From Pete’s teaser of his Clone Wars review:
“...meanwhile I want it known that I’m the first person to use the expression ‘Padawana Montana.’”
From Pete’s teaser of his Clone Wars review:
“...meanwhile I want it known that I’m the first person to use the expression ‘Padawana Montana.’”
Thank you, GOP machine, for planting this story about John McCain “rioting” during his POW years for the ability to hold church services in prison. You manage to accomplish two things at once:
It’s nice to see “Copy/Paste” works at the Tribune.
When you think about it, it’s a little surprising that the only outright parody of Apocalypse Now that springs readily to mind is a single sequence in Hot Shots PartDeux. While certainly not a high point of cinema in any regard, the progression of a recreation of Apocalypse Now’s opening scene into the eventual passing of Charlie Sheen and Martin Sheen in boats going opposite ways down a tropical jungle – which includes them yelling to the other “I loved you in Wall Street” is still pretty funny. Especially is you’re the kind of person who, like me, really enjoys jokes that only seven percent of the audience is going to understand.
But aside from that, Coppola’s Vietnam War saga and the storied difficulties that went into its shooting have never really been fully lampooned in the subsequent years. Perhaps it’s that the film and it’s maker are too serious even for parody. Perhaps it’s because it’s just too good a film to really be fodder for much humor, especially compared to self-serious but really quite ridiculous war/military-centric films like the Rambo series, Top Gun and others that are just screaming to be made fun of.
Tropic Thunder apparently seeks to fill that gaping hole in the film world.
The movie tells the story of a group of actors that have been brought together to shoot a movie about the Vietnam War. The cast includes the stereotypical leading man (played by Ben Stiller, essentially doing a Tom Cruise impersonation), the serious actor who’s devoted to his craft (played by RobertDowney Jr., essentially doing a John Malkovich impersonation) and the screwball comic who’s used to being pampered (Jack Black, essentially doing a slightly amped-up Jack Black impersonation). When the cast isn’t giving the director the performances he’s looking for, he decides to plunk them into the actual jungles of Southeast Asia in order to force them to get real. Of course this turns out well for nobody involved and is where most of the comedy is going to be derived from.
The first and main poster that was released features all three of the leads in full military gear. The design, from the stencil-block lettering of the title to the explosions in the background, definitely convey an action-oriented setting, leaving the appearance of the three actors to bring across the idea that this is actually a comedy. The designers are kind of counting on the audience’s ability to look at the wild-eyed expression of Black, the overly earnest expression of Stiller and the fact thatDowney Jr. is apparently now a black man to and see “comedic gold” there. The problem I have with that tactic is that it doesn’t quite go far enough in meeting the audience half-way along the bridge to that idea. It’s actually too close to the type of poster that would be created for an action movie starring these three to adequately communicate that it’s satire.
Each one of the three lead actors also got their own posters. The images for the three of them are just expanded versions of the ones that are used for the main one-sheet and suffer from the same problem, in that the fact that this is a comedy is not made clear enough to the audience.
The sole primary trailer starts off looking much like any other action movie. Helicopters fly in low, soldiers jump to evade flying shrapnel and everyone looks like they are very much in war. The mood shifts, though, when all of a sudden Ben Stiller asks for the action to be stopped amidst RobertDowney Jr.’s pleading with him not to die. It then transitions into the introductions of the actors within the film, the actual characters played by Stiller,Downey Jr. and Black and shows us what a band of lunatics they really are and how crazy the troubled production is driving the director.
It then introduces us to the main plot conceit of the movie, that in order to get more realistic performances from his actors the director has decided to actually drop them in the middle of a Southeast Asian jungle. Hilarity then, of course, ensues as they interact with a local militia who sees them as American intruders while the actors think they’re extras on the film they’re shooting.
Much of the humor in the trailer is provided by Downey Jr. and his character’s method actor ways, which lead him to actually react to things as if he was a black man, right down to the most cliched offenses at otherwise innocuous things and his use of lines from the theme song from “TheJeffersons.”
