I can’t imagine I’m the only member of my generation who remembers clearly the VHS tape that contained a recorded-off-HBO version of the original Clash of the Titans, a copy that was all but unplayable after countless summers of playing it over and over again. I probably haven’t seen it in 20+ years but can still remember Zeus moving his little action figures around the game board, the Kraken being turned to stone by Medusa’s disembodied head and countless other scenes that were genuinely thrilling for 1981, mostly because of the masterful special effects work from the iconic Ray Harryhausen. There was action, there was adventure and there were a couple of hot chicks in tight-fitting white robes, meaning it had all the essential elements for a sub-10 year old boy of the time.
That classic movie has now been remade into a new version of Clash of the Titans. This one stars Sam Worthington, who is seemingly in every other movie being released, as Perseus, taking that role from the original’s Harry Hamlin. Where the first movie had Perseus on a quest to save and marry the beautiful Andromeda, this one has Perseus going up against the gods themselves, particularly Hades (Ralph Fiennes) who is attempting to unleash hell on Earth and stop him from taking over Olympus from Zeus (Liam Neeson). So the plot seems to have shifted from one of chivalry to one of embracing your inner hero and embracing the power you have, which is very 21st century I guess. Joel Osteen would probably love this.
The first poster features Worthington as Perseus in one of the iconic scenes we all remember from the original film as he victoriously holds up the severed head of Medusa. The look and feel of the poster is certainly meant to evoke memories of 300 with its washed out background and dust and dirt flying everywhere. But it’s very cool and shows this is a high-emotion swords and sandals flick that’s coming our way. The copy point “The clash begins” is a bit on the nose but hey, what are you going to do about that.
A second poster put Worthington on Pegasus as they fly into battle. Again, this is about recreating an image from the first movie that’s going to be recognizable to fans, though in this version Pegasus is obviously a bit darker – blacker and almost more lizard-looking – than the pure white steed that he originally was.
The third teaser one-sheet unveiled the look for the Kraken, the monsterous beast from the depths of the sea that Perseus must defeat when his love is about to be sacrificed on the cliffs. Again, Perseus is seen riding Pegasus into battle, and the long horizontal mouth of the monster draws more than a few comparisons to the creature in 2008′s Cloverfield.
There was also a triptych of images that had the same kind of color-saturated look and feel but different photos. One was of a set of mystics that appear in the trailers, one had Worthington’s Perseus fending off Scorponok in the desert and one of the three blind witches that help, albeit unwillingly, the hero on his journey.
What I’m not seeing anywhere in this campaign is a final, more traditional theatrical poster. All the one-sheets have teaser-focused language but there’s nothing that combines these elements or creates a new image where there’s a stronger central image and a full credit block. That seems like a huge missing gap in the push but might, I suspect, be a symptom of the “franchises, not stars” mentality that’s currently gripping Hollywood. It’s not important that the audience know who the director is, I guess, because what’s being sold is simply the visual rush.
Also notable in this aspect of the campaign is the fact that 3D presentation is being put at the forefront, with the fact that it’s “Also Playing in 2D” put below the title in small type on some of these posters. Avatar’s posters, of course, were all about promoting the fact that people should watch it in 3D but they didn’t include that caveat, which is now mentioned as an afterthought for audiences to consider.
There’s also the issue of the copy that appears on the posters, “Titans Will Clash,” being completely redundant considering two of those words also appear in the movie’s four-word title.
If you grew up like I did with the original movie you’re going to recognize a one of scenes from the first trailer. From the giant scorpion to the hunt for Medusa to the eyeless witches there’s a lot here that’s familiar, even if it does look quite different from the versions we might remember. There’s no dialogue aside from an intonation that “someone’s going to have to make a stand” and this very short spot is full of special effects, quick cuts and an orchestral hard rock score that highlights how this new movie has been updated somewhat in an attempt to appeal to a new generation.
The second trailer contains a lot of the same footage, with a few additions that primarily make it clear to the audience that the story is about the gods unleashing their fury by turning humans against each other in attempt to instill a sense of humility among the mortals. It’s a bit more fleshed out but not by much, though the added sense of perspective make the trailer feel more complete, I think, and presents a better end product to the audience.
Plus we get to see the updated Kraken, which really does look like a reworked version of the monster from Cloverfield but still looks pretty cool.
Both trailers are fast-moving, full of gritty visuals and slick effects and both are absolutely wafer thin. They’re as easily forgotten as a Filet-o-Fish. I’m sure they’re going to evoke some levels of nostalgia among people of my age and more than a few younger folks but in terms of substance there’s nothing there.
The official website starts with the second trailer, which you can skip to get in to the site. Once you do so there’s full-motion video, much of which is pulled from the trailer.
The first section under the Menu is “About” and that section has a Synopsis that lays out who the characters are and what the stakes are for Perseus and his band of heroes. It also includes the following bit of copy which I can’t decide is awesome or awful:
“The Film will be presented in 3D wherever possible, making the gods even more formidable, the creatures even more fearsome and taking audiences even deeper into the mythological realm of Perseus’ quest.”
(Note: I’ve not included a comma that shouldn’t be there and have included an apostrophe that they missed. Cause I can.)
