Review: Studios play blockbuster chess with 'Battleship,' 'Avengers,' 'John Carter' spots
The most specifically excited I remember ever being for a Super Bowl Sunday movie spot was in the spring of '97, and Sony was the studio that bought the spot I cared most about. It was a three-movie mega-ad they used to roadblock an entire ad break. They sold "Air Force One," "Men In Black," and "The Fifth Element," and since we hadn't seen any footage yet for "The Fifth Element," that was our first look.
My friends and I must have played the tape back 20 times just to study the barrage of images from the film, including some of those amazing Digital Domain cityscapes with car-packed skies as well the blue diva, Gary Oldman, explosions, and LeeeloooDallasMooolteeePass in all her glory. I didn't care about "Air Force One" at all, and the "Men In Black" footage was fine, but I loved that they used the Super Bowl to finally drop the intense veil of secrecy around Besson's movie.
These days, there is very little surprise or genuine wow to the things that happen during the Super Bowl. We know ahead of time what the commercials will be, and this year, we actually saw studios releasing ten-second previews of the sixty-second spots, so we were getting ads for ads. It's sort of terrifying to see how mechanical it is, and these days, it seems that more studios opt out than ever before.
The studios who did play along this year did so to very mixed results. Overall, I'd give the movie ad presence about a "B-" this year. There were a few nice ones, but not many in general, and some of them barely count.
Paramount had their Super Bowl spots online before the end of last week, and while I liked what they cut for "GI Joe: Retaliation," I thought their "Dictactor" spot was pretty much exactly what we've already seen. It was so indifferent that I can't believe they'd pony up Super Bowl money just to run that ad. The "GI Joe" ad does a nice job of selling the attitude of the new movie with the use of the "Jay-Z" quote, and it emphasizes The Rock and Bruce Willis, which is a good way of saying, "This is not the first film again."
Universal's biggie is "Battleship," and I'm having trouble with just how strongly it looks like another "Transformers" movie. I get it now, the basic shape of the film, and what sort of sequence we can expect, and it really feels to me like Hasbro insisted on seeing a film that looks exactly what's been working for them for the last decade. It's interesting to see this and "John Carter" both advertised here. If only someone would have thought to buy a "Savages" trailer, it could have been the Taylor Kitsch sweep. This is his year to either cement himself as a viable movie star, or he's looking at a quick return to television. I think "Battleship" looks like it will be big and loud. But good? That remains to be determined.
Disney deserves all the kudos this year for finally cutting a "John Carter" spot that works to really establish what kind of movie this is, how big it's going to be, and just what it's going to look and feel like, and I think it works. I'm seeing the film very soon, and at this point, my fingers are crossed, and I'm hoping that Andrew Stanton, a gifted storyteller so far, has made the "Carter" that he needed to make, pulpy and fun and big.
I think Disney's "The Avengers" trailer is equally confident this year, sure of itself, sure of the film it's selling, and finally able to drop a few more visual clues as to what we'll see in May. We see some aliens. We see the Avengers all standing together ready to kick some ass. And we see a little more Hulk. All good. All handled well.
But for that to be all we're talking about at the end of the Super Bowl, in terms of movie spots, it feels like Hollywood didn't really come to play this year. Maybe they've decided it doesn't really help. Maybe the money is just too crazy based on whatever concrete returns they can demonstrate from past years. Is it enough to make some noise during a football game, or do they have to be smarter about how they spend that money?
What did you guys think?