The red-band version that was released later on contains much the same loose structure, but features much, much more violence and more than a little swearing and other coarse language. It’s probably just as funny as the original version, though for very different reasons. This one also features a bit of footage from the other movies the actors in thefaux movie have made, introducing us to that idea.
When you first bring up the official website, you’re presented with a couple things to do before diving in further. The first is the Grab the Widget, which lets you do just that. The widget contains access to the Downloads, a Gallery, Video, information on The Film and the ability to Get Tickets. This all is replicated elsewhere in the site so I’m not going to worry about covering it here. The second is “Restricted,” which is just the red-band trailer, which you can view once you input your information.
Once you decide to Enter the Site you’re presented with one of the best “loading” screens ever. As the “Loading” text fills in your mousecursor turns into a targeting sight and you can shoot up the screen. I know it might not sound like much, but trust me: If you’re in the right frame of mind this is exactly what you need on a Friday afternoon.
Moving past that, the site immediately loads what would be a “Video” section that contains the Trailer, a series of TV Spots and a handful of Clips. “About” is next, with a Synopsis, Production notes and the usual background information on both Cast and Crew.
“Gallery” is simply a collection of stills from the movie. You’ll find Wallpapers, a Screensaver, Buddy Icons and even a package of Banners under “Downloads.” Those Banners are graphics that look and feel like banner ads but which are really just graphics you can add to your site. A similar tactic was used for Indiana Jones 4, so this must be something Paramount is really a fan of, and I approve.
“Weapons Check” is a neat little game that has you try to assemble an M-16 rifle (my knowledge of ordinance and weaponry is built mainly on a history of reading G.I. Joe comics, btw) and fit the pieces into place as explosions rock the screen and scatter the pieces you haven’t yet put into place.
Under “Special Features” you’ll see two sections. The first is the information on Booty Sweat (more on that later) and the other is Social Media,” which contains the links to the movie’sMySpace and Facebook profiles as well as once again letting you snag the movie’s Widget.
The Facebook fan page for the movie contains the movie’s poster, all the links to the various sites, photos, the trailer and other videos as well as the widget. There’s also a game you can play that has a number of features, from a run-and-shoot game to a build a soldier feature.
The MySpace page pretty much just has the trailer, the widget, a gallery and the downloads like buddy icons.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Paramount broke out the advertising bank for Tropic Thunder, running an absolute ton of TV ads as well as buying a lot of online real estate. While watching shows onHulu .com I also saw the movie was bringing me a lot of programming there, with banners at the top and the occasional spot running within the show.
Paramount made a good-sized buy in the online video game “Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Vegas 2.” The campaign had players following a series of clues around the in-game environment that, when fully completed, unlock exclusive content courtesy of the movie. There was also a movie-themed gift pack that was given away and other promotions that were tied into the game.
Paramount also utilized a new ad unit on Facebook to promote the movie. The new banner ads, which included a quote from Rolling Stone critic Pete Travers, prompted visitors to click and launch a video clip contain which they could then add their comment to.
Media and Publicity
One of the biggest components in the publicity campaign was the creation of a video segment that originally aired during the MTV Movie Awards. The segment showed the three lead actors embarking on a project to create a viral video for the Internet that could promote the movie. As the trio throw out ideasDowney Jr. is seen taking a less than serious attitude about it since he’s still reveling in the success of Iron Man, which had come out just a couple weeks prior to this. Black, for his part, is increasingly concerned about the violent direction the ideas seem to be taking, especially since most of that violence seems to be directed toward him.
Overall, though, the movie relied on word of mouth and general buzz in order to try and prop up the box-office forecasts. Unfortunately it is, realistically, an R-rated movie so there’s little room for upward growth that’s even available. And it comes just after another R-rated comedy, Pineapple Express, opened just a week prior.
