Poseidon – even more so than other summer releases – seems like a bit of a risk for Warner Bros. It’s a remake of the 1972 film that, while by no means a masterpiece, has gone done in history as a bit of disaster-themed camp fun. Starring Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine and – famously – Shelley Winters, it was the story of a cruise ship that capsizes completely and the small group of survivors struggling to make their way out of the doomed ship.
The new version features a cast list that, in essence, updates the original. Character actors such as Kurt Russell, Josh Lucas and Richard Dreyfuss now make up the surviving gang of passengers. The real star, though, is the computer-generated wave that is responsible for the ship’s fate. The reason I think this movie is such a risk for WB is that, well, it’s about three years (at least) since B-actor starring disaster flicks were in vogue. Not that they can’t still be viable, it’s just that we’ve kind of moved past that fad and into comic book adaptations.
In addition to that it has the initial look of a big-studio flick that isn’t very original, so I don’t have high hopes for the campaign. Let’s dive in and see if that fear pans out.
The teaser poster, I though, was very cool. The image was that of an upside down ship with “Poseidon” on the hull and the release date on the bottom. I loved the dark-blue water color scheme and overall thought it was very effective. It was very much a teaser in that it gave the bare minimum of information about the movie while still conveying the general plot.
The theatrical poster was…well…it was exactly identical to the teaser. The only difference was the addition of the cast and crew credits on the bottom half of the poster. Still, at least Warner Bros. stuck with a classy and subdued image and didn’t decide to paste everyone’s floating heads at the top. I’m not worried, though, since I’m sure that will be the design of the eventual DVD cover art.
The first trailer (not really a teaser since it doesn’t actually tease anything) waits until almost a minute in before showing us the gigantic wave that will doom the ship. Before that it’s all character setup. We’re introduced to the various characters who will actually survive since those are the ones that are, you know, famous. It’s a bit thin at just about 1:40 but sets the scene nicely, builiding a sense of dread as we see survivors scramble for their lives.
The second trailer takes a similar tack by leading off with a who’swho of the people on the boat. This shows more how some of the characters are connecting with others. Richard Dreyfuss tells someone to call him at midnight and then later we see him waiting for that call. A couple talks about the woman’s reluctance to put on the engagement ring she’s been given. Josh Lucas reminices about how he was happier when he was broke and then he and Kurt Russell play some poker. The wave gets an earlier introduction – about 38 seconds in – but longer screen time, with three shots of it getting closer to the one in the first trailer. At about 2:30 that means this trailer also shows us more of the after effects. We see various killable characters hanging from elevator shafts, windows exploding under the water pressure and other disaster movie staples. There’s also more interplay between the characters, as Lucas and Russell square off over whose escape plan is best. It’s pretty good, but the ending kind of loses me. The newly engaged couple is seen again with the guy saying “I want you to tell me you love me” or something like that. Is this really the time to demand things of someone else? Not really. It just seems kind of weird. It might make sense in the movie, but it’s an awkward line to pull out for the trailer.
Warner Bros. has created a pretty nice official website for Poseidon. First off, the trailer that plays after you load the site appears to be completely different from the two above. There’s more footage of the pre-capsized ship and a little more dialogue from the characters. Kind of cool. I don’t know off hand whether this is a released trailer or something created specifically for the website. Either way it’s a nice effort. Don’t be fooled by the thin lines of character faces, though. Clicking on them won’t take you to anything interesting, just a still of that character from the flick. At the bottom of the page there’s a link to more info on the IMAX showings of the movie.
Getting into the actual content we see a lot of familiar faces. “About” contains a pretty nice Story synopsis, standard Cast and Crew bios and some pretty extensive Production Notes that cover the spectrum of the movie’s production. You’ll find both trailers, as well as the Super Bowl TV spot and the ShoWest reel that was released and more in “Video.” That “more” is a link to subscribe to a series of video podcasts through iTunes. Nice touch. It’s great to see more websites integrating this one-click functionality.
You can download the usual array of wallpapers, buddy icons and a high-res version of the poster in “Downloads.” There’s about 20 or so pictures for viewing in “Photos.” It’s pretty self-explanatory what you’ll find in “Sweepstakes” and “Tickets and Showtimes” doesn’t need much elaboration.
“Features” is probably my favorite part of the site. The Journals section is a series of links to the movie-oriented websites that were granted set visits and the features they wrote about those visits. Great embracing of the community on the part of Warner Bros. These sort of things are mutually beneficial, with the site getting some great material and the movie getting extra exposure, but studios have been slow to highlight them. Nice to see that starting to change. Also here are a series of Concept Art drawings which are kind of cool.
One very cool thing that was created was the ShipShake online game. You basically shake a bottle with a cruise liner inside until the boat capsizes and people are falling off the ship. While a tad – I don’t know – cruel maybe?, it was strangely addictive. As I said then, the best part was that they included the ability to add the site to del.icio.us, a tagging site that acts as a sort of online “Favorites” service. Very cool move that, unfortunately, wasn’t utilized by as many people as I would have thought. Hopefull that won’d disuade people from using this idea in the future.
WB also launched an SMS game that is available on the official site. It’s a sort of “find your way out of this” game you play via text-messaging.
Much better campaign than it has any right to be. The poster is very cool and while I have some minor problems with the trailers they’re not bad. Online is where the push really shines, though. The website’s listing of sites that got set visits and the ShipShake game with tagging link really push this into being a very community-oriented campaign. I like it and a lot of my earlier trepidation has been erased by it. That’s not to say the movie still won’t be slightly silly but at least they created a top-rate marketing push for it.
movie marketing, warner bros.