Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Movie ad campaigns
Sometimes, the difference between mediocre success and a blockbuster has more to do with how good the marketing folks are at stirring up excitement than the quality of the movie, itself. I’m no more immune to this than anyone – if the previews make a movie look really great, I’ll get interested in it.

Right now, there are four movies about which I know little or nothing beyond what I’ve seen in their marketing campaigns. If you watch TV at all, you’ve surely seen ads for Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief and Wolfman. I haven’t seen any TV ads for the other two, but I’ve seen previews online that I think look great. They are Repo Men and The Crazies.

The ad campaigns for these films are all pretty typical, though the latter two seem to be more web-based. Or perhaps I just don’t watch the TV shows where they’re advertising. For Percy Jackson, there was an enormous standee (those big, free-standing cardboard cut-outs) that I saw the last time I was at the theatre.  Add in all the TV commercials and this one’s doing a great job of hyping the movie. I know I’m looking forward to seeing it, and might even take the kids to it next week when they’re home from school.

Wolfman might be just as successful, except that for whatever reason I don’t think it looks quite as good. I can’t decide if that’s the fault of the ad campaign or the film. I suppose I'll have to see both (probably on DVD) to be sure.

The Crazies is a remake of a George Romero film, and it reminds me a LOT of 28 Days Later. The premise seems to be similar, anyway – a disease of some sort drives people into a murderous, killing frenzy and a small group of uninfected are trying to survive and escape. One key difference is that 28 Days Later is focused on a guy who was in a coma during the whole initial infection, and by the time he awakens there’s almost nobody left. In The Crazies, you get to see the first few infected folks, like the guy who walks out onto a little-league field carrying a shotgun. Things presumably head downhill from there. Unlike Wolfman, this one seems to sell itself mainly on the quality of the trailer. Again, it’s way too soon to say whether The Crazies just has a trailer that’s edited better, or perhaps it’s a movie that better lends itself to a 30-second summary. The other possibility is that it really is the superior film. Wolfman stars Benicio del Toro and Anthony Hopkins, whereas The Crazies stars Timothy Olyphant plus nobody I’ve ever heard of, but the stars don’t always make the movie, either.

But one movie that I think is doing a great job of using multiple media formats is Repo Men. It’s a story about a future where artificial organs have been perfected to a level where they’re better than the originals. They’re also expensive as hell. The problem occurs when an organ recipient is unable to pay – each of them signs an agreement specifying that the company that makes them can repossess the organ if they default. Since these are major organs, the Repo Men aren’t exactly gentle and the organ recipients don’t tend to survive the collection. The twist comes when, of course, one of the Repo Men needs an artificial heart that he ultimately can’t pay for. Now the hunter becomes the hunted. It stars Jude Law, Forest Whitaker and Liev Schreiber, and it’s got a great-looking trailer. But check out the posters!

I think that’s a heck of a gripping set of images. Repo Men is shaping up to be one of the best-looking films due out in the next month or so. Whether it really is or not remains to be seen, but the marketing folks are definitely playing the hype for all it’s worth.

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