Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Is it August 13th yet? Because I can't watch one more Tropic Thunder commercial.

Hollywood Reporter has an article on the upcoming Hollywood satire Tropic Thunder that includes a few interesting points amid the is-this-movie-gonna-bomb? speculation:

So why all the bullish forecasts for "Tropic?" One reason: a months-long attempt
by marketing mavens to stimulate word-of-mouth on a film considered tough to
sell via conventional means.

Much of the humor in "Tropic" derives
from grotesquely exaggerated violence in combat scenes. There is a lot of
industry-insider humor as well, but that's never going to be a selling point to
the general public.

And good luck pulling together a TV commercial
or theatrical trailer based on the broader comedy bits from any R-rated

"For most movies, you have the opportunity to use the best
material and visuals for the picture itself to sell the movie," Paramount vice
chairman Rob Moore said. "On an R-rated comedy, most of the movie you can't
actually use (because of graphic content). So that's why we had to focus on
stimulating word-of-mouth, with people talking about the crazy, hysterically
funny moments in the movie that you can't show. One scene was even tough to get
approved for the red-band trailer."

This is, of course, a problem a lot of movies are facing now. How do you seize upon the newly flush market of R-rated comedies and effectively promote them when the general commercial marketplace still needs to be fairly clean? Viral marketing is certainly a way to go, and seems to be the way chosen by DreamWorks. But THR failed to mention a potential misstep on the parts of the producers: starting the virals too early.

Okay, fine, The Dark Knight started doing its virals last year, but they were largely confined to the more rabid fanbase that doesn’t know the word fatigue. Tropic Thunder, on the other hand, had its trio of stars do a bit on the American Idol finale in May, then did the now-infamous viral parody during the MTV movie awards. The trailer’s been attached to quite a few summer movies. Tie-in websites have been launched. A tie-in energy drink is in the works. And we’re still two weeks away from the opening. I gotta admit, I’m tired of it already, y’all.

And that’s sad, because I’m definitely in the category of “insanely excited for this movie” and if I’m feeling the fatigue, what’s the more general opinion? I mean, I was crazy excited when I first heard about it, crazier excited when the first pictures of Downey in his makeup surfaced last year, superdupercrazy excited when the MTV Movie Awards aired, but sometime between now and then I hit my Tropic Thunder saturation point. Now, I’m more intrigued by Mirrors, also opening that weekend, which has shown me just enough to prickle my interest without giving it all away. I may even try to go see it that weekend, even though these days I rarely have the time/energy/patience to see two movies in one week. (Fatigue or no, my Wednesday is reserved for Thunder.)

But really, best case scenario, the whole of Tropic Thunder is as hilarious and biting as those moments I’ve seen a million times in the trailers and commercials, in which case we’re all in for a treat, but there’s always that awful possibility that we’ve already seen the best it has to offer. Which wouldn’t be so bad if I’d only seen those best moments once or twice, but by now I have them memorized.

I think the marketing for Tropic Thunder was certainly on point contentwise, it was exactly the kind of savvy, creative angle needed to get the gist of a movie like this across to the general public. But it should have started more like a month and a half, two months tops prior to opening. The rub there, though, is that two of the major marketing tentpoles were attached to time-specific television events (MTV Movie Awards, American Idol), and those events tend to not exist in the TV deadzones of June, July, and August. I just don’t think a very special episode of Wipeout would have had quite the same impact. (Though I'd pay good money to see Stiller take it in the junk on the suckerpunch wall and watch Black bounce off the big balls.) So really, Tropic Thunder might have been better off opening in late June, far enough away from Iron Man to capitalize on RDJ’s hot streak without triggering Downey exhaustion, before Hancock (which we all thought would be bigger) and The Dark Knight (which was every bit the monster we knew it would be) blew into town, before viral fatigue hit. But it’s too late to do anything about it now. The movie’s been getting decent buzz from the reporters at AICN and The New York Times who’ve seen full cuts, which leads me to hope that the trailer scenes are among the best and not simply the best. And at the end of the day, fatigue be damned, I’ll still be there opening day. Because if I’m not, I fear the producers will send the Montauk Monster to my house to eat me. Or shave me. Or decompose on me. Or whatever it is that thing would like to do to me.

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