FilmThreat is taking a break for a while to take care of some technical issues. Since I had already written this Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire column, though, I didn’t want it to got to waste so I present it here to you in it’s entirety.
And so we come again to Harry Potter. The third installment, Prisoner of Azkaban, was the subject of my second Movie Marketing Madness column and so, a year and a half later, I feel as if I’ve achieved some sort of milestone by tearing into two chapters of the same franchise.
The 2005 version of Harry Potter, The Goblet of Fire, finds the dark times that apparently were begun in Azakaban continuing. Harry is getting closer to meeting his destiny and his female sidekick Hermione is getting closer to graduating from a training bra. As I’ve said many times before I’m not a fan of these films having been severly disappointed in the first one. They feel too mass-produced, as if move making has hit its peak efficiency in the Potter franchise. I know some people who swear by the books but I’m not one of them. Besides, I have to comfort myself with dreams of Potter star Daniel Radcliffe 20 years from now as a bitter old man cashing his residual checks from Warner Bros at the liquor store on the way from his strip-mining job to his trailer home.
As with at least the second and third movies, this one features a bevy of posters. The teaser sheet had a rear view of Harry against a bright light, as if he were walking into a cave. It was alright but I really wondered what the point of a teaser poster for these films is. After all, they’re based on books that have been in mass circulation for years and feature the same fucking actors every time. What exactly is the mystery, here?
There were also four character-centric posters created because the merchandising department demanded it. After all, why sell 10,000 copies of one poster when you could sell 6,000 copies of four posters each? That’s just basic math. Anyway, there were versions featuring Harry, Hermione, Harry’s other friend Ron and one for Brendan Gleeson’s Mad Eye Moody (coincidentally also the nickname of a girlfriend I once had.)
The final theatrical poster once again puts all three main characters front and center, though not with their faces all smushed together like in the Azkaban poster. In the background are three new characters, but I’m not sure (and don’t care) whether they’re friends, love interestes or villians. Hell, I don’t care if they’re part of the sound editing staff.
The teaser trailer starts off by showing the evolution of Harry, Hermione and Ron over the course of the four films. It then moves to setup what looks to be the central setpiece of the movie, some sort of tournament between Hogwarts and other magical schools. It ends with Prof. Dumbledore, played by Michael Gambon, warning Harry there are dark and difficult times ahead. I can only assume he means the venereal diseases that are part of life at a boarding school.
The theatrical version starts off with the arrival of these other schools/teams at Hogwarts. Their showing up seems to awaken the hormones in everyone since Hermione, Harry and others all are shown cozying up to visiting members of the opposite sex. Once that’s out of the way we get more info on this tournament, the winner of which is supposed to achieve eternal glory. That segways into some dark shit, as Harry realizes his arch-enemy, Richard Roeper, is getting closer and that the final battle may not be far off. (I may have made up some of that last part up). It’s a very dark trailer and could easily be scary for littler kids, so it looks like the movies are trying to grow with their audience. It ends with Hermione (I think) saying to Harry, â€œNothing’s going to be the same now, is it?â€ Well, pregnancy does change everything.
I hate, hate, hated the website for the Prisoner of Azkaban movie. Remember that episode of Seinfeld where they were lost in the parking garage and Jerry had to pee? That’s how I felt trying to navigate that one. Since I’ve only got one kidney left I made sure this time to take a leak before I tried to dive into the Goblet of Fire version.
On the first page of the site you’ll see at the bottom little pictures of all the main characters. Click on any one of them and get a quick charcter snippet, a Buddy Icon to download and an only slightly longer biography of the actor. Pretty basic, with an almost tangible disdain for the actors. At the top of the page there are the flags for the schools competing in this tournament. Click on them and get a brief outline of that school.
The â€œMad Eye Moodyâ€ link at the very top of the page opens a section devoted to this new teacher at Hogwarts. There you’ll get a primer on the Dark Arts, be able to download some digital swag, read a more extensive bio of the character and play a game.
Next is the â€œYule Ballâ€ section, themed after the dance that the student and faculty attend in the movie. There’s a Photo Gallery, some Videos and other stuff. The sneakiest touch, though, is the Wish List link. I thought it would have something to do with the dance or the movie. Instead it almost kicks you out of the site and presents you with a list of Harry Potter toys and other merchandise you can drag to create a wish list. You can then email that list to someone. Nice. Now we see what the movie is really all about.
â€œThe Dark Markâ€ is all about the dark, sinister forces that are rising up against Harry and the others. Click on a few trinkets set against a backdrop and learn about some of these baddies or download some wallpapers or such. Finally, â€œTriwizards Challengesâ€ is a series of online games that recreate parts of this grand tournament going on in the movie.
A lot of the same weaknesses of the Prisoner of Azkaban campaign, unfortunately (hey WB, read my column sometime). The trailers were OK if you look past the unintentional comedy and if you’re a fan of the series I can see how they’d work for you. The posters are alright at being darker than the ones for the first two movies but don’t move beyond just showing the three characters. The website wasn’t quite as infuriating but also didn’t contain much more information about the movie. Instead it takes the tack of immersing the visitor in the scenes from the movie at the expense of any actual knowledge. That’s alright, I suppose, considering the target audience.
Is it a strong campaign? Objectively, no it’s not. Realistically it doesn’t need to be. The audience is more or less built in and unless they’re honked off about something they’ll show up opening weekend. It does do a good job of presenting the tone of the movie honestly, though. You can’t say that they’re trying to lure younger kids in with a happy trailer only to have them be scared by some of the situations in the flick. If nothing else Warner Bros should be applauded for that.