Movie Marketing Madness: Blindness

The last few years have seen an uptick in the number of movies where there is one person trapped in a closed-off area amidst a population that’s been quarantined or otherwise isolated for a number of reasons. Most often this sole individual is trying to survive or escape from zombies or some other horrific group that is out to get the lone person not infected. Or the person is trying to work their way through the mobs n order to find a cure or some other Macguffin that they alone are qualified to rescue.

While most of these movies are horror or action films, Blindness takes that premise and turns the outcast individual as a redemptive savior of sorts. In the movie an entire population has mysteriously gone blind. The infected are grouped together in one area in order to protect others from contracting whatever has caused their affliction. But one woman, played by Julianne Moore, who is not blind refuses to leave her husband, played by Mark Ruffalo, as he’s taken to the quarantine area. But the fact that she has retained her sight is somehow unknown to the population.

The Posters

Both posters for the film carry the same sort of look and feel, creating a good sense of brand consistency in this aspect of the campaign.

The teaser poster features a blurry figure reaching toward the audience, pressing her hand against what appears to be fogged glass, creating the appearance of something along the lines of having an astigmatism or some other vision problem. The way the title treatment is then arranged like an optometrist’s vision chart further enhances the focus on eyesight being a central topic of the movie. No star names appear on the poster, just the barest of details about the film.

The later theatrical poster carries over the blurred white visuals, but this time Moore and Ruffalo along with the rest of the main cast appear. Moore is presented at the head of a line, leading those behind her along, setting her up as the de facto leader of this small population. This one also includes a mention of the film being an opening night selection at Cannes, something meant to appeal to the independent film lover, or at least those with an eye toward serious films that they feel they should see.

They’re both pretty good, but have the appearance of making the movie largely inaccessible to a mainstream audience. It’s too fuzzy, without a clear outlining or explanation of the plot to be attractive to anyone not already interested in more psychological films that lack explosions or knife fights. Now if Moore had been front-and-center on the poster wearing a tank-top and carrying a sawed-off shotgun this wouldn’t be a problem. But she’s not, so a large portion of the audience is going to be turned off by this to some extent.

The Trailers

The movie’s teaser trailer opens with a normal scene of a married couple waking up before Ruffalo admits that he can’t see, becoming increasingly frantic at his helplessness. We then see a montage of he and Moore being hauled off and eye examinations being given. News announcements are made about the “white sickness” and the measures being taken to attempt to halt its spread. There are shots of people being herded into the institution and some descending into madness and anarchy.

The theatrical trailer delves a little bit deeper into the setup, showing how Ruffalo’s character came to be infected. There’s also more about how Moore, who remains uninfected, winds up in the same institution as those who have lost their sight. There’s more then showing other people being stricken as they go about their lives. Once inside the institution she becomes an increasingly important figure among those there as the one person willing to stand up to those who have taken mob rule to a new level within those walls.

Both trailers are pretty good at not only conveying the major plot points of the film but also extending the branding that runs throughout the campaign, showing that the look of the posters and the website come directly from the slightly washed-out and milky look of the film itself. They both present it as a straight drama, though, free of many of the moralistic issues that are said to run through the source novel. That might be an attempt to make it more approachable for a general audience who just wants to watch a movie and not have to think about how easily societal niceties break down when a crisis occurs.

Online

The movie’s official website opens with a news announcement that the world is being stricken by an epidemic of blindness before giving over to the film’s theatrical trailer, which you have the option of grabbing for embedding elsewhere. Once it plays, or if you decide to skip it, the full site content becomes available. More snippets from that news

First up is “Synopsis,” which presents the pedigree of the movie and the basic points of the plot, including an explanation of how the sickness is spread through the population. “Cast” is next, with write-ups on the five main actors in the film. What I find interesting is that, according to this, all the characters have names like “The Doctor’s Wife” and other descriptors in lieu of actual names. “Filmmakers” covers the same sort of ground, presenting the resumes of those behind the camera.

“Video” contains both the teaser and theatrical trailers as well as five extended clips from the movie. They’re not especially long but do present aspects of the movie that are key to the plot – just enough to give the audience a taste of what to expect.

Under “Downloads” there’s just a handful of character Icons and a Wallpaper that carries the same image as the teaser poster. “Production Notes” is pretty sparse, meaning it’s not filled with all sorts of sub-headers and such. Instead it just concentrates its handful of paragraphs on the travels the story took from the 1995 source novel to the big-screen and how it was adapted from one to the other.

There are 14 pictures by my count in “Gallery” that expand when you click on them.

Finally there’s the “Featurettes” section. This is really more a section of special features, or more accurately a special feature. Spread Blindness, the only option available there, lets you opt to send a URL to a friend that will let them experience Blindness. I tried sending this to myself, using CNN.com as an example. When I opened the email that was sent, the link within took me to a screenshot of the CNN homepage that is wrapped in the milky haze that permeates the rest of the campaign. The screen then turns to the same sort of news announcement about the quarantine before bringing the visitor fully into the film’s official site.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Just a basic round of online and, I think, some TV advertising.

Media and Publicity.

The usual bits of interviews with the cast and filmmakers. The movie did get a bit of a boost toward the end of the campaign, though, when it appeared at the Toronto Film Festival without the narration by Danny Glover that it was saddled with when it appeared at Cannes. Most everyone I read said that made it much-improved and less awkward and stilted, giving the film a better pace and feel.

Overall

I know I probably shouldn’t be harping on this again, but this campaign contains a wonderful amount of brand messaging with the site, the posters and everything else all containing the same white-out visuals.

The site contains a good feature set and the trailers are tight and interesting, while the posters play into the themes presented throughout the rest of the campaign very well. Miramax has put together a solid campaign for a movie that could be among the first of the fall season’s “serious” films that try to reach a mainstream audience as well as those watching potential Oscar and other award contenders. As I’ve mentioned above there are some aspects of the push that don’t seem especially geared toward a wider audience but if the trailers, the most accessible component of the campaign, can reach a decent audience it could happen.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

  • 10/2/08: An advocacy group for blind people is protesting Blindness, saying that it harms the efforts of those without sight to integrate into mainstream society. This might be the most ridiculous position ever since from everything I’ve read it’s not about how blind people act but how society breaks down when the rules are abandoned. David Poland comes to a similar conclusion.

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