The three lead actors also appeared in a segment during the finale of the most recent season of “American Idol,” added digitally to old footage of Gladys Knight as her original three back-up singers. Of course with these three everything winds up going wrong. It was actually quite a funny bit, partly because Downey at times looks like he’s not sure what he’s doing there.
One thing that came up early on in the movie’s production and then again in the last week or so before release was the subject of a cameo by Tom Cruise in the film. Cruise apparently has an extended cameo, complete with fat suit and all sorts of other make-up to disguise his appearance, as a studio head. That final round of publicity positioned his role as one of the funniest parts of the movie, a part that was much better than many of Cruise’s recent efforts.
Rain of Madness
Since the movie itself is supposed to be a comedy with echoes, at least a bit, Apocalypse Now, it’s only fitting that it have a subsequent documentary on the making of the movie within the movie. That comes in the form of Rain of Madness, a film from German filmmaker Jan Jurgen that exposes just what a train wreck the shooting of the movie was.
The site for the movie, a WordPress-powered blog, features snippets of the documentary along with commentary from Jurgen about just what a pack of morons he’s dealing with here.
I have to say this is among the funnier ideas I’ve seen lately. Considering the movie is about the shooting of a movie that goes horribly wrong, it’s only right that it be chronicled in its entirety.
Paramount extended the conceit by creating an official site for star Tugg Speedman (Stiller’s character) as well as sites for some of his films like Simple Jack (the action star playing going for the Oscar by playing a handicapped farmhand) and Scorcher VI (a mindless action flick). In response to some negative feedback from special interest groups – including a threatened boycott – the Simple Jack portion of this was nearly scrubbed as a result.
There was also a site created for Kirk Lazurus, the actor played by Robert Downey Jr., as well as his previous film Satan’s Alley. There’s even a site for the fictional company that turned him into a man of color.
Heck, they even created one that totally rocks the 1995 GIF files for Cody Keith Underwood, the stunt coordinator played by Danny R. McBride in the movie.
Paramount went the reverse product-placement route by creating a product that’s featured in the movie called Booty Sweat, an energy drink. The studio decided the movie’s target demographic of young men matched up with those that consume these types of drinks and so, since there’s all sorts of oddness with movie-in-a-movie anyway thought this would be a fun execution, which I kind of have to agree with.
Booty Sweat was even offered on Amazon and its creator, Alpa Chino, was given his own site, completely with product availability, a background bio and more. And on Alpa Chino’s site you could insert a photo of yourself into a Booty Sweat promotional video.
The one word that continues to come to mind as I think about this campaign is “heavy” for some reason. That’s probably because, unlike most of the other comedies that have been released this summer, there’s no palpable sense of lightness or insanity that comes through in the campaign. It’s very serious about its satire and, while the characters are the same sort of idiots that populate movies like Step Brothers and Get Smart, they’re in a very different situation, one that doesn’t involve well-meaning parents or comical villians.
But there’s little to argue with in terms of the campaign elements themselves. The trailers and posters are funny and the website is well put together. I also really like the efforts in the Rain of Madness portion of the campaign, from the fake movie sites to the Booty Sweat stuff and everything in between. It’s not the most high-brow campaign ever, but since the movie is pretty meta to begin with, these sorts of things that help flesh out that universe are actually quite helpful and funny.
Dreamworks has put together a pretty good campaign for a movie that has a decent chance at being a hit this weekend. All the stars are attractive to audiences and have built-in appeal and the idea of lampooning self-serious war movies is a good one. But there’s a very serious danger the studio faces since, if you’re familiar with Stiller’s written and directed movies at all, you know they tend to be a bit dark. So there’s a chance the audience will be brought in by the idea of a movie that’s broadly funny and be met with a film that’s actually a bit nasty and unconventional. I don’t have a problem with this, but the mainstream audience might be put off and that word-of-mouth might spread a bit in the days following its release.
PICKING UP THE SPARE