MOVIE MARKETING MADNESS: “THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW”

So Roland Emmerich wants to repeat himself. First by destroying the world (or at least some recognizable American monument) and second by casting a decent actor who remains mired on the B-list (in “Independence Day” this was Bill Pullman, now Dennis Quaid). Excuse me if my interest level barely raises the needle.

It’s not so much that Emmerich, either with or without his sometimes partner Dean Devlin, makes bad movies, it’s just….yeah he makes bad movies. “Stargate” was passable if I had had enough to drink and was just making fun of Kurt Russell’s haircut, “ID4″ was horrible and let’s not even discuss Godzilla. There’s no amount of penance they can pull that will right off that sin. I felt the most sorry there for Matthew Broderick, mired in his pre-”Producers” funk. Oh well.

The Trailer

Like most action movies, this is a very quickly cut trailer, delivering the broad plot outline, a few glimpses of key developments and lots of computer-generated effects. I counted at least three waves of water crashing through downtown New York, two shots of a glacier breaking up and two impassioned declarations by Quaid, who I will always envision being lodged in Martin Shorts nose.

Perhaps the funniest part of the trailer is when Jake Gyllenhaal looks at the “No Smoking” sign come on in the plane he’s riding in. The look on his face is priceless as it’s a mix of “That’s my cue to act scared!” and “Will I have any artistic integrity left when this opens?”. I like to think this is the same kind of look he had when he found out Tobey Maquire was coming back for “Spider-Man 2″.

The Teaser Poster

The main selling point of the movie seems to be the arrival in New York City of the second ice age. Both teaser posters take this plot point and hammer it home, taking the Statue of Liberty and covering it in ice, albeit from different points of view. This is a big portion of the Emmerich School of Filmmaking, the destruction of a national monument. Even without knowing who was behind this suspected turd, I would have been able to guess it was the “ID4″ team pretty quickly.

The Poster

What seems to be the final poster moves the camera away from Lady Liberty and points it toward the New York shoreline, again covered in what appears to be a light butter-cream frosting.

Here’s my problem with both poster concepts: They give away the ending. Unless the filmmakers are holding out on us and Dennis Quaid miraculously shifts the earths alignment, causing the ice to melt and weather patterns to return to normal, this is how NYC looks at the end. Why am I going to pay $9 to see that if I already know it?

The Website

It’s tutorial time as we move to the movie’s website. So much of the content here is designed to be educational it’s almost funny. After giving you eleven different languages to choose from, the introduction gives a nice effect by counting down the number of days from 300 to the day of the opening. The first time I visited it the number ended on 007 making me think this was actually the new James Bond site. Presented entirely in a Flash-animated pop-up window, the site has about four main sections.

In “The Production” we get the usual cast and crew biographies where everyone gets to sound like they have personally helped to save the world by participating in this movie. There’s much intoning of how “THIS CAN REALLY HAPPEN!!!!”.

“Multimedia” is simultaneously the most interesting and the most ridiculous sections. The sections “Montages” and “Galleries” almost play like DVD extras, starting slideshows of production sketches compared with finished scenes or stills from the movie. Pretty cool, but still not very informative. There are also trailers, clips and desktop themes here.

The funny part is when you access the “City Freeze”. Pick one of eight major cities and watch poorly animated snow fall until it covers that city’s most recognizable landmark. A giant frozen Big Ben is almost worth the price of admission.

I’m not even going to discuss the “Weather Gone Wild” section. It’s all about the science behind the movie and would have been much more enjoyable if they had done one or both of two things: 1) Drop the straight face and/or 2) Present it all like one of those flickering film strips from grade school science class.

“Out of Time” is interesting not so much for the content but because it is basically where people register. You create a profile, hoping that yours is then selected as the profile of the day. I didn’t register so I don’t know what kind of info they ask, but it is a nice tactic to make people revisit the site.

Overall

Lots of special effects! This could really happen! Watch cities get frozen and actors emote amidst the snow! These seem to be the overriding messages. It’s an effective campaign showing it to be Memorial Day escapism. Anyone remotely interested in movies won’t and shouldn’t expect more. If they were going for a younger-skewing I would have expected to see the romance between Gyllenhall and whoever he’s stuck in New York with played more in the trailer. This is a bit surprising since that’s where the repeat business is going to come from.

As moviemaking costs increase, the pressure to successfully market those movies becomes greater. In an attempt to show how marketers are trying to put the most hinders in the theater seats, Chris Thilk breaks down why some movie campaigns work and some don’t. The posters for “The Rocketeer” and “Unforgiven” remain two of his all-time favorites. For Chris’ ongoing movie journal and other various musings, visit his Random Thoughts blog.




Posted on May 26, 2004 in Features by

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