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I like how a simple change in music changes the tone in trailers drastically.

The problem for the marketing guys is that it changed the tone from "epic sci fi battle movie" to "family fun excitement". Wow, if there's not going to some product-concept fit issues when this hits theaters. No machine guns, no big fights in the TV spot. Perhaps the studio is, as Ryan H suggests, thinking more theme park ride vs. Terminator 2 type event film.

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The problem for the marketing guys is that it changed the tone from "epic sci fi battle movie" to "family fun excitement". Wow, if there's not going to some product-concept fit issues when this hits theaters. No machine guns, no big fights in the TV spot. Perhaps the studio is, as Ryan H suggests, thinking more theme park ride vs. Terminator 2 type event film.

Precisely. It seems like they're trying to appeal to two different crowds; I mean, it's not like this doesn't happen often, but it's so jarring here. Wow, just wow.

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I continue to look forward to seeing this film.

I think the tone of the new commercial is attributable as much to the narration, and to the narrator's voice, as to any of the edited images.

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Christian, that's certainly true in terms of the narrator effect. I'm intrigued by the decision to change the apparent marketing strategy. But, I do think the edited images (watch both trailers with the sound off) are really different. Gone are the battle scenes, and their replaced with the now blue guy touch flowers and running around. There's maybe one weird animal attacking a mecha, but that's a very quick cut of what played such a dominant role in the initial trailer. The TV spot (even without sound) is discovery, discovery, discovery, and the trailer is new and pristine, but in need of defense. I imagine an Apocalypto trailer with just the spectacle of the jungle and the crane shots of the Mayan city, with Enya music, and you get a similar feel for the potential of the upcoming bait-and-switch.

My gut feel is that this thing got test screened, and is in the process of being heavily re-edited. But that's pure speculation on the two trailer/TV spots. I don't have a "good/bad" opinion on Avatar, just curiosity of this as a marketing strategy.

Is there a lot of buzz for the film in the sci fi culture? Its been so long since Cameron made a film, and this is nothing like either the Terminator/Aliens actioners nor the spectacle romance of Titanic. It reminds me a bit of the Abyss--a film almost more about technology than its story (though the first two acts of that are as solid as anything else in Cameron's work).

Edited by Buckeye Jones

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Buckeye Jones wrote:

: I'm intrigued by the decision to change the apparent marketing strategy.

FWIW, I don't think this is a "change" so much as they are marketing the film differently to different constituencies. I'm sure when Titanic came out, they ran ads in some quadrants emphasizing the chick-flick romance while running ads in other quadrants emphasizing the boys-with-toys disaster-movie aspects.

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Buckeye Jones wrote:

: I'm intrigued by the decision to change the apparent marketing strategy.

FWIW, I don't think this is a "change" so much as they are marketing the film differently to different constituencies. I'm sure when Titanic came out, they ran ads in some quadrants emphasizing the chick-flick romance while running ads in other quadrants emphasizing the boys-with-toys disaster-movie aspects.

This is exactly what I was going to say. Isn't it called "four-quadrant marketing" these days? I'm not sure what the four quadrants are, but the idea is to bring in people of all ages and genre preferences, or something like that.

Have I mentioned that I think this movie looks cool? I'm allowing myself to get a little excited -- something I don't often do for big-budget, mainstream releases? I'd rather get burned by the final product once it's out than wring my hands over a couple of trailers.

And remember: I'm the guy for whom 3D doesn't really work. I have vision problems. But I'm still excited about this film's visuals.

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Buckeye Jones wrote:

: I'm intrigued by the decision to change the apparent marketing strategy.

FWIW, I don't think this is a "change" so much as they are marketing the film differently to different constituencies. I'm sure when Titanic came out, they ran ads in some quadrants emphasizing the chick-flick romance while running ads in other quadrants emphasizing the boys-with-toys disaster-movie aspects.

This is exactly what I was going to say. Isn't it called "four-quadrant marketing" these days? I'm not sure what the four quadrants are, but the idea is to bring in people of all ages and genre preferences, or something like that.

