The original Underworld, as bad as it was (it actually vaulted to the top of my brother-in-law’s Worst Movies Ever list) holds a special place in my heart. It was, after all, the subject of the first Movies on the Brain column I had published here at FilmThreat. You can decide whether or not that was a good move on FT’s part or not on your own time, thank you very much.
Anyway, when it came to decide what movie’s campaign to review this week, the emotional connection made choosing “Underworld: Evolution” a no-brainer. We pick up just about where we left off in the tale of Selene, the Death Dealing vampire played by Kate Beckinsale and Michael, played by Scott Speedman, who plays some sort of vamp/werewolf hybrid that gets more miles to the gallon but needs to be plugged into an outlet at night. This installment of the series gets into the backstory of how the vampires and werewolves came to be in a state of constant war. You’ll catch the story only if you can tear your attention away from Beckinsale’s form-fitting wardrobe, though.
It’s alright if a little weird. Beckinsale is shown in extreme close-up, the camera only far enough away to see that she’s crossing two guns just below her head. Her eyes look fucked up, not like they’re supposed to be communicating some supernatural presence but like the printers didn’t get the color just right. I also have an issue with the snow. I don’t see how it could be such a crucial plot element that it required inclusion on the poster. All it really does, especially since the color of the poster as a whole is muted, is clutter up the frame and give it more of a fuzzy look than it already would have had. Still, it succeeds at its basic job of getting the point of the sequel being out there across well enough.
There are lots of shots in the trailer of what I referred in my MOTB column of the original as the “sacred manhole cover.” It seems this is what has been keeping the first true vampire on Earth bottled up all these years. Selene has released it and he’s coming looking for her. She, meanwhile, has been spending the time since the first movie fending off attacks from all corners after her betrayal of the other vampires. Marcus is after her since she alone (of course) can stand between his plans for something that threatens all of mankind and..umm..mankind.
The trailer is full of fast cuts and special effects of things flying or jumping. There’s even a shot of Selene landing perfectly after falling dozens of stories down that is obviously a nod to the original trailer/film. Is it a good trailer? Not really, but it’s not horrible. It gives the sense of being something that takes itself way too seriously, though, which was also a problem with the first movie.
When you first bring up the site you have the option of playing what I can only describe as a very lame game. You are sent into some sort of arena and asked whether you want to be a lycan or vampire. I’m not sure on the details since I didn’t progress very far. As I’ve stated before I’m not a gamer. Also on the main page are some PSP downloads that include the trailer and some clips.
Entering the actual site you first get a sort of supernatural family tree, chronicling the bloodlines of the main characters on both sides of the conflict. On one side there are lycans on the other vampires. You can click on the characters for more information like a biography and there are little film clips available as well. If you didn’t see the first movie (or just weren’t paying attention when you did watch it) this is a pretty helpful primer to the world of the film. Since the story relies on so much pre-knowledge I’m glad Sony included it on the site.
Moving on you will find a Synopsis that spends a bit too much time on how fabulously successful the first installment was at the box office. Downloads gives you standard selections like “Wallpaper”, “IM icons” and “Screensaver” as well as some “Mobile” wallpaper you can purchase and download. Why they didn’t include a sub-section with the PSP downloads from the front page is beyond me. What if people didn’t catch it the first time? Seems like a missed opportunity. There are at least two additional reminders that visitors can play a game so why not more links to those PSP items? I don’t get it. Finally on the site there is the Trailer and a Gallery of about a dozen pictures.
Cross Promotion and Other Efforts
Sony teamed up with cable movie channel Starz to present “Creatures of the Underworld”, a special night of programming on January 19th, the day before the movie opens in theaters. The station will show five horror-related movies (though the inclusion of “Van Helsing” pushes that definition a bit) as well as a behind-the-scenes feature on the making of the movie. Unless that includes footage of Kate Beckinsale getting into (and out of) her skin-tight costume I don’t see how that’s going to be all that interesting.
As any good movie studio has done in the last three or four years, Sony also released a special edition DVD of the first movie about two weeks before the sequel opened. This edition was labeled as being “unrated”, a designation which has meant big bucks for other films. It included new material such as a commentary and some production design featurettes. Does anyone still buy the first DVD release of a movie anymore or have we all figured out that we should wait for this kind of double-dip? The new DVD gets flogged on the movie’s site as well.
The website starts out so strongly with the bloodlines feature and then fades faster than I can say “yawn.” The trailer is a mish-mosh of fast cuts and ominous out-of-context dialogue and the poster works really hard to make Beckinsale look un-sexy. It’s not a very good campaign for a movie I can’t really figure out. It’s being released in the dead season right after the New Year, but it’s getting a pretty significant push. Seems like the studio couldn’t make up its mind whether it supports it fully or not and the campaign reflects that, with no single goal or theme behind any aspect of it.
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 Movie Marketing Madness blog.
Posted on January 18, 2006 in Features by Chris Thilk
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