Movie Marketers Ruined My Thing Sandwich

Come summer, it’s a wonder movie marketers can keep their jobs. After all, what is there to do? Show a few explosions, a pretty woman in peril, a dangerous situation with an unresolved rescue, someone falling through the air, and the work is done. Presto, movie marketing campaign. It’s a cinch.

I suppose the marketing departments need all those people when the fall season begins and serious movies are scheduled for release. That lasts through Christmas, when the New Year deluge of Oscar unworthy titles appear. Then spring brings more interesting fare as executives jockey to see how quickly receipts from a domestic release can top two hundred million.

Considering they only work eight months a year, how do marketing departments misrepresent your viewing experience so badly so often?

Look at The Thing. Not the brilliant John Carpenter movie, nor the original black and white vegetable monster mash, but the latest 2011 movie. The filmmakers very carefully created a prequel to Carpenter’s fare, and with a mostly Norwegian cast and Mary Elizabeth Winstead in a leading role, produced a pretty good movie. So what did they call it? The Thing: The Beginning? Origin of The Thing? Will The Thing Remember My Cell Phone Number?

No, they used the exact same name. Every bit of marketing made it look like a remake (as Carpenter’s movie was technically, although with a new script and monster concept). My reaction: You gotta be freakin’ kidding me. No way should anyone remake a Carpenter movie, much less the Kurt Russell classic. Hollywood needs to retire a film like sport franchises retire the jerseys of the all-time greats. Would anyone be foolish enough to remake Jaws?

No way. So I figured a new Thing was as silly as remaking A Star is Born (two remakes, two failures and counting). I wasn’t going to waste my money. It was only several years later that I decided to watch the movie on DVD and was pleasantly surprised to see a well made prequel.

I have other grievances. Why include clips in advertising that aren’t in the movie? Don’t say that’s not the marketers fault. If the director cuts the scene, it should immediately be cut from the commercials. The funniest scene from Bill Murray’s movie Bob wasn’t even in the theatrical release. Why show it in the preview, then?

Some movies labeled as horror-slasher are actually psychological thrillers. Or comedies are really dramas with a couple of smiles. I remember the advertising for the 1989 movie Dad showing Jack Lemmon as a funny, cantankerous old guy spitting one-liners at his son (Ted Danson).

Well, that was the marketing. If you watch the movie, be prepared for something far more serious since Jack has dementia—and not the good kind. It’s a so-so movie, but when you expect one thing, it’s a jolt when something else is delivered into your lap like a hot cup of coffee. Its stings for a while.

God help us all if something avant-garde shows up. Since marketers must pigeon-hole their products to dovetail with their perception of its intended audience, anything out of the ordinary sends them into a tailspin of false advertising (as labored metaphors go). You’re really in trouble if the central character is a kick-ass heroine (a concept marketers still can’t fathom) even though movies with strong female leads are kicking the most ass lately.

So now I’ll never get a sequel that follows up with Carpenter’s events. Thanks a lot, movie marketing people. I could have seen two plain white bread movies with chewy, delicious Carpenter movie meat in the middle.

The sandwich that bites back. But at least I’d remember my cell phone number.

Stay Friendly and Healthy.

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