Have I mentioned that I think this movie looks cool? I'm allowing myself to get a little excited -- something I don't often do for big-budget, mainstream releases? I'd rather get burned by the final product once it's out than wring my hands over a couple of trailers.

And remember: I'm the guy for whom 3D doesn't really work. I have vision problems. But I'm still excited about this film's visuals.

Interesting. I'm not familiar with the "four quadrant" marketing term (but hey, I'm in R&D). The risk they run is if the quadrants' have vastly different expectations (and as a corollary, tolerances for elements outside of those expectations), you could see poor word of mouth killing the legs of the release. The Titanic and original Star Wars films did well on both trial and repeat, if I recall correctly. But they did so because they were successful in meeting the expectations of a broad range of consumers, and the "tolerance" factors were low bars (such as bad dialogue, little blood, not much skin, no F-words). Its because of the wide distance between the two spots that my curiosity is piqued, right, because it looks really like two different movies. Titanic, I guess could also look like two different movies, but I don't remember the campaign to know if it was presented as so. Plus, once a Celine Dion song gets out there, the "boys-with-toys" demographic is done. Period. ;)

Edited by Buckeye Jones

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And remember: I'm the guy for whom 3D doesn't really work. I have vision problems. But I'm still excited about this film's visuals.

I'm surprised. They don't do much for me... more like a Saturday morning cartoon than some poetic, awe-inspiring new world. It's all a bit generically sci-fi/fantasy for my tastes.

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Watching the latest Avatar trailer, I was suddenly reminded of this Time magazine cover story on Aliens that I dug up the other day. Back in 1986, James Cameron said of the Marines in that film: "Their training and technology are inappropriate for the specifics, and that can be seen as analogous to the inability of superior American firepower to conquer the unseen enemy in Viet Nam: a lot of firepower and very little wisdom, and it didn't work."

This reminds me of how the Star Wars trilogy was conceived as a Vietnam parable, with the evil Empire as America (a point missed by Reagan) and the primitive Ewoks (originally Wookies, until Lucas realized Chewbacca had become too technologically proficient on the Millennium Falcon) as the Vietnamese.

And now, the trailers for Avatar have people saying things like "We're going up against guns with bows and arrows." Who wants to bet the bows and arrows win?

It'll be interesting to see if any Vietnam analogies are made in the run-up to THIS film. That war ended over 30 years ago, and there are other, more pressing conflicts out there nowadays.

-

One other thought that occurred to me today: James Cameron's films have sometimes featured human beings who "enhance" themselves with devices that are kind of like bigger, mechanical versions of human beings. The load-lifter with which Ripley defeats the Queen Alien in Aliens seems to have been recycled, to some degree, in Avatar; and I suppose one could make similar points about the grabbing mechanisms on some of the submersibles in The Abyss. I wonder if the "avatars" THEMSELVES could be considered an extension of this principle, except more intimate and quasi-organic.

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For those of you who missed South Park's latest, they are already making fun of Avatar. Essentially, Avatar is ripping off of Cartman's film "Dances with Smurfs."

southpark-avatar.jpg

Seriously, check out this one clip here -

http://www.southpark...om/clips/255337

Or just watch the whole thing at the South Park website. Warning though - even this one clip has bad language and a pretty violent & bloody ending.

Cartman: "Of course, it wasn't long before ... I fell in love with Smurfette."

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This reminds me of how the Star Wars trilogy was conceived as a Vietnam parable, with the evil Empire as America (a point missed by Reagan) and the primitive Ewoks (originally Wookies, until Lucas realized Chewbacca had become too technologically proficient on the Millennium Falcon) as the Vietnamese.

Was it conceived as a Vietnam parable, or did it become something of a Vietnam parable? Looking at the evolution of the original STAR WARS drafts, I don't see much of Vietnam in there.

Edited by Ryan H.

