MOVIE MARKETING MADNESS: “ALIEN VS. PREDATOR”

Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the end of creativity as we know it. Last year saw two icons of the horror genre go head to head in Freddy vs. Jason as New Line Cinema desperately tried to breathe new life in to two ailing franchises at once. There has also been the steady stream of rumors about a possible Batman vs. Superman movie. Those were only dispelled when photography started on the upcoming “Batman Begins”.

And now 20th Century Fox takes two sci-fi films and asks a screenwriter whom they may have found by literally throwing a rock out a window to put them together. The result? “Alien vs. Predator”. Admittedly, based on Internet news coverage of this it may be a highly anticipated film but it’s been a long time since either of these characters graced (?) the big screen: “Predator 2″ (featuring Danny Glover as he bided his time before “Lethal Weapon 3″) was in 1990 and “Alien 3″ was in 1992 (some people claim there was an “Alien 4″, but I’ve seen no proof of that).

The Poster

Here’s the transcript from the phone call made while designing the posters:

“Props Department, Bob speaking.”

“Hi Bob, it’s Sam in Marketing”

“Hey! How’s it going?”

“Good. Listen – We need to create posters for ‘Alien vs. Predator’. Do you have the heads to the costumes by you?”

“Yeah, they’ve been in storage for ten or 12 years, but they’re around here somewhere.”

“Great! Could you take pictures of them and send those pictures to me in an inter-office envelope?”

“Sure. They’ll be there day after tomorrow.”

“Fantastic. Thanks.”

The Trailer

The theatrical trailer for AvP is a fast-moving, poorly lit wet dream for sci-fi aficionados (interestingly the same description can be used for Halle Berry). Most of it is taken up by shots of the two leads jumping/leaping/slicing/dicing. It’s very well done in the sense that the alien costumes look to have been updated for the 21st century and there are just enough plot points dropped to tap into the mythology of both series. Aside from Lance Henriksen (who’s still gotta be pissed “Millennium” was cancelled) there aren’t really any known actors in this so the lack of screen time devoted to anything human isn’t all that surprising.

The Website

Like most recent Fox productions, the introduction page to the site lets you pick what part of the world you live in and what language you speak there. They seem to be getting more and more obscure with some of the choices as I noticed there was a location option for Atlantis and the ability to choose Sanskrit as a language. Can’t say the Marketing Department isn’t trying to appeal to everyone here.

The website as a whole strikes me as being not very fully populated. There are almost no interactive features aside from the ability to cast a vote in the “Whose Side Are You On?” poll which basically lets you choose who you are rooting for. Really, though, this is like choosing between whose career you’d rather have: Dave Couliers’ or Jim J. Bullocks’: Either way you’re going to lose.

Moving on, one of the first things you see is the ability to download an “Extreme Desktop”. The use of the word “Extreme” does nothing but prove that Fox executives are still working off a 1995 focus group memo. The wallpapers that are part of this are also accessible in the “Downloads” section along with some AIM icons. The Trailers & Video are available exclusively in QuickTime format which seems odd considering most other sites make it a point to offer video in a variety of styles and bandwidth-friendly sizes.

“About the Movie” contains a one paragraph plot synopsis which I think also may have doubled as the script. Cast & Crew profiles have absolutely no information there. Nothing. Talk about showing your opinion of where the filmmakers actually fit into the making of this one. The Production Notes are, on the other hand, rather extensive and does get into some of the filmographies of those involved.

The “Gallery” extends an idea that I’ve been enjoying on these big-budget sci-fi films’ websites: the inclusion of concept art as well as actual stills from the film. The target audience for these movies is people who frequent comic book shops, read Wizard and surf the ‘Net looking for the latest tidbits on the making of the movies, so why not give them the behind-the-scenes glimpse their all jonesing for?

Overall

I know that the meeting of these two legendary creatures has been anticipated since a brief shot of an Alien skull was seen on the Predator’s ship in “Predator 2″. It seems like they had a pretty good overall plan but didn’t execute it to its fullest potential. The website was a big missed opportunity with its lack of interactivity and I would have liked to have seen the trailers in more formats than just QuickTime.

One point where I do think they succeeded is in the tagline “Whoever Wins..We Lose”. This is used everywhere: posters, the trailer and website. It sounds kind of corny (alright, it sounds very corny) but seeing it so much has definitely gotten it burned into my brain which is the whole point: brand recognition. My opinion of the campaign goes up a full notch based on this alone.

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 August 10, 2004 in Features by

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