Picking Up the Spare: The Last Jedi, The Post and More

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

A great feature on the women of Lucasfilm who are integral to the franchise’s ongoing success. That’s a nice touch considering how important female characters are to the revitalized series and culture as a whole, particularly in light of all the terrible men who have been heralded as “geniuses” over the years.

The Greatest Showman

Part of the pushback to the movie (which didn’t impact box-office very much, it seems) has been that the portrait of P.T. Barnum it paints isn’t super-realistic. Features like this show the true story of one aspect the movie takes liberties with.

All The Money In the World

A new trailer came out shortly after the movie was released highlighting the tension between the elder J. Paul Getty and the pressure to pay the ransom to release his kidnapped grandson and uses some of the positive reviews the film has garnered.

Director Ridley Scott talks more here about the speedy reshoots he undertook when he cut Kevin Spacey’s performance from the film and brought Christopher Plummer off the bench.

The Post

A new series of TV spots like this have come out since the film hit theaters that position the Washington Post reporters in the story as being on a high moral crusade to save lives and expose corruption.

The New York Times is poking a thumb in the eye of the Washington Post with a full-page ad for the book based on the “Pentagon Papers” based on the Times’ reporting, even name-dropping the film while doing so.

Nice profile here of costar Bob Odenkirk, who’s having a great year, including a substantial role in the film.

A new featurette strongly leans into how the movie is about a woman who takes charge of not just a company but also a movement, as well as focusing on the women who helped make the movie on all levels.

Molly’s Game

Another profile of the real-life Molly Bloom where she talks about the journey depicted in the film.


Though Netflix, as always, disputes the numbers, Nielsen reported the movie was watched by over 11 million people in the first three days of release. It’s worth noting that Netflix has a point and Nielsen’s measurement techniques for streaming content are far from comprehensive. Netflix apparently has faith it was a hit, though, and has already announced a sequel despite the critical beating it took.

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

After the Campaign: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

“Look closer,” Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) says to Finn (John Boyega) in Star Wars: The Last Jedi as the two of them are in the middle of a rogue mission that could help save the floundering Resistance from the threat of the First Order.

That same advice could be handed to those who have felt the film, written and directed by Rian Johnson, fell short of being worthy to stand as the eighth episode in the Star Wars saga.

The movie picks up seemingly within a day of the end of 2015’s The Force Awakens, with the Resistance having destroyed the First Order’s Starkiller Base but far from victorious against the enemy. Without going into spoiler territory we then follow the continued adventures of Rey (Daisy Ridley) as she works to convince Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to show her the ways of the Jedi and what her place in the universe is. Meanwhile Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and General Leia Organa (the late Carrie Fisher) keep the Resistance fighting as best they can with the help of Vice-Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern), an effort Rose and Finn are ultimately instrumental in. On the other side of the battle, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) continue vying for the affection of Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis).

Most all of that was presented in the massive, albeit time-compressed, marketing campaign mounted by Disney over the last seven or eight months of 2017. That campaign presented a dark chapter in the saga, one that was fraught with the potential for danger. Would Rey succumb to the Dark Side of the Force? Would the Resistance and all its heroes be snuffed out for good?

None of that prepared me for what might be the most thoughtful and thought-provoking entry in the entire Star Wars saga.


Continue reading “After the Campaign: Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

Picking Up The Spare: The Last Jedi, The Killing Of A Sacred Deer and More

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

An outdoor campaign run in conjunction with Twitter rotated pictures from the movie and fan Tweets about it on giant billboards in Toronto and New York.

There’s a game called “Porg Invasion” that can be played within Facebook Instant Games, a feature the social network has been eager to promote since it means working within an environment many young users are increasingly preferring.

Director Rian Johnson gives credit here to the technical team he brought together to oversee the massive production. And he spoke here about how he made it a priority to make the movie the most inclusive of characters who were other than white males.

Costar Laura Dern has been making a few media appearances to talk about joining the series and what it was like to join such a massive production.

According to a story on MediaPost, the movie’s promotional partners spent over $27 million to help market their tie-ins.

Kelly Marie Tran continues to enjoy her moment in the sun and get a lot of mainstream attention with this interview. That she’s been seen as such a breakout by audiences and critics both for her performance and her position as a welcome bit of inclusiveness has not gone unnoticed by Disney, which released this short featurette on her casting.

The movie’s Rotten Tomatoes score has become a serious subject of debate, particularly in light of claims made by those within the alt-right movement that they’ve used bots and other tools to artificially lower the score because they’re upset at all the women in the story. This should serve as a reminder that sexism is as much a core philosophy of these jackweeds as racism.

The Killing Of A Sacred Deer

A24 is out with a slightly disturbing holiday-themed spot promoting the movie’s upcoming home video release.


