This should go without saying after the intentionally vague headline, but there will be some big spoilers in this article for "The Wolverine." Read accordingly.
Here's one of those moments when a decision is made by someone on a film and I'm so baffled by it that I'm not even sure what to write or how to handle the headline.
James Mangold is the director of this summer's "The Wolverine," and that's one of those choices that has kept me interested since he was announced. Darren Aronofsky was first on the film, but when Mangold took over in development, it seemed like a cool and unconventional choice, which can pay off in cool ways sometimes. The entire time Mangold has been in production, he's been pretty vocal about the sort of thing he's trying to make, and they've done a great job of keeping images from the film locked down. As a result, all we've had were a few on-set photographs, a couple of portrait images, and that's it. Descriptions, and nothing more.
I find the posters for the film confusing. I think I like the idea of the ninja poster, but the execution just doesn't work. The problem that they have is this stubborn refusal to not use paintings or anything highly stylized. I don't get it. The best posters in film history are, in most cases, actual artwork and not just photoshopped images. Right now, there is a huge, frenzied, passionate market for purchasing film posters, but they're not posters that the studios are releasing. They're the Mondo posters, the paintings by the guys like Tyler Stout, and they are big business. I saw one for "An American Werewolf In London" when I was in Austin for SXSW that pretty much crushed me. It's gorgeous. Simple. Smart. And it nails the movie in one image.
That's what we need from movies that we're not getting right now. It baffles me doubly when you're talking about movies that are based on comic books, because you've got 20 or 30 years worth of images that you can work with to find just the right image. I get that it's Hugh Jackman, but it's also Wolverine, so why not get stylized? I've seen Mangold say what a major influence "The Outlaw Josey Wales" is on the movie, and I'd like to remind you what the "Josey Wales" poster looked like…
So after all this time, the trailer is about to arrive, and early on Monday, Mangold put up a six-second preview of the preview on Vine. That entire sentence is, I realize, absurd, and I'm genuinely turned off by the way people milk a single piece of marketing material into a three or four day news cycle. It's overload.
I'd much rather see one perfect poster or one really smart trailer and then have that be it. I know… this is me saying that, and I'm sure there's more than one filmmaker who just stood up, pointed at their computer screen, and loudly proclaimed "BULLSHIT," but in terms of how a film is sold, I'm really starting to think that less is more, and that smart and simple is the way to go if you really want to cut through the noise.
Now, here's the part I really don't get about the whole thing. Up till now, Mangold has been good at keeping this film close to the vest. I've heard some chatter about it, but mainly in terms of reaction. People seem to dig what they've seen, and it seems like Fox is pretty excited about it. I honestly don't know much beyond the general story arc that they're adapting from the comics, and I like it that way.
Or did. And then right in the middle of the six-second preview, there's Famke Janssen. And it sure as heck looks like new footage.
So option A, it's a dream sequence. Option B, it's a "flashback" but something new that they shot.
Or option C, the Phoenix is somehow in the movie. Even in a small role.
Whatever the case, I sort of hate that the way I learned it is from a six-second not-quite-in-focus snippet of the trailer for the film, instead of in the film. Whatever the role Famke plays, it's not going to be a co-lead or a major supporting part. They could have probably kept this as quiet as they kept Hugh Jackman's appearance in "X-Men: First Class," and that would have been awesome.
We'll obviously post the trailer for "The Wolverine" when it premieres online this week, and we'll also be talking more about the film in the months ahead as we get closer to release. But this feels like a stumble in the campaign to me.
"The Wolverine" arrives in theaters July 26, 2013.