When Steven Spielberg is good there’s no one better. Unfortunately he’s been undergoing a career redefinement the last several years with a mix of projects that show just how high he can climb artistically and just how low he can pander to over-wrought emotions. Minority Report worked for me extremely well both from a visual and story standpoint. AI, on the other hand, just seemed creepy and wrong-headed. The Terminal didn’t even feel like a Spielberg flick. The one thing he’s always done very well, though, is tell stories that he feels strongly about. You can tell, just in the confidence of the camera placement and performances, that Close Encouters is a story he needed, not just wanted, to tell. Dittor for Schindler’s List.
Which brings us to his latest, Munich. This new movie tells the story of how the Israeli intelligence community dealt with the assassination of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. It follows a group of agents as they exact the most fundamental form or retribution on those that are believed to be responsible for those killings.
Basic and very much evocative of the poster for Schindler’s List, it features a lone figure sitting in front of a window with a gun barely visible in his hand. It’s pretty effective in that it’s almost monochromatic with just a bit of red visible on the curtains. It’s that starkness that gives it the power. With the single person leaning forward the idea that at least one of the characters will be wrestling with crisis of conscious has been tipped.
I wrote before that Eric Bana shows more emotion in this 2:30 trailer than he did in all two-plus hours of The Hulk and I stand by that. What I like about the trailer is that it tells a more or less linear story. It starts out with actual news footage of the taking of the athletes as hostages then progresses to the planning, execution and moral ambiguity of the reprisal killings. I know some have commented that the trailer’s inclusion of the scenes of Bana with his wife and newborn baby make it too much of a play for our emotions but I disagree. I think those scenes are necessary to setup just how the character he plays comes to terms with the justifications for what he’s doing.
(As an aside, seeing Bana with those 70′s haircuts makes me think he should play the lead when someone makes a Spielberg biography. Slap a mustache and a Raiders baseball cap on him and he looks just like him. Eery.)
The main image on the site is of Bana and his wife sitting in a living room watching TV. When you click on the TV you get an audio snippet of a news announcer giving the details on the kidnapping followed by him saying simply, “They’re all gone.” When you move your mouse back and forth the image scrolls a little but it doesn’t seem that there’s anything else on the page to click so I’m wondering why they went through the effort of making it all fancy like that. If someone finds something I’m missing let me know but I didn’t see it.
Within “About the Movie” you’ll find Production Notes, an Image Gallery of about 15 pics, Cast & Crew bios and The Story, which sets up the plot of the movie. “Media” just contains the Trailer, which is a little disappointing. Why not put some of the actual archived news broadcasts up there? The section titled “Steven Spielberg Newswrap” is basically a video EPK that intersperses interviews with Spielberg and others with footage drawn from the trailer as a way to give some context to the movie. Not a bad effort, but not as good as what comes next.
The portion of the site named “Links” is a big step forward in terms of movie websites actually interacting with the rest of the internet. There are links there to old news stories such as a 1999 article from the St. Petersburg Times. There are links to information resources on the events the movie is based on, including one to the Wikipedia entry. That’s fantastic. I’d love to see this kind of link-love going on for all movies, especially ones that are based on true events. The internet is bigger than just the one websites devoted to the movie and it’s about time site designers and the studios they work for realized and embraced that.
Cross Promotions and Other Efforts
Oviously this isn’t the type of movie there are going to be Happy Meals for, but that doesn’t mean that the movie isn’t being promoted in other ways than the three I traditionally cover. Actually, the initial plan was for Spielbert to eschew the usual practice of making the press rounds but that was scrapped as the movie got closer to opening and some mixed reviews started coming out. The main component of the PR effort was a Time Magazine cover story the lauded Munich as a “secret masterpiece”, a phrase that some felt was a bit over the top. Spielberg has done a few other press interviews but nothing on the scale of what went on for, say, King Kong. Mainly Universal is letting the movie rise or fall on it’s own merits, a move that might fail but which was decided on after feeling that too much shilling would cheapen the movie and it’s subject matter.
I think the movie will fail financially, but not because of the marketing. It’s a pretty well-constructed campaign with a strong trailer, a nice poster and a website that’s slim but has some great components, especially the Links section. The reason I think it will bomb is that with the box-office slump as bad as it is I doubt people will be anxious to sit for two-plus hours and be lectured on two decade old terrorism. I think Spielberg’s decision to keep mum and let the movie speak to itself was a good move since anything he could say would be crass and a bit exploitive. I think it looks like a great movie but I don’t think it will connect with audiences.