Movie Marketing Madness: Constantine

constmmm01storyI personally think Keanu Reeves peaked as an actor in 1990’s “I Love You to Death” with his portrayal, along side William Hurt, of a drug-addict hired killer. Playing an amoral stoner hired to kill Kevin Kline really played to his strengths. Also going for it was that it was in that period before Reeves began considering himself a “serious” actor. Mr. Reeves, once you’ve asked Gary Busey if the FBI is really going to pay you to learn how to surf, you’ve pretty much marked out the path your career’s going to take. Best to just go with it.His latest movie finds Reeves playing some sort of spiritual being caught up in the eternal struggle of man versus the machines they created…wait. I think that’s a different movie.

His latest movie finds Reeves playing some sort of spiritual being caught up in the eternal struggle between Heaven and Hell. It’s an adaptation of the successful Alan Moore graphic novel Hellblazer. The word adaptation should be used loosely since in the source material the character is British. I’m not familiar with the comic, but he seems to be some sort of supernatural detective, not the monster-fighting Neo wannabe Reeves is playing in the movie.

The Trailers

Lots of apocalyptic theology wrapped up in about two minutes. Keanu Reeves must be well practiced acting against a green screen at this point. The only problem is that the green screen often gives the more emotionally believable performance of the two. Anyway, there’s some sort of plot involving needing to kill Rachel Weisz in order for her to get some sort of information but there’s no background given.

Both the teaser and the theatrical work equally as well, meaning barely at all. Keanu looks bored and there’s lots of CGI demons. Rachel Weisz looks hot, but that’s not on account of anything the trailer editors did, it’s just a fact of life. They both highlight Keanu’s role and they both look like the movie is just going to be a mess that tries so hard to appeal to comics fans while at the same time playing it broad for a wide audience, a move sure to disappoint comics fans.

The Poster

This is actually not too bad a poster even if it did initially remind me of one of those pictures that at first looks like a vase until you realize it also can be two faces looking at each other. Keanu is looking down dejectedly (I like to think he was just reminded of his performance in Hardball) in front of what might be the back of the tattooed lady from a carnival. Doesn’t do a whole lot to setup the plot of the movie but it looks cool.

The Website

When you first visit the site you are greeted by what seems to be at first an absolutely huge picture of Keanu Reeves’ head. This is mildly disconcerting and may cause some upset stomachs among the more sensitive of you, so proceed with caution.

The Constantine site first brings up a “site-lite”, a non-Flash site designed for quick perusing that actually turns out to be just as – if not a bit more – robust than the main Flash-based site. Because the content bleeds between the two I’ll just attack this as best I can and in no particular order

“About the Film” contains The Story (also available via the “Synopsis” link on the introduction page), The Cast, Filmmakers and Production Notes. The Production Notes are particularly in-depth as most aspects of making the film – from casting to shooting to designing the demons and locations – is covered. It was in reading the bio of director Francis Lawrence that I learned he shot the music video for Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me A River” video. This prompted two questions: 1) Shouldn’t we bring back something along the lines of the Spanish Inquisition (no one will expect it) to prevent things like this and 2) Where can I go buy lunch to replace the one I just launched all over my keyboard?

Moving on, “Media” contains the Trailer and the Super Bowl TV spot but not the teaser? Why not? There is also a Photo Gallery that is on both the “lite” and regular site. I actually preferred the navigation on the lite version since it lays all the pics out instead of making you slowly scroll through each one without being able to pick and choose which you would like to view.

Finally there are “Partners”, which just links to DC’s “Hellblazer” section and the DC Shop for Constantine and Hellblazer merchandise. “Mobile” lets you sign up to get updates sent to your cell phone and “Downloads” include a desktop, screensaver and other assorted soft-goods. Finally “Contest” links you to outside sites that are running Constantine-themed contests.

Overall

I don’t like the campaign from either a character-fan perspective (too generic and changing a bit from the comics) or a general movie-goer (potentially too much backstory that we don’t want to sit through before something blows up). I’m sure it will find an audience, but I think they’re hoping for a lot of name-recognition.

That’s interesting since they, you know, changed the name of the graphic novel. My guess is that “Hellblazer” sounded too much like “Hellraiser” and would scare people away from a movie about demons by reminding them of a movie about demons. Why do studios continue to feel they need to rebrand existing properties to make them more palatable? My guess is the movie will do well but not great, just good enough to greenlight a sequel by the Tuesday after opening weekend.

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