Movie Marketing: Yer Doin' It Wrong

Fresh off my first two entries into my Movie Mash series, I thought I'd take a moment to further consider both of the movies covered therein. In particular, I'd like to address unfortunate trends in movie marketing.

The trailers for both The Incredible Hulk and The Happening have been all over TV for the last two to three weeks, heavily pushing the return of two entertainment industry heavy weights. In the green corner, we have the fighter in the purple trunks, Bruce Banner; a.k.a. The Hulk! In the dark and brooding corner we have the apocalypse itself, with a poorly directed Mark Wahlberg offering perspective and encouragement from the apron.

The Incredible Hulk has done a good job of making me anticipate the return voyage of the green giant. The first teasers didn't spark my interest, but the more I saw of the movie, and the more I saw the Hulk in action, the more I wanted to see the movie. Unfortunately, while my own experience shows that this method of marketing may have been necessary to sell the movie to its target audience, I believe it will come at the cost of my enjoyment on opening night.

I guarantee you that the first Hulk transformation will happen off screen. For the first half hour, if the Hulk is present, he will be largely in shadows. The second time Banner transforms, we will only see part of the process, a large amount obscured through creative editing. It won't be until the final act of the film that we see the full blown transformation in all of its bone crushing, muscle tearing glory. The slow build to seeing the visual spectacle that is the Hulk is tarnished by trailers that reveal too much. It's just like a trailer for some second rate comedy that shows every last funny bit in the film (Curse you, Ben Stiller). Disappointing, to say the least.

On the flip side of this issue we have the trailers for The Happening which reveal absolutely nothing about the film except that people are going nuts and the world is apparently ending. This does not bother me. Half the joy of M. Night Shama-lama-ding-dong's films is going into them ignorant of what they're *actually* about (See my previous article detailing my Signs' experience) and discovering the film's true message as the story unfolds.

No, my problem with The Happening's trailer is that the film is being marketed as Shama-lama's "very first 'R' rated film." Now as many of you may know if you frequent my site, I usually detest PG-13 horror. There's no reason for it, it waters down the experience, and detracts from the spirit of the genre. While M. Night's work can largely be classified as scifi or horror, I don't traditionally think of him as working within the boundries of the genre. His films have always include intense situations, but never graphic depictions of sex or violence. This is because the stories he told did not require these contrivences. The stories and characters worked based on their own merits. I'm worried that this 'R' rating is the manufactured idea of some big wig Hollywood producer who thought using the rating to try to appeal to a more mature crowd would increase the film's chance of financial success. In reality, what the rating does is restrict the film's potential audience to those 17 and above, thereby lessening the potential of what ought to be a mainstream movie.

So two movies with trailers that take opposite approaches to selling their product. I find the M. Night Shama-Lama approach tends to make for a more intriguing experience, especially once I'm actually in the theater, but I don't deny that watching the Hulk kick the crap out of Abomination makes me wet in ways a male shouldn't be. Now I'm all sticky. Geek out.

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