Movie Marketing Madness: Super

Last year movie audiences were treated to a post-modern take-down/indictment of the super hero conceit in the form of Kick-Ass. Based on the popular Mark Millar graphic novel of the same name the story there was about a high school student and other societal outcasts who decided that heroes didn’t need to just exist in the comics and didn’t require actually possessing special powers. All one needed was a costume and the determination to right some wrongs. The movie was generally well regarded among fans and was a modest hit but didn’t really break fully in to the mainstream audience.

Coming out this week with a slightly more adult take on a similar concept is Super from director James Gunn. In the wake of his wife (Liv Tyler) leaving him for a drug-dealing scumbag (Kevin Bacon), something snaps within otherwise mild-mannered Frank D’Arbo (Rainn Wilson) and he decides he’s had it up to here with crime both big and small. So he costumes up and adopts the identity of the Crimson Bolt, who takes people on sporting little more than a huge plumber’s wrench. He soon attracts the attention of young Libby (Ellen Page) who joins him as his crime-fighting sidekick Boltie. The two then confront demons both public and personal while also evading actual law enforcement.

The Posters

The movie’s first poster was pretty good. While it’s mostly red it’s supposed to be the same mask that’s worn by Wilson’s character in the movie with his mouth and eyes the only things visible beneath the mask. Coming from his mouth is a word balloon which has him saying “Shut up, crime!” which is an absolutely fantastic catch phrase and which is only slightly better than the copy at the bottom that says “He’ll totally f**king beat evil.”

All that put together means a poster that’s certainly going to get those who enjoy these sorts of tongue in cheek movies and the sense of humor clearly distinguishes it from last year’s deconstruction of the super hero genre, Kick-Ass.

A later version of the same conceit – this time with Page’s face barely visible behind a green mask and the words “Wanna go fight some crime” – was released around the same time as the movie’s appearance at SXSW 2011. The copy on this one is also different, telling us that “She’ll totally f**king beat evil.”

Four more posters were released a little bit later that kind of took the form of public service announcements, coming off as the kind of things that might be stapled to a power post along the sidewalk in a rough neighborhood. Two warned “Line-butters” and “Pedophiles” that the Crimson Bolt was in their hood and two others did the same for “Car keyers” and “Drug pushers,” only those let people know that Boltie would be patrolling the streets.

The Trailers

The first trailer for the movie was all kinds of fantastic. We open by meeting Frank and are introduced to his current situation, which is that he’s lost his wife to another man. So he heads to a comic book shop to start researching super heroes as he decides he’s going to become one. This leads to him violently beating various criminals and eventually taking on Page’s character as his sidekick. But it all comes back to him losing his wife as we see him confront Bacon’s character, who’s actually a drug dealer. In between the footage from the film there are comic-like segments that show the characters either fully animated or highlighted against pop-art backgrounds.

It’s just great, showing the movie to be a more grown up – and potentially much darker – version of last year’s Kick Ass. Wilson looks like he gives just a great performance as a man who’s obviously not dealing with things in the most constructive or socially acceptable way. We get too short a shot of Nathan Fillion here, but that’s the only thing that doesn’t absolutely work about this spot.

Online

Unfortunately the movie’s official website is pretty basic and doesn’t have much going on. There’s a variety of videos, a photo gallery, synopsis and cast list but that’s about it. There’s been more of interest to find by following either the movie’s official Twitter account or the feeds of Rainn Wilson, Nathan Fillion, Ellen Page or anyone else.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

I think I’ve seen some online advertising done on specialty film sites but that’s about it.

Media and Publicity

The movie’s publicity – really its marketing as a whole – really kicked off at Comic-Con 2010, where the convention crowd was treated to a panel presentation with the stars and filmmakers as well as a trailer preview and more looks at the style of the movie.

It was then taken go the Toronto International Film Festival to build some more buzz among the press and moviegoers there, especially as a result of its inclusion in the Midnight Madness portion of the festival, a strategy that worked considering it also came out of Toronto with a deal from IFC Films.

Shortly before release it had what amounted to a public coming out party by screening at SXSW 2011 (Filmmaker Magazine, 2/2/11), an event where Gunn also wound up leading a panel discussion about the movie along with Wilson and Page. At SXSW Gunn was also interviewed (Los Angeles Times, 3/12/11) as to who his super hero inspirations were and why he’s so interested in working outside of traditional genre definitions.

As alluded to above, there was also plenty of conversation about the movie happening on Twitter thanks to the promotion of it by the main cast members, who kept people talking about it and generally helped it stay somewhere near the top of most people’s minds.

Overall

The biggest thing this campaign has going for it is that it seems to share the same disturbed, quirky sense of humor that the movie apparently has. It seems to revel in making the audience uncomfortable. But it also presents a relatively straight-forward narrative for what appears to be a very subversive movie, so there’s the probability that some audiences who haven’t been tuned in to the buzz (and I’m not sure who they’d be since being tuned in to the buzz is the primary way people will likely know about it to begin with) there’s likely to be even more uncomfortableness in theaters.

The campaign itself works in selling what’s certainly an offbeat comedy with one of the greatest deadpan comedians in recent history. Wilson owns this campaign and it’s on his shoulders more than anything that the marketing falls. The marketing is funny, weird and certainly attractive to people who are looking offbeat laughs.

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