I hate to refer to the economy to begin a piece, but, in the midst of this ‘double dip’ recession, it seems that more people than usual are turning to their friendly neighbourhood cinema for an experience to make them feel good about themselves. Ironically, this is one of the more expensive routes to happiness, but it has to be noticed that more and more people are going to the cinema regardless of the apparent lack of money that everyone is going on about.
‘The Hunger Games’ is approaching $700 million at the worldwide box-office. ‘The Avengers’ has recently cruised past the $1 billion mark and will only be slowed by a brief MIB3 shaped blockade, and will most probably be almost brought to a halt by ‘Prometheus’ next week. Saying that, the 12A certificate held by ‘The Avengers’ may mean it still draws huge numbers as opposed to the mass-appreciated ’15′ with with ‘Prometheus’ was bold enough to accept. Who’s to say? All I know is that come July 20th, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ will leave all of these films in a very large, loud, Batwing sized wake. All of these massive films in just the first seven months of 2012.
In our efforts to embrace escapism wherever possible though, are these heavy-hitters becoming victims of their own hype? And whose fault is that?
The last film that I allowed myself to get personally jazzed for was David Fincher’s ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ last December. Following ‘The Social Network’ (which I still regard to be one of the more important films of the last 20 years), I was thrilled to hear that Fincher was to be revisiting the darker territories where he made his name. He promised something uncompromising, which he ever so slightly failed to deliver on. Upon my first screening of the film, I felt somewhat disappointed, and I couldn’t figure out why. I have come to determine that it was majoritively thanks to the fact that I held the original film in such high regard, but that’s not to say that I wasn’t in favour of Fincher prospectively doing a better job with the source material. Having had time to reflect upon the film, and watch it for the second time just this week, it would be more conclusive to say that the reason I didn’t appreciate ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ on Boxing Day was because I had built it up so much in my mind that I wasn’t able to enjoy what is essentially a technically perfect film.
Sure, I don’t like Daniel Craig, and sure, Rooney Mara oversexed the character of Lisbeth, and sure, Steve Zaillian’s script was ever so slightly too light hearted in places, but those flaws aside, the film’s marketing and my own Fincher-fanboy anticipation killed the experience for me, to the point where I had to wait six months before watching the blu-ray and appreciating all the wonderful elements of the film that had previously been masked by the insane release day hype for which I am as guilty as Columbia Pictures’ marketing guys.
So, I tell myself, ‘don’t let yourself do that again’. And my girlfriend reiterates, ‘you’re only going to disappoint yourself’. And she’s right, the last thing I want to do is build something up so highly in my mind, only to be left underwhelmed come release day. But is it entirely my fault? Or have marketing campaigns become such an awesome force in our moneyless quest for cinematic satisfaction that we allow ourselves to invest far more than just our ten pounds?
I wanted to address this now because tomorrow is going to be a very difficult day for me to try and keep it together. The marketing campaign for ‘Prometheus’ has been so relentless over the past few months that once again I find myself on the brink of a midnight IMAX screening frantically typing blogs to pass the hours that separate me from (what I have ashamedly built up in my mind to be) science fiction destiny. Looking back to Christmas time, I had the choice to either black myself out completely from the inevitable ‘Prometheus’ onslaught that was to come or allow myself to be treated to various samples of just what Ridley Scott and his team have been up to for the last year or so. My mistake was watching anything that came after the first trailer. In fact, I probably shouldn’t have even watched that. But what am I supposed to do when Ridley Scott is posting goddamn teaser trailers for the teaser trailer in a three-day Apple.com countdown?
So, as it would happen, the first trailer was mind-blowing. It was the first real evidence that ‘Prometheus’ would exist in the same Weyland-infused universe as the Scott’s original ‘Alien’, and all of a sudden I’m sold. So sold in fact, that had I not watched any further promotional materials for the film, I think I still would have bought a ticket for a midnight IMAX screening. This begs the question, so why did I elect to continue watching every sliver of footage that Fox released (via two further full length trailers, various featurettes and having listened to the score repeatedly over the last two days)? If I knew from the original teaser that the film was going to tick all the boxes, then why torture myself? And why allow myself to be exceedingly miffed when I see something of a Space Jockey in the final three-minute plus trailer? The reality is, I have no right to be miffed. I’ve done this to myself, again.
Unlike the slightly more subtle but no less buzz worthy marketing campaign for ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, Scott and Fox have (in my opinion) revealed far more than they needed to in an effort to generate a massive interest in this film. The fanboys were always going to be on board anyway, but considering just how much of a visual spectacle it is no doubt going to be, I feel like they could have held back a little bit more.
Another recent example of over marketing something and consequently being underwhelmed would be ‘The Raid’, an Indonesian martial arts ‘masterpiece’ that would have been just that, had it not revealed almost every ‘good bit’ in a two-and-a-half minute red band trailer months ago. Hype was generated, the people came to expect a visceral, action-packed bloodbath, and it was exactly that, but I for one was disappointed having seen the majority of it already. Little was left to the imagination, and little was left to satisfy the hypebuds (you know, like tastebuds) when the film was eventually released.
Boy, do I hope that is not even slightly the case tomorrow. Even though I feel like I’ve seen a lot (too much), I still feel like Ridley Scott is playing things close enough to his chest whereby I will be left breathless. Revealing trailers or not, there are still important elements to consider. A) No one has seen any footage of this film in 3D. All of the trailers were released in 2D and without the earth-shuddering IMAX sound mix that is no doubt going to destroy our eardrums. B) Unless you’ve been naughty and read the early reviews courtesy of Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and the FRENCH, the intricacies of the plot are still very much a secret. Both of these things combined, for me, means that the two most important reveals are that which in no way can be conveyed in a trailer or a featurette. Finally, it is important to remember that Ridley Scott isn’t stupid. He knows every frame of footage that is released to the public, and if you consider how secretive the entire project has been, and how ignorantly coy he has been in every interview leading up the film’s release, I’d say that although the trailers released for ‘Prometheus’ have been nothing short of heart-pounding and impressive pieces of work in themselves, they are mere oeur d’oeuvres compared to the rich, hearty feast that will surely follow the last few months which have more than relentlessly banged the drum.
Prometheus opens in the UK on June 1st and in the US on June 8th.