Adrift – Marketing Recap

adrift poster 2Based on a true story, the new movie Adrift features an amalgamation of a few different film genres and types. Tami (Shailene Woodley) is on vacation in Tahiti with friends and meets Richard (Sam Claflin), a sailor who loves the open water. The two spend more and more time together and when he’s offered the chance to sail someone’s boat back to California, she joins him, figuring it will be a wonderful and romantic time.

Things take a turn when they unexpectedly encounter a massive hurricane that almost destroys their small boat. Richard is injured, the boat’s mast is broken and they don’t have navigational instruments, meaning they’re largely dead in the water. Tami, though, patches the boat and gets them on a course that will hopefully lead them right to Hawaii, where they can be rescued. That’s an awful lot of “ifs,” though.

The Posters

That the movie takes place on the open water of the sea and that it’s based on a true story are the two primary messages of the first teaser poster. In fact the only additional shared here are the title and the names of the two leads, so the hope is that people will be lured in by the promise of some seafaring drama. The second brings the two leads more into focus, showing them at the top with their foreheads touching while at the bottom we see their crippled boat in the middle of the water, her looking out at the horizon for any sign of help.

The Trailers

Tami and Richard meet cute at the beginning of the trailer, he attracted to her free spirit and looks and her attracted to his free spirit and looks. When he accepts a job to sail someone’s boat back to California from Tahiti (it’s a magical place) he invites her along and she accepts, despite the unknowns of being at sea that long. When disaster strikes and they’re caught in the middle of a massive hurricane they’re left adrift (natch) with almost no way to navigate and no power, thousands of miles from anywhere. With Richard injured it’s up to Tami to keep them going toward a slim hope at survival.

There’s some good stuff in here and it certainly looks both dramatic and romantic, which is the point. You could make a joke about Claflin really owning the niche of “romantic lead unable to move” but I won’t. It is cool to see a story where the woman is the one who refuses to give up, though, and keeps doing what needs to be done to make it to the next step.

We skip some of the setup in the next trailer and get right to when Tami and Richard are already in a relationship, eventually agreeing to sail a man’s boat back to California. That quickly transitions to an extended look at the massive, hurricane-induced wave that capsized the boat and sets them adrift, injuring him and forcing her to work to keep the two of them alive until they can reach shore or be rescued. This one does away with much of the story and gets right to the dramatic struggle between life and death that provides, it seems, much of the movie’s drama.

Online and Social

When you load the movie’s official website you have the immediate option of watching the second trailer. After that plays the splash page has full-motion video in the background, a big button encouraging you to buy tickets and links to the film’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.

The content of the site, accessible via the menu at the top of the page, is pretty standard. “Trailers” has both of the trailers, “Story” has a decent synopsis and cast/crew list and “Gallery” has a decent collection of photos both from the movie and its production.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

There were quite a number of TV commercials produced, some short ones that skipped right to the hurricane action, some short ones that focused more on the love story and adventure of sailing.

The movie was one of the first to be advertised via Snapchat’s recently-unveiled unskippable six-second video ad units.

Media and Publicity

After being homeless for a while STX finally gave the movie a release date of early June, filling a whole left when Fox moved Deadpool 2. It was later part of the studio’s presentation to industry executives at CinemaCon.

Woodley later appeared on the late night talk show circuit to talk about the movie, specifically about the experience of filming on the water for such a long time, including getting seasick as a crew. She, Claflin and director Baltasar Kormakur all talked about the real life story and what it was like making the movie at the premiere. Kormakur was later interviewed on his own about many of the same topics.

Overall

As I said at the outset, there are bits and pieces of several different genres coming together here. It’s very much a romance of the Nicholas Sparks variety, about two people who just happen to find each other while in a place they wouldn’t usually be. But it’s also a story of survival against nature in the vein of The Perfect Storm or, more recently, All Is Lost. That’s not a knock against it, just an observation of what’s going on.

Aside from the likability of its stars, the main thing the movie seems to have going for it is that it’s the kind of thing that doesn’t pop up very often anymore. Yes, it’s a romance but it’s not nearly as cloy or cliched as many movies that fall into that category. By telling a story of a young woman’s ability to take charge and get her and man she’s with out of danger it seems to be sending the message that yes, you can have it all, ladies. That’s a good thing and an important theme to hit as often as possible.

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

PICKING UP THE SPARE

New interviews with both star Shailene Woodley and director Baltasar Kormákur offer insights into the story and process of making the movie, though the latter contains significant spoilers so beware.

Before Atomic Blonde: Selling Female Action Heroes

Last week Universal Pictures pulled out a number of stops to sell Atomic Blonde, an action-packed spy thriller starring Charlize Theron. Set during the Cold War 1980s, Theron plays Lorraine Broughton, an agent of MI6 who must go into Berlin and evade enemies, friends-turned-enemies and other dangers to retrieve some form of Macguffin before it falls into the wrong hands, as these things are apt to do.

