about the film and her uncanny resemblance to Margot Robbie here and her experiences filming – including injuring her costars – here. She was interviewed along with MacDowell here about the shocking, outrageous story.