Bryan Bishop at The Verge has a great piece on how Netflix used its own recommendation system and user profile targeting to display trailers and other promotions for the movie on the site itself, an effort that ran alongside the external campaign. That kind of targeting is one thing when it’s done on the wide web, it’s another when it’s contained to a platform and has a clear call to action.

Despite what has been widespread negativity from critics, Netflix is so committed to producing films on par with theatrical releases it’s already ordered a sequel. For what it’s worth, I pegged the movie as being the best chance to be the first streaming-original franchise last month.

The Post

Members of the cast talk about production here, with Hanks talking about the nerves of shooting his first emotional scene with Meryl Streep and Bob Odenkirk talking about how Hanks helped costars get used to the unconventional set director Steven Spielberg runs.


While the movie hasn’t been the subject of much debate or conversation online, it’s been quietly consistent at the box-office, currently sitting at $111 million in sales. That shows strong word-of-mouth. Lionsgate is hoping to goose that and take advantage of the lack of “inspirational” fare in theaters right now with a new TV spot positioning it as a great holiday choice for the whole family.

The Greatest Showman

Seems James Mangold, who had experience working with star Hugh Jackman on a few different films including the last two Wolverines, came in to provide advice and support to first time director Michael Gracey as well as manage some reshoots.

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

Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Marketing Recap

star wars last jedi poster 9For the third time in as many years, Disney/Lucasfilm are bringing Star Wars to theaters just in time for the holidays. After successfully reintroducing the franchise with 2015’s The Force Awakens, we took a detour away from the core “Saga” that has been the focus of the movies to date in 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Now we’re back to the story of the Jedi and the fight against the powers of darkness in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The story picks up right where The Force Awakens left off, as Rey (Daisy Ridley) finds the self-exiled Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who she hopes will help her learn who she is and what her destiny might be. Meanwhile, The Resistance, led by General Leia Organa (the late Carrie Fisher) continues its fight against the ascendant First Order, ruled by the mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis). Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac) and Finn (John Boyega) along with Chewbacca and a bunch of porgs keep fighting the good fight while Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) continues to emote across the entire galaxy while trying not to be the Diet Coke of evil.

With so much Star Wars hype and promotion over the last three years, the franchise lately has never seemed far out of reach. To sell The Last Jedi effectively and forcefully, Disney has worked hard to make sure the campaign sells a compelling and unique product to the audience.

Continue reading “Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Marketing Recap”

Abrams Returns to Star Wars for Episode IX

After a brief period of uncertainty following the dramatic exit of Colin Treverrow, Lucasfilm announced yesterday that The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams would return to helm the upcoming Episode IX. That part of the news was less interesting to me than the accompanying point that the movie, originally scheduled for May of 2019 was being pushed to December of 2019, presumably to allow time for Abrams to get back in the production groove. The Last Jedi was initially slotted for May of this year but was similarly shifted to December. That’s the same month both TFA and Rogue One were released. So far the only current Star Wars movie that’s maintaining its May release date is Han Solo film that’s scheduled for next year.

The reason the date shift is more notable to me than the return of Abrams (though that’s substantial as well) is that it directly impacts the movie’s marketing. Each movie since The Force Awakens has faced – or is currently facing – a unique situation when it comes to launching a campaign. Specifically, the marketing of the next movie can’t impact the release cycle for the current one. The Rogue One campaign didn’t kick off until The Force Awakens was hitting home video. Similarly, Rogue One’s theatrical run was well over before The Last Jedi’s campaign started.

Assuming Han Solo’s May release date holds, there are two situations that will be in place:

First, what Han Solo’s marketing will look like is anyone’s guess. There will be just five months between The Last Jedi and it, with none of the seven-month cushion other films have had. Lucasfilm/Disney will be in the unique position of actively marketing one Star Wars movie while the previous one is still in theaters. That could mean it doesn’t get quite the press push or the number of trailers the other movies have because it can’t step on The Last Jedi’s toes too much. The studio doesn’t want to write Han Solo off completely with a half-hearted effort so it will have a very fine line to walk to avoid marketplace overlap and audience confusion.

Second, Episode IX will have the longest marketing lead since The Force Awakens, which was in the advantageous position of being the first mover in the revived franchise. Assuming Lucasfilm allows for at least four months post-Han Solo, the campaign for this could kick off in earnest around Thanksgiving or so, the same time we saw the first trailer for TFA. That could work as this is, at least in theory, the final entry in the third trilogy and would therefore be filled with all the emotional and action resolution built up over the previous two chapters in the Saga series.

All of this is up in the air, of course. You have to figure Han Solo’s release date is fixed at this point, despite that movie’s own directorial upheaval. So Lucasfilm/Disney will have to make sure each movie has its own distinct presence in theaters, regardless of the challenges presented by an aggressive release schedule.