A good chunk of the marketing for the movie focused around how Theron was not only willing to do but capable of doing her own stunts. Interviews covered her training regime, featurettes showed her working out the fight choreography and more. While the formal campaign emphasized the sleek, stylized world of spycraft Theron’s Broughton operates in, the rest of it made sure audiences knew it was the actress herself who was doing the punching that’s seen on-screen.

That focus almost made it seem like this was the first time a movie campaign needed to sell the idea of a female action hero. The implied message seemed to be some version of “Women : They’re just like men.” which was…strange for 2017. After all, this isn’t the first time we’ve been asked to see a woman kicking just as much hinder as a man would in a movie. It’s not even the first time this year (cough, Wonder Woman, cough). And it’s not the first time Theron has been at the center of the action.

To prove that point, let’s look at six other ways female action heroes have been positioned as the main value proposition for audiences.

The Young Adult Chosen One

If you’re not familiar with the name Katniss Everdeen, I’m not sure what to tell you. The Hunger Games made Jennifer Lawrence a household name after she was cast in the film adaptations of the popular young adult novels. While the Divergent series didn’t reach those box office heights (the final novel’s adaptation is rumored to be going to TV), it too positioned a young girl (Tris, played by Shailene Woodley) as the bright light leading the way out of a bleak, dystopian society. The trailers for the movies in both franchises featured the young women at the center of the stories engaging in equal amounts action and inspirational speeches. Both campaigns proved that fighting the good fight wasn’t just about inciting rebellion and disrupting the status quo but also shooting arrows and throwing punches when necessary.

Sci-Fi Queens

Jennifer Lawrence and Shailene Woodley weren’t the first actresses to lead their own science-fiction franchises. Before them came Kate Beckinsale and Milla Jovovich, who took lead roles in the Underworld and Resident Evil franchises, respectively. The marketing of both these series has heavily featured the stars engaging in all sorts of special effects-driven action, whether it’s taking down Lycans or fighting against the evil Umbrella Corporation.

Angelina Jolie: Action Star

Jolie has become more political and socially-conscious with her films of late but the 2000s had her taking on a number of action roles. Between 2001’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and 2010’s Salt, she starred in a number of movies that had her exercising her stunt muscles on-screen. Salt had her on the run after she’s accused of being a Russian spy (which may not even be illegal anymore) and the trailer pulls heavily from the scenes of her evading arrest by running, jumping and more. She’s positioned more as the sexy mentor in the trailer for 2008’s Wanted, but is still capable of curving a bullet if she needs to. She’s deadly and dangerous in the trailer for Mr. and Mrs. Smith, where she plays one half of a married couple who don’t know the other one is also a spy.

Unstoppable and Out For Revenge

Anyone compiling a list of cinematic grievance has to put “That we only got one Haywire movie” somewhere near the top. The trailer shows Mallory Kane (MMA star Gina Carano) as a government operative out for revenge after she’s betrayed by those in power. Similarly the trailers for both parts of the Kill Bill films makes it clear The Bride (Uma Thurman) has been wronged and it out to address her grievances with those she formerly called teammates. That quest ends with a confrontation with Bill (Keith Carradine) himself, but not before Thurman has shown herself quite capable at swordplay.

Solo Action Stars

It’s not as if the female action hero is a new innovation. In 1993 Bridget Fonda starred in Point of No Return, the American remake of La Femme Nikita. As the trailer shows, Nina (Fonda) is a force to be reckoned with, even before she received the training to become an assassin. The trailer for the French-language original takes a different tack that’s much more dramatic than action-packed. And we can’t go without mentioning the one-chick hit squad that is Foxy Brown. The trailer features enough jive talk that you might need Barbara Billingsley to translate, but the message that Foxy is not to be trifled with comes through loud and clear. Finally, there’s this year’s Wonder Woman, which had an entire campaign that wasn’t about Gal Gadot’s training regime but about how compassion and love spur the hero to enter the world of men to fight for the helpless.

The Alien Gold Standard

No, the female action star is not exclusive to the years post 1990. Foxy Brown predates it, but the mold of this particular kind of hero was cast in the Alien franchise (pre-Prometheus, of course) with the iconic Sigourney Weaver. The trailer for the 1979 original may not show very much of Ripley as it’s more focused on the general chaos on board the alien-infested space craft. But by 1986 with the trailer for Aliens things had changed and Ripley’s combat skills come to the forefront. She’s more the inspirational leader and the one who warns of danger in the trailer for Alien 3, but that was a very different movie, going back to being more about hidden terror than mech-suit battles. By the time Fox was marketing Alien: Resurrection Ripley was positioned as a creepy artificial construct, not a hero with her own agency.