Grammatical notes aside, I can’t help but think making such a case for the movie being markedly better because of the presentation is an admission that judged on its own merits it’s a little weak. Direction, set design, acting, cinematography and screenwriting should be what add weight to the movie and its story, not post-production 3D formatting.
Having seen Avatar in 3D I can honestly say it looked great but the 3D presentation did not add anything at all to the stakes I felt like the story was trying to convey, which didn’t come through at all anyway. And that was shot specifically for 3D so if any movie was going to it should have been that one. So I’m not overly optimistic that Clash is going to be all that much better simply because it’s been modified to be in 3D at the last minute and making that argument shows a knowledge of the movie being, as I said before, wafer thin.
Back to the content of the site, the rest of this section is filled with Cast and Filmmakers areas that have backgrounds on the folks who have mad the movie.
There are 12 stills in the “Photos” section and “Videos” just has the two trailers. I’m shocked by the latter since there have been a ton of TV commercials and extended scenes that were released.
“Downloads” has all the Posters and banners that can be grabbed as well as Wallpapers, Buddy Icons and a Screensaver.
You’ll see all the tie-ins and other promotions under “Partners & Sweeps” which I’ll dive into more later. “Soundtrack” has snippets of the movie’s score that you can sample.
“Games” has a couple of light games that pit you against either the Skorpioch or Medusa.
Most of the website’s content as well as features like a Profile Picture Generator and Twitter Skins are on the FanKit site, which is similar to what WB has done with Watchmen and other movies recently.
“Release the Kraken” is an augmented reality tool but, since I didn’t actually waste the printer ink to try it and since there’s no explanation as to what it is given I’m not sure what the tool actually is. Similarly, “The Mark of Medusa” is a photo-upload tool that turns your picture to stone.
There’s also a Facebook page that has showtime information, a few photos and some of the TV spots in addition to the trailers and links to some of the external promotional coverage of the movie.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Quite a bit of TV advertising was done, especially during the broadcast of the Winter Olympics, with spots airing there that used imagery of athletes and voiceovers about champion spirits eventually leading to footage from the movie that was for the most part pulled from the trailer. The spots also emphasized that not only was the movie coming soon but that it was coming soon in 3D, something the marketers obviously felt was going to appeal to the guys watching Olympic Games.
The rest of the TV spots, many of which are viewable on Warner’s YouTube channel, are variations on the trailers, though most all of them have some new footage and dialogue that’s also been included. They work on about the same level as those trailers, which is to say good enough.
Yoplait was one partner, signing on the movie’s Izabella Miko, who plays Athena, to help launch its new line of Greek yogurt. The idea is to encourage women to embrace and unleash their inner goddess, which apparently is done through the consumption of Greek yogurt. A PDF download on the Yoplait site also has a few Greek-inspired fashion tips as modeled by Miko.
Tablet PC company Shuttle has a variety of exclusive downloads that are tied to the movie as well as a prompt to enter to win one of their devices.
Visa is a partner though there aren’t really any details on the extent of that.
Retailer Hot Topic doesn’t have a Clash section on their site but it’s safe to assume their mall stores will have movie-branded merchandise available to sell to DJ Jazzy Trevor and his cohorts who are cruising down from the food court.
Buttkicker, a company that sells devices which enable you to rig up your couch or chair to make them rumble with the movie you’re watching or game you’re playing, has a sweepstakes to send people to Las Vegas and award them a bunch of electronics gear.
Finally, Floyd’s Barbershop (yeah, really) lets you enter via text message to win a trip for two to Greece.
Media and Publicity
Being a high-profile remake of a classic movie there were lots of stories about the film’s production and such, especially since it stars Worthington, who gained a lot of residual buzz from his appearance in Avatar just a handful of months ago.
Star Sam Worthington, seemingly in half the movies that have been released in the last 12 months, was given one of those conveniently timed awards when it was announced (Hollywood Reporter, 3/1/10) ShoWest would name him Male Star of the Year at their trade show later in the year.
Other than that most of the press coverage focused on the film’s conversion to 3D despite not being filmed in that format. The move was one designed to take advantage of the buzz around 3D and the success of other movies released like that. The theory seemed to be because it was filled with special effects the audience would clamor to see those effects flying at them from the screen and be more than happy to pay the premium ticket prices – which have even gone up at many chains in the last couple weeks – for the privilege.
There are some great visuals in this campaign but ultimately I think it falls flat. Those visuals do nothing to sell any sort of story or impart any sense of the stakes the characters are facing other than a couple of toss-off lines in one of the trailers and a paragraph of copy on the website.
The campaign doesn’t seem to care, though, and knows all it has to do is keep hitting the audience with those visuals since they’re going to be what the studio thinks people are going to be swayed by. It may very well be right, but I also think what we might be seeing is something that falls in the middle ground between effects-driven movies that are grounded in good acting and decent writing (Iron Man being a great example here) and ones that are gigantic spectacles with little in the way of story (I’m looking at you, Avatar). So this kind of movie that just seems generic might wind up connecting on neither level.
I may very well be wrong, but this campaign has left me cold on the remake but with a powerful desire to reconnect with the original.
PICKING UP THE SPARE
- 04/02/10: There was a really, really awkward marketing integration with “American Idol” the week the movie opened, with footage from the movie being interspersed with the usual shots of contestants lining up to hear their results. It was just…odd.