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

Star Wars Embraces Augmented Reality for Force Friday II

The AR game around this year’s Star Wars consumer product release event shows how the tech can be a powerful brand touchpoint.

I remember back in 1998 when the first action figures for The Phantom Menace were being released. One of the biggest hooks for those toys, in addition to being able to get a first-look at some of the first new characters being added to the Star Wars Universe, was the inclusion of stands that had audio chips. When you put the figure on the stand, a snippet of dialogue from the movie would play. It was pretty high-tech.

Things are on a whole new level this year as Disney and Lucasfilm prepare for Force Friday II, the day when new figures, toys and consumer products for Star Wars: The Last Jedi finally hit shelves.

“Find the Force” is an augmented-reality game that fans will be able to play as they go and buy movie merchandise. Using the Star Wars mobile app, people who find the right graphic in stores and scan it will unlock a character who will appear to be in the room there with them. Fans/shoppers can take photos or videos of the AR experience and share them on social media.

The promotion shows the potential that is being realized with AR technology. Augmented reality, unlike its more expensive and immersive cousin virtual reality, isn’t as cumbersome, requiring only a mobile device, not an entire hardware rig. That makes it more nimble. And, as Snapchat and other platforms have shown, people are enjoying being able to add layers to the real world, which feels more like the next evolution of the photo filters popularized by Instagram and others.

It’s also a savvy way to encourage and incentivize repeated shopping trips. With 15 characters being made available over the course of three days – and with some of those certainly exclusive to various retailers – Disney is giving people a reason to go out again and again. Even if they don’t buy something every time, they’re increasing their connections with the Star Wars brand.

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

An Obi-Wan Movie Could Work…From a Certain Point of View

News broke last week that that Disney was beginning to move forward with yet another installment in the “Story” arm of the Star Wars films, this time a stand-alone movie for Obi-Wan Kenobi. There are no details as to the story because there’s no script yet, only early conversations with a candidate to direct the film, though the lack of details like that hasn’t stopped Disney or other studios from announcing release dates and more in the past.

Kenobi is, of course, no newcomer to the big screen. In the original Star Wars trilogy he was played by Alec Guinness as the wise mentor who helped Luke Skywalker learn more about his Jedi abilities and, reluctantly, his true parentage. In the prequel trilogy Ewan Mcgregor played Obi-Wan in his early years, growing from a sometimes brash young Jedi apprentice into a roguish General during The Clone Wars.

With so much of Kenobi’s story already told, what gaps are there to fill in?

The Tatooine Years

This is the era most people seem to be focused on and guessing the story will come from but to me it’s the least interesting of the available options.

Based on where Obi-Wan is left at the end of Revenge of the Sith and where we find him in A New Hope, he’s spent the intervening years hiding out in his simple hut on Tatooine, living a hermit’s life. It’s this era that is represented by a new Sideshow Collectibles statue that shows a grizzled Kenobi who’s older than Revenge but not yet as old as in Hope carrying a pack and obviously braced for survival on Tatooine’s unforgiving wastelands.

The problem I have with this approach is that it necessarily throws the premise that Ben has remained undetected all those years into question. Anything interesting enough to warrant our attention would, it would seem, also be enough to make the Empire take a look and completely blow his cover. Yes, he sliced a guy’s arm off in the cantina, but he was heading off-world and knew the end was near, so was throwing caution to the wind. It’s hard to believe word of a lightsaber-wielding old man wouldn’t stay confined to Mos Eisley if he were doing this all the time. And any adventures that took him off-world would mean he was essentially abandoning Luke, which doesn’t fit with anything we know about the character.

That’s why I’m just not that interested in this period. This is a span of years that’s alright being left unexplored because we know more or less what he was up to. Going beyond that risks upending some basic character and story points.

The Padawan Years

This seems like much more fertile ground to me. The Obi-Wan that we meet in The Phantom Menace is at the same time completely devoted to the Jedi Order and to his master Qui-Gon. But even there we get the sense he’s a bit of a rogue, someone willing to go to the boundaries of what the Jedi will allow while not breaking the letter of the code, even if the spirit of the guidelines is a bit bruised. That also fits with the evolution of the character through “The Clone Wars” animated series and both Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.

So how did that begin? What was he like while training with Yoda? What kind of hell did he raise with the other Younglings? Going back to the days of the teenage Obi-Wan and seeing him learn the extents of the Force and what it meant to be a Jedi, including maybe being scolded and brought back into line, would show us where he began.

Not only that but it doesn’t provide as many opportunities for cheap nods to the Original Trilogy. There’s no chance of referencing Vader or anything like that because we’re still in the years of the Republic, when everything was good and pure and the Jedi were the shining guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy. The character can be shown aspiring to being part of that noble order, not making throwaway comments that allude to his eventual fate that are meant only to make the audience knowingly chuckle.

How about you. What do you want to see in a standalone Obi-Wan movie?