Monday, July 14, 2014

Happy Trails: "Star Trek Into Darkness"

An Experiment: I'd like to take a look at the advertising campaigns for certain movies, and how I feel they're either successful or not. A good place to start, in my mind, was 2013's Star Trek Into Darkness

The Film:
I like Star Trek Into Darkness. In fact, I like it more each time I see it. I'm a huge Star Trek fan, and I loved the 2009 film, so I was predisposed to see this one. But I have to admit, the advertising campaign for the film did little to entice me. I had to rely on my general feeling of excitement about new Star Trek to really feel much of anything before the film was released.

Let's talk about why.

The Posters:
First we have this rather apocalyptic shot of Benedict Cumberbatch, San Francisco burning behind him. "Earth will fall," we are told. 
Next up, one of the film's general release posters featuring the Enterprise crashing toward the Earth. This image was also featured on the soundtrack album cover and some of the home video release covers.
Four character posters released separately and in one large banner featuring Kirk, Uhura, Spock and Khan. 
Another banner poster. There were a lot of similar posters featuring the characters in dramatic action poses.

So what about these posters is problematic? Personally, I don't think they represent either the film or Star Trek all that well. Aside from the bold colors on the third poster, all of these images are fairly generic. Removing the Star Trek Into Darkness logo and one might not even guess from some of them that this is a Star Trek film.

But posters aren't really the most egregious part of this film's dull advertising campaign.

The Trailers:

What do these trailers do? Their major crime is that when you think about it, they really do kind of give away the entire film. All those shots of the ship crashing into San Francisco? The shots of Spock and Khan in San Francisco? The Enterprise falling apart as it enters the atmosphere? 

All that stuff is from the climax of the film. In their hopes of giving us the big money shots that will lure us into the theatre, the trailer editors did us a disservice because now we've seen a little bit of literally every major sequence in the movie. The film's major plot twist was one of the worst-kept secrets on the Internet in 2013, and the "kitchen sink" approach to the trailers wasn't helping anyone.

It's a problem too many movies suffer from these days - the trailer has almost become a condensed version of the film itself, rather than something designed to get us interested in seeing it. 

Coming out of the film, I found myself frowning, thinking about how the trailers had really shown me a lot of what I had just seen, and I didn't feel surprised about it. My general reaction to the movie was, "That's about what I expected." When I saw the film a second time, I enjoyed it a lot more. 

Star Trek Into Darkness is definitely an action film, no doubt about it. But it is also a Star Trek film, steeped in the lore of that universe as well as its common themes and social commentary. It is a bit darker than its 2009 predecessor, but it's also a colorful movie full of humor. Very little of that is represented in the posters or the trailers for the film, and worse, the trailers essentially give away all the big sequences. (And, hell, some of Benedict Cumberbatch's ominous lines aren't even in the movie.) Why should anyone bother to see the film after that? I went because I love Star Trek and because I had faith the team behind the 2009 film had made another movie I would enjoy, but not because of the advertising campaign.

I approached the movie with trepidation because of these factors.