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Ryan H. wrote:

: Was it conceived as a Vietnam parable, or did it become something of a Vietnam parable? Looking at the evolution of the original STAR WARS drafts, I don't see much of Vietnam in there.

I'm just going by what Lucas said when he promoted Return of the Jedi in 1983.

Admittedly, Lucas has a thing for retconning not only his fiction, but the real-world story behind the creation of that fiction, as well. But then, it WAS Lucas's idea to set Heart of Darkness in Vietnam (a concept that Francis Ford Coppola borrowed and turned into Apocalypse Now, in which Harrison Ford plays Col. G. Lucas; reportedly, Lucas got to do something closer to his own vision in a film-within-the-film in More American Graffiti). So Vietnam was certainly on Lucas's brain at the time.

And FWIW, The Secret History of Star Wars (p. 59) says the Vietnam theme can be seen in "the first treatment" for Star Wars, "in which a group of rebels strike out from a jungle and topple an empire, and this theme would swell in importance in the subtext of the eventual screenplay."

What's more, according to The Secret History of Star Wars (pp. 68-69), apparently Jonathan Rinzler's Making of Star Wars transcribes some of Lucas's notes from 1973 thusly:

Theme: Aquilae is a small independent country like North Vietnam threatened by a neighbour or provincial rebellion, instigated by gangsters aided by empire. Fight to get rightful planet back. Half of system has been lost to gangsters... The empire is like America ten years from now, after gangsters assassinated the Emperor and were elevated to power in a rigged election... We are at a turning point: fascism or revolution...

So it would seem that there is documentary evidence from 1973 to support the claims that Lucas was making in 1983.

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Ryan H. wrote:

: Was it conceived as a Vietnam parable, or did it become something of a Vietnam parable? Looking at the evolution of the original STAR WARS drafts, I don't see much of Vietnam in there.

I'm just going by what Lucas said when he promoted Return of the Jedi in 1983.

Admittedly, Lucas has a thing for retconning not only his fiction, but the real-world story behind the creation of that fiction, as well. But then, it WAS Lucas's idea to set Heart of Darkness in Vietnam (a concept that Francis Ford Coppola borrowed and turned into Apocalypse Now, in which Harrison Ford plays Col. G. Lucas; reportedly, Lucas got to do something closer to his own vision in a film-within-the-film in More American Graffiti). So Vietnam was certainly on Lucas's brain at the time.

And FWIW, The Secret History of Star Wars (p. 59) says the Vietnam theme can be seen in "the first treatment" for Star Wars, "in which a group of rebels strike out from a jungle and topple an empire, and this theme would swell in importance in the subtext of the eventual screenplay."

What's more, according to The Secret History of Star Wars (pp. 68-69), apparently Jonathan Rinzler's Making of Star Wars transcribes some of Lucas's notes from 1973 thusly:

Theme: Aquilae is a small independent country like North Vietnam threatened by a neighbour or provincial rebellion, instigated by gangsters aided by empire. Fight to get rightful planet back. Half of system has been lost to gangsters... The empire is like America ten years from now, after gangsters assassinated the Emperor and were elevated to power in a rigged election... We are at a turning point: fascism or revolution...

So it would seem that there is documentary evidence from 1973 to support the claims that Lucas was making in 1983.

Ah, thanks. I've actually read THE SECRET HISTORY OF STAR WARS, but had forgotten about those passages.

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Okay, I'm not really geeked up on this film yet, but this is pretty cool...

This is an example of some of the "augmented reality" tie-ins that are going to be available for Avatar through Mattel, McDonald's, and Coke (sorry to sound like a shill here, but I know I wasn't the only person around here to collect Star Wars glassware from Burger King).

I guess the Star Trek DVD released this week also had some sort of augmented reality feature included with it. Has anyone here tried it out, and what exactly does it do?

Story from Variety here.

Coke Zero... has plastered AVTR (the name of the pic's military program) on 140 million cans and 8 million refrigerator packs in the U.S. alone. When held up to a webcam, a Samson helicopter takes off onscreen that can be controlled by moving the can.

