One of the more interesting things about this week, other than getting another year closer to 40, is the marketing behind the film Chappie. Getting a wide release this weekend, and in pole position to have a strong opening, Chappie is the third film from Neill Blomkamp following District 9 and Elysium. And it’s the one that’s being marketed the most interesting of the three.
His first two films were action films that were explicitly marketed as such. I loved the first one, and didn’t care for the second, thus Chappie is a film I’m still willing to check out on the merits of Blomkamp openly discussing screwing up Elysium and wanting to continue the Ridley Scott/James Cameron legacy in Aliens 5. He’s self aware enough to know that his previous film was not as good as it could’ve been, too, and thus it makes Chappie all the more interesting.
This is a director willing to admit when he did something that wasn’t optimal, admittedly after going on a press tour to hype the film of course, but he at least can be this honest less than two years after the film was released. Chappie becomes that much more of a film I want to see because of it. Blomkamp hopefully learned the lessons he needed about story-telling from a film that managed to be financially successful despite a lackluster domestic box office showing.
Going into reviving the Alien franchise we’re fairly sure that Blomkamp is well versed enough in science fiction that whatever he comes up with, from a more science fiction based film to potentially a more action first thriller with all points between in play, that his take on the franchise will be at least more entertaining than Prometheus wound up being. But it also spotlights something about the marketing push behind Chappie that’s illuminating about modern Hollywood.
Check out the first trailer, which makes the film an interesting science fiction piece about artificial intelligence.
And then this second trailer, and marketing campaign, came out. It’s now being pushed as an action film, viva la revolution and such.
It’s an interesting contrast, as the first trailer gives us a science fiction film about the nature of self that appears to end badly for the robot. The second film is about a robot made self aware by a group of people fighting the power and such. It’s an interesting contrast in marketing styles, as one feels more honest and the other feels more commercial. And that’s the key to understanding why the film has two very different marketing takes so far: trying to maximize the box office revenues of a film that could have a questionable time drawing as an intellectual art house film with a blown up budget.
Sci-fi has a hard time drawing at the box office unless it’s in a wrapper of another genre, mainly action. It’s why George Lucas can blow his nose with $100 bills for a Star Wars film and Duncan Jones’ Moon made about as much as a Transformers film spent on craft services. Sci-fi has always been a genre that has a hard time crossing a certain financial threshold unless it has the wrapper of something else to make it appealing.
It’s why this film, which looks like it potentially has more intelligence to it than just the “robot given consciousness, trained to rage against the machine” type of film it’s being positioned as closer to its released date, has had its marketing changed up. Chappie, about a robot given consciousness to help fight back against “the man,” is being positioned in the same way Drive, a Fast & Furious clone, was positioned in 2011 to bring out audiences en masse with some sleight of hand.
If you want to pimp anything email it to me with a good reason why. It helps to bribe me with stuff, just saying ….
What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 tall boys of Red Fox and community college co-eds with low standards at the Fox and Hound
Chappie – A robot is made self aware, then helps a bunch of revolutionaries strike back against Wolverine and his evil government.
See It – Blomkamp is brilliant visually, so at a minimum it’ll be a film that’ll be worth it to see on that basis alone. A third film in a director’s resume is arguably the most important; it’s the one where we find out how high their ceiling can be.
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – A bunch of old British people chill in India some more.
Skip It – The first was counter programming and this is just more counter programming.
Unfinished Business – Vince Vaughn gets in R-rated trouble as he owns his own company or something.
Skip It – I like Vaughn when he talks about his politics, et al, as he’s self aware enough to come off as a guy who at least thought about it on more than a cursory level. Too bad his films have been putrid for a long time.
Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .