Saturday, 8 June 2013

Pacific Rim: Big-Budget Action Movie or Emotional Romantic Drama?

A recent article from Variety has raised some interesting points regarding the ever evolving marketing strategy for Pacific Rim.

The piece, written by David S. Cohen, explores Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. hope that the big-budget sci-fi movie will become a global blockbuster and subsequently, one of the biggest films of the year.

Although it is vital for both parties that this film is a success, the pressure is arguably greater for Legendary Pictures. Firstly, they fronted "75% of its nearly $200 million production budget". Secondly, their development deal with Warner Bros. is expected to expire at the end of the year and they will aim to use this film's (potential) success as leverage when negotiating a new studio deal.

"For “Pacific Rim” to be the kind of phenomenon Legendary is banking on, the picture must draw on an audience beyond the core fanbase of Kaiju and Gundam aficionados. Jashni says “Pacific Rim” is aimed at “all quadrants."

A four-quadrant movie is one that appeals to men and women under and over 25 years old and to do so, it must be universally appealing. Legendary's president and Chief Creative Officer, Jon Jashni claims that the monster movie will be aimed at all four quadrants, which is somewhat surprising given the concept. The film has been billed as Transformers meets Godzilla and its marketing campaign seems to be tailor-made for teenage boys, not women.

According to Warner Bros. the marketing strategy has always been "to rev up core fans first, then expand from there", which indicates that the marketing push is going to experience a sizable shift leading up to the film's release.

The problem is, Pacific Rim is due for release on 12th July, meaning this sudden marketing shift may have arrived a bit late. In addition to this, the film has so far shown no signs of appealing to all four quadrants, unlike Iron Man 3 has, and Man of Steel is likely to do. 

To suggest that a movie about "giant (bleeping) monsters vs giant (bleeping) robots" will be universally appealing is stretching it. It certainly isn't impossible, but the marketing strategy should have focused less on the CGI action and more on the human aspect much sooner.

The screen-time for the characters within the trailers has been very limited and more importantly, forgettable. Additionally, both the poster and trailer campaigns have portrayed the movie as a spectacle that is far too heavily reliant on CGI at the expense of character and narrative importance. Both of which have been entirely ignored on all of the one-sheets (see below for an example):

To suggest that this movie currently has any chance of achieving four-quadrant appeal is unlikely, though not impossible. However, the chances of being able to implement a drastic marketing shift one month before the film's release is an extremely tough ask, simply because cinemagoers will ultimately be unsure what to expect from the movie.

The question is, how will Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures hope to achieve this marketing shift?

"Within the world of “Pacific Rim,” the pilots inside the robots must link their minds, sharing memories and thoughts. In this link, called the “Drift,” pilots have no secrets from each other; when lonely, troubled pilots Raleigh Beckett (Charlie Hunnam) and Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) must team up, they experience what Jashni terms “the fastest speed-dating of all time.” If the bots and monsters hook the fanboys, this aspect of emotional intimacy figures to play to femmes."

This is not Bridget Jones' Diary! This is a film about "giant (bleeping) monsters vs giant (bleeping) robots", to imply that it can be anything other than this at such a late stage will detract from the epic spectacle that this film could potentially be.

Jashni states:

"We’ve brought the tasty, but we’re also going to bring the nutrition,” he says. That “nutrition” began to show up in the marketing campaign last week, with the unveiling of a featurette about “Drift Space,” which reveals one of the pic’s conceptual conceits."

The introduction of the "Drift Space" aspect is complex and may be awkward to establish as a vital story arc component in terms of character development. Audiences will need time to familiarise themselves with this concept if it is important, and therefore it needs receive considerable focus to increase audience anticipation beyond "fanboys". One passive line in the most recent trailer is not a sufficient "aspect of emotional intimacy... to play to femmes" and certainly doesn't make Pacific Rim a four-quadrant movie. 

Why wasn't it introduced earlier? 

It is possible that this marketing change is an indication that the studios are uncertain whether word of mouth will be positive enough to appeal to women, or that it will generally not be positive enough to sustain the desired box-office run. As a consequence, it seems feasible to suggest that the main reason for the implementation of a four-quadrant marketing campaign is to counteract any negative word-of-mouth by generating huge box-office numbers in its opening weekend.

"The TV campaign will ramp up next week and will target kids, teens and families, with spots on NBA and NHL playoff games, “Good Morning America,” the “Today” show and network season finales."

"Jashni maintains that the “fanboy psychographic” isn’t limited to men anymore, and that character helps sell a movie to all audience segments. “There’s an emotional aspect to this movie, and there’s a bombastic aspect,” he says. “Some women will respond to the emotion inherent in the movie, some will respond to the spectacle. Same is true for men and adults. "

Surely this film is now being sold as something that it is very unlikely to be,  promising deep emotional stories when it should be focusing on the fact that it must overcome the potentially crippling comparisons with Transformers and Godzilla.

"The comparison is only a problem if we fail at differentiating the film from the other properties,” says Kroll, who remains confident audiences will be satisfied with the picture’s big action sequences and the fact it “looks so new and fresh."

Both of those franchises, Transformers in particular, were instantly recognisable brands that already had a built-in audience that acted as a marker for success. Pacific Rim doesn't have that luxury, which is a strong indicator as to why they are targeting a four-quadrant appeal.

There is absolutely no doubt that Pacific Rim looks epic and a lot of fun; however, the target demographic is men under and over 25 years old, making it a two-quadrant movie that has the potential to expand through strong word-of-mouth. It currently does not possess event movie appeal that generates huge box-office, which indicates that it might struggle after the likes of Man of Steel, especially as Legendary's bar for success has been raised considerably.

Pacific Rim is likely to be a success, but its blockbuster status is uncertain and it certainly should not be judged on whether it managed to appeal to women, or not.

No comments:

Post a Comment