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Baal_T'shuvah wrote:

: I guess the Star Trek DVD released this week also had some sort of augmented reality feature included with it. Has anyone here tried it out, and what exactly does it do?

FWIW, I thought I had mentioned this already in the Star Trek thread, but I can't find any trace of it there, so I guess I must have posted this to my Facebook page or something. Anyway, I don't have the Star Trek DVD yet, but you don't need it to try this out -- all you have to do is print out the picture available here, I think. (At least, that's where I think I got mine.)

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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'Avatar' running time set at 2.5 hours

How long is it?

That is the question about James Cameron's "Avatar," the science-fiction epic opening Dec. 18 that has been hotly debated for months, with rampant speculation that it would run over three hours.

In fact, it will be well under that, at least in part to meet limits imposed by Imax technology.

The actual running time will be 150 minutes, which is two and a half hours, according to Bruce Snyder, president of domestic distribution for 20th Century Fox, which is handling the release of the movie. He said that may rise to 156 minutes when all of the credits are added on, but that would be the maximum running time. . . .

Hollywood Reporter, November 20

- - -

Just for the record (running times taken from the IMDb):

  • Piranha II: The Spawning -- between 84 and 94 minutes
  • The Terminator -- 108 minutes
  • Aliens -- between 137 and 154 minutes
  • The Abyss -- between 138 and 171 minutes
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day -- between 137 and 154 minutes
  • True Lies -- 141 minutes
  • Titanic -- 194 minutes

If the limitations of IMAX technology are a key factor in the film's current length, then I fully expect there to be an even longer version on video some day. Even if Cameron were to deny that an extended edition was in the works, I wouldn't necessarily believe him, because I can remember an interview he gave while promoting The Abyss, in which he said he might release a longer version of Aliens but not The Abyss. And yet he ended up releasing longer versions of BOTH of them. (Or maybe the studio made him do it, I dunno.)

Anyway. If this film does run to 156 minutes, that would make it Cameron's second-longest film ever, after Titanic, or third-longest, if we count the video-only extended version of The Abyss.

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Last night's episode of "Bones", a TV show I rather enjoy, was an abomination. It was one big commercial for Avatar. The characters discussed their excitement about the movie incessantly. They stood around and watched the trailer on their big Minority-Report style computer screen. They got in line with a mob of Avatar fans who were all painted up to look like the blue aliens. They were wide-eyed and obsessed, and discussed specific plot points, as if this was ten times bigger than The Lord of the Rings. And the geekiest character of them all got laid with an uber-sexy geek girl in a tent right there in line for the movie while other characters smiled admiringly.

Bleccch. I don't know that a piece of marketing has ever so effectively killed my interest in a film.

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That's what you get for watching Bones. ;) My wife likes that show, but whenever I've tried to watch it with her, I can't get past five minutes of it.

As I approach weekend voting for the year's best films, I have a feeling that it's all moot: We haven't seen Avatar, and the one whisper I've heard (from Anne Thompson, who knows someone who's seen it, she said in her audio chat with Kris Tapley), is that it's a "game changer." Wish my group would vote after the game had changed, not before, but such is life.

EDIT: Jeffrey, I think this is the first post I can remember where you mentioned a weekly TV show you like to watch. Care to mention any others? I picture you alternating between screenings, DVDs, and writing at the computer terminal. I figured you didn't have time for TV. Who knew?

Edited by Christian

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EDIT: Jeffrey, I think this is the first post I can remember where you mentioned a weekly TV show you like to watch. Care to mention any others? I picture you alternating between screenings, DVDs, and writing at the computer terminal. I figured you didn't have time for TV. Who knew?

