One of the things I always wanted to do at HitFix, but it just never felt like a good fit was to chime in on new marketing materials from your favorite Hollywood studios (or indies, etc.). Sure, you can judge a trailer or poster in context of what it teases about a movie no one has seen yet, but sometimes you just need to critique the actual materials themselves. Today four movies threw new content at the masses: Sony Classics’ “Truth,” Universal Pictures’ “Crimson Peak,” Sony Pictures’ “The Angry Birds” and Walt Disney Studios’ “Zootopia.”
Let’s get started, shall we?
In theaters: Oct. 16 (limited release)
New materials: Full Trailer, First Poster
Lowdown: I was a big fan of James Vanderbilt’s adaptation of Mary Mapes’ first hand account of the “Rathergate” scandal that hit CBS News in 2004 when it debuted at the Toronto Film Festival almost two weeks ago (“Truth” movie review). Unfortunately, the overall reaction from the press corps was more of the “love it or hate it” variety. You can see that in the two quotes on the film’s poster.
One is a pretty passive endorsement from Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers. The second, from longtime Variety editor Tim Gray, is more effusive, but hints at the controversy over the movie itself. There may be contractual issues at play, but the imagery wants to push both Cate Blanchett, who plays Mapes, and Robert Redford, who portrays Dan Rather that, in this context, is a mistake. We have to guess this independently produced drama didn’t pay for a special photo shoot with both Blanchett and Redford to create an original image. Sony Classics should have gone with just a solo shot of Blanchett (it’s her character’s movie) because the end result is too similar in layout to The Weinstein Company’s key art for “Carol.” Both films are pushing Blanchett for a Best Actress nomination and neither put her front and center (yikes). Moreover, we understand that type fonts are a big deal in “Truth,” but using that font for your poster makes it look like it’s a dated newspaper drama (Open Road Film’s poster for “Spotlight”). “Truth” is a movie that already looks like a late ‘90s studio drama (we’ll get to the trailer in a moment). It’s materials need to be more relevant to really pop in a crowded art house marketplace.
As for the trailer, the big positive is that the typeface font is gone and replaced with a more appropriate effect that hints at broadcast news. The preview starts by finding away to insert Rather into the mix before we even realize the movie is actually about Mapes character. Or is it? There is an ensemble element to “Truth,” but the teaser focuses so much on the familiar faces of Mapes team that you may not understand why she’s so emotional halfway through. That’s where this preview really should have begun. That’s where the urgency really picks up and it feels like a movie you have to see in the theater. Thankfully, Blanchett is so fiery in the last few shots you almost forget how bland and familiar the first half of the preview is.
In theaters: Oct. 16
New materials: TV Spot (1 minute and :15 seconds versions)
Lowdown: “A Dark Secret,” “A Special Gift,” “A Mystery,” “Only She Can Solve.” This sort of voiceover is rarely used in movie marketing anymore. Most TV spots use the actual dialogue from the film with title cards to get their point across. This is so rare I immediately noticed it while watching a one-minute version of the spot during the premiere of “Scream Queens” on FOX (“Crimson Peak” :15 second spot). For comparison, check out :30 spots for “Black Mass” TV Spot and “Sicario” TV Spot Even the latter, a critically acclaimed thriller that has hard a hard time figuring out a precise marketing message, found a way to communicate without having to add the almighty trailer god voice. Throw in a ton of ghostly horror images and it’s all just a messy mix of blah.
TV spots: C
In theaters: March 4, 2016
New materials: Teaser poster
Lowdown: Smartly sets up the movie’s premise – our heroes are in the middle of a big city where animals and there’s a lot to look at – while still effectively teasing more to come (i.e., the Shakira voiced fashion Gazelle in the “Preyda” ad). The poster also reveals this will be a contemporary departure for Disney. The spoof Nike “Just Zoo It” and Lululemon “Lululemmings” billboards is something normally up archrival DreamWorks Animation’s alley. It’s not groundbreaking, but overall it’s pretty strong for a teaser.
Teaser poster: B+
“The Angry Birds”
In theaters: May 20, 2016
New materials: Teaser trailer
Lowdown: Sony Pictures’ no. 1 goal with the teaser trailer for “The Angry Birds” is to convince moviegoers it’s an actual movie you should see at your local multiplex and not some commercial for the once popular mobile game. Check. The studio’s second goal is to convince every little kid that sees this in front of “Hotel Transylvania 2” that this is a must-see flick next summer. We’re guessing this one plays like gangbusters with audiences so…Check. The studio’s third goal is to give parents a reason to bring their antsy five-year-olds. That’s one reason why the it’s just hip enough to not scare the kids vocal cast full of a lot of ex-“SNL”ers (Jason Sudeikis, Maya Rudolph, Kate McKinnon, Bill Hader) gets a shout out at the end. Check. Granted, we wish the sight gags were slightly funnier and the movie looks like a very familiar cousin to Sony Animation’s 2007 hit “Surf’s Up,” but for now? It works.
Teaser trailer: B+
Agree or disagree with any of these takes? Share your thoughts below in the comments section.