Friday, September 25, 2009

My name, but not my face

Well just lookee what the good old internet can find for you. A five-panel montage of the most common outdoor ads for Surrogates, due out tomorrow.

(And yes, I do recognize the following irony: I vowed last Friday to dig deeper into the meat and potatoes of films, rather than dwell on things like their advertising campaigns, yet three of my four posts since then have been about movie posters. Let's just say that old habits die hard.)

The first billboard I ever saw for Surrogates was the middle one, the blonde lying on her stomach. I considered there to be a couple interesting things about this billboard:

1) I laid my eyes on it about three times before ever realizing it was even an advertisement for a movie. Since it was executed in the abstract style of ads for perfume and clothing, at first I just mistook it for one of those -- a prospect made easier by needing to keep most of my attention on the road while passing at 35 mph. I think the second or third time, I noticed the word "surrogates" and thought that seemed like a strange name for a perfume. I now laugh at myself that it took until the fourth time before I realized the woman's midsection was incomplete, composed only of metal endoskeleton. That would have been more immediately evident if I'd seen either of the top two posters first.

2) Bruce Willis, whose name is on the billboard, does not appear on the billboard. Nor does he appear in any of these other four pictures, though his name appears in each. With the two that feature the guy -- who, like Willis, has a shaved head -- you might for a second think "Damn! Bruce Willis has been working out!"

It was #2 that made me realize that there can be an odd disconnect between wanting to advertise the star of a movie, and wanting to advertise its content.

Now, I'm not saying that the only posters that should bear the names of movie stars are the posters that also bear their faces. That would obviously be quite restrictive. Besides, many of the best movie posters don't have the face of an actor or actress on them at all.

But I do think it's a little weird when there's one name on the poster, and one face on the poster, and they don't match. If you'd added one more star -- um, let's see, Radha Mitchell -- then it might have made a little more sense. But as it was, it struck me as odd.

Yet I really like the concept of the campaign. I'd hardly want to sacrifice that, either. It tells you a lot about what you might be getting -- without telling you much at all. What the hell do I mean by that? It sets a mood. You know this film will be something about the artificial creation of physical beauty. The fact that they appear to be androids makes it all the more intriguing -- it's science fiction, and science fiction always holds the potential to blow your mind. (If you're like me, you forget all the times it massively disappoints you).

Someone must have felt the same sense of uneasiness I did about Willis' name next to the body of a smoking hot cybernetic organism, because after awhile, I started to see these posters appearing:

Okay, that answers one concern: You've got Bruce Willis appearing next to his name.

But what else do you really know about Surrogates from this poster? The blue hue and the circular tunnel both give you an idea that it probably takes place in the future. But you really have to squint if you want to see what else they're trying to offer you, which is a row of, well, surrogates, I guess, along the bottom. And squinting's not that easy to do at 35 mph.

So the posters of the models win. But then, do you take Willis' name off?

Like most of the discussions on this blog, this one is academic. The movie comes out tomorrow, and there will be no new posters made.

And I think I might go. In fact, I think I might go tomorrow. My wife has not shown particular interest in Surrogates, which means it gives me the perfect opportunity for a solo expedition after work. I'm not "opening day pumped" for it -- it just happens that tomorrow is the day I can conveniently see a movie, and it's opening day. After all, it's been a whole nine days since I've seen a movie in the theater. I'm falling behind during this September, which has been a surprisingly fertile one for new releases.

Normally, a sci-fi film released in late September should not inspire a person with much hope, and there's every chance this could be more S1mone than The Terminator. However, there is a chance it could be The Terminator, and here's why: Surrogates is directed by Jonathan Mostow, who also directed the quite passable Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. Of even more interest to me is that he directed a little 1997 Kurt Russell thriller called Breakdown, which I happen to love. (As well as U-571, which I did not see).

So ultimately, whether Bruce Willis is in it (not the draw it was ten years ago), or whether there are hot model robots in it (still a draw), is not as important to me as the guy behind the camera.

Where's the Surrogates poster featuring Mostow's mug?

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