There are TV shows I enjoy, but I only watch them on Hulu when it's convenient, which is usually late at night. (That way I cut down on how many commercials I must endure.) Bones, House, 30 Rock, The Office... I enjoy all of them for their strengths, but I'm also disgusted with their compromises, their frequent mediocrity, and the way they "normalize" certain behavior. ("Bones" is *very* guilty of normalizing casual sex. They treat it lightly about once every five minutes.) I love Hugh Laurie's acting; he makes every viewing worthwhile. I love the cast chemistry on Bones; I watch that show as a writer looking to learn something about snappy dialogue. 30 Rock is often hilarious, as was The Office at its peak. But I don't follow them religiously, and often have no idea what's going on because of that. I haven't been committed to a TV series in years. I gave up on Lost during Season 3. I got too busy to stick with BSG (although I must return). And I look forward to the day when I can watch The Wire.

The last show I loved enough that I *made* time to watch it? Firefly.

Sometimes I have trouble sleeping because my mind is busy contemplating a movie, of the next chapter I'm going to write, or a project. But I can depend on even a decent TV show to make me *want* to go to sleep when its over. I have no trouble believing the reports that say television slows down our metabolism to levels that are even lower than sleep. And that's why TV can be even more dangerous than movies. It does just ask us to stop thinking. It effectively makes that happen.

I'd say that when I'm selective and choose one of the more thoughtful TV shows, I end up wishing I'd chosen to do something else, nevertheless, about 30%-50% of the time.

Edited by Overstreet

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P.S. In my experience, TV shows are usually commercials occasionally interrupted by flourishes of creativity and cleverness. The exceptions are always pleasant surprises, but even those are hard to enjoy when they're punctuated with commercial breaks. If a show is good enough, I'll either watch Hulu or wait for DVD. Watching commercials is like attending a church service for a religion I abhor.

P.P.S. Boy, I'm really caught up in the holiday spirit today!

P.P.P.S. What about you, Christian? How much TV do you watch?

P.P.P.P.S. I doubt that Avatar will be a game-changer in anything other than two already-obvious ways: Its innovations in 3D, and its commercial hype. Just a hunch. Personally, I'm more reluctant to post a list before seeing Police, Adjective and Liverpool and Lourdes and Doctor Parnassus than I am reluctant to post a list before Avatar.

Edited by Overstreet

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Overstreet wrote:

: Last night's episode of "Bones", a TV show I rather enjoy, was an abomination. It was one big commercial for Avatar.

Two weeks before the movie opens (and, for that matter, one week before anyone outside the studio has seen it)? That's ... interesting timing.

Is it necessarily a commerical, though? Or is it, perhaps, just a quasi-timely gag, like all those references to Spider-Man 3 in Knocked Up?

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If a show is good enough, I'll either watch Hulu or wait for DVD. Watching commercials is like attending a church service for a religion I abhor.

Amen. Aside from the one week I watched Dollhouse in a feeble attempt to boost the ratings, I haven't watched live TV on...well, the television since the early '00s. And Jeff, there are a couple of shows I think you'd like, but I'll save that for an actual thread.

Re: the ad on Bones, that's like getting smothered with an advertising pillow. That didn't happen out of the cast and crew's desire to promote a motion picture, I take it.

Re: Avatar being a game changer...I wish I knew what game it was changing. Does this mean it's genuinely good, or that it'll just make Michael Bay try harder?

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Re: Avatar being a game changer...I wish I knew what game it was changing. Does this mean it's genuinely good, or that it'll just make Michael Bay try harder?

I should have been clearer. The conversation was in the context of the Oscar derby, and the lack of any clear frontrunner for Best Picture. In that sense, Avatar was said to be a game-changer. Make of that what you will depending on your view of what goes into a successful "Oscar movie." I guess this one's in the Lord of the Rings Oscar tradition of broad appeal, innovative effects (very innovative, cuz if they ain't, the movie will be considered a disappointment) and ... oh, whatever else makes for a "front runner" in a year when no other film has grabbed hold of that title.

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Re: Avatar being a game changer...I wish I knew what game it was changing. Does this mean it's genuinely good, or that it'll just make Michael Bay try harder?

I should have been clearer.

Phew. I thought you meant the film really is some ontological miracle that will rewire our cinema brain circuitry in the very process of watching it. That is the impression I get from trailers and hype.

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