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By Chris Thilk | November 23, 2004

“Sandals and swords epic”. That’s the catch-phrase adopted by hundreds of entertainment writers across the spectrum. Somebody used it when describing Gladiator (overdone, overacted, underdeveloped), someone else read that, cribbed its usage, then two people cribbed it from that writer, and then two.. you get the point. It’s a lazy journalistic meme that was last applied to Brad Pitt’s Troy and which you’re sure to see in reviews of “Alexander”.

The fictional biography (?) of Alexander the Great, this Oliver Stone owes its existence to “Gladiator” and owes a debt of gratitude to whoever pulled the plug on Baz Luhrmann’s planned biopic covering the same subject. This one though presents some challenges in marketing. Present it as too heavy and you risk losing the audience just looking for mindless entertainment while resting their feet after doing their Christmas shopping. Present it as too light and all Oscar-potential credibility is lost.

The Poster

Most of the principle cast appears in profile. I like the look of the poster, which has an almost marble feel to it, but it would have been better if they had gone the full nine yards and made it a marble relief. Just my opinion. One problem, Val Kilmer (to the left of Colin Farrell) looks like Matthew Perry from “Friends”. “Could this toga BE any looser?”

The Trailers

Most of the first trailer involves horses riding past a narrator and some of the more action-ey scenes. The second shows even more action and features voice-overs from various characters describing how legendary or powerful Alexander is. Neither is particularly stirring or appealing. They both give glimpses of the reach of the movie in terms of Alexander conquering so much of the known-world, but how many snap-cuts from military conquest to intimate (and I mean that in the best Rosario Dawson-esque sense of the word) do we actually need?

The Website

Back in my column for Spider-Man 2, I said “I’m as big a fan of Flash as anyone, but after a while you begin to realize that the full potential of the tool really hasn’t been utilized by anyone out there”. Well, they’re starting to get the idea.

First off, there is a “lite” version of the site that first greets you, allowing people quick access to some features if they don’t want to enter the full Flash-based site. This is great as it provides a simple way for a visitor to view the trailer, or read a synopsis without navigating through all sorts of information that isn’t important to them.

For those of us trying avoid work, er, I mean trying to thoroughly research for our column, entering the full site opens up a ton of features that are well produced if still a tad overly slick.

Very detailed Production Notes as well as backgrounds on the Cast and Filmmakers can be found under “About the Film”. The Prod. Notes especially contain a small textbook’s worth of material. At one point I actually started daydreaming on how to ask out the girl in my sixth-period Science class it was so in-depth. All aspects of the production are covered over the course of about seven or eight sections.

“Making of Alexander” contains a preview of the “Making of Alexander” book with the ability to download the entire first chapter as a PDF document as well as a link to buy the book. I love the free chapter idea as it’s a great tease for those who may be on the fence and are looking for something really flashy for Christmas. There’s also a great feature on the Costumes where you can view the final product compared to the production design sketch.

An extensive Photo Gallery as well as the Trailer and two TV Spots are in the “Media Section”, although the TV spots were still listed as “Coming Soon” when I visited the site. Also on its way is a trailer for the Game based on the movie. Really? There’s a game? Why? There’s also a cool interactive feature called “Life of Alexander” which allows you to see how the various characters are connected. The navigation leaves a bit to be desired (you can’t go back at all and there really aren’t any bios on these people) but it is a great use of Flash.

“Downloads” has a wide array of posters, wallpaper, AIM icons, and other multimedia goodies. There’s also a Game Demo. Once again – Really? There’s a game? Why? Other sections that aren’t quite ready for prime time are “Timeline” (presumably a timeline listing the real Alexander’s achievements) and “Game” (probably a snark-ridden column written by a 30-year old wise a*s. Wait, that’s this column. S**t.).


One thing that I noticed was lacking from the campaign is any mention or allusion to the homosexual themes or elements that have been so widely reported. It’s not that surprising since, despite there not being anything wrong with that, the current social and political environment isn’t exactly welcoming toward, shall we say, alternate lifestyles.

All the marketing materials play up the epic scope of the tale and actually seem least effective when it dials that down to personal relationships. For a large-scale big budget major studio release, this one may come down to good old fashioned word of mouth. If people are sufficiently impressed by the visuals and not turned off by whatever themes may run throughout the movie then it may be successful. My guess is it will under-perform at the box office, but we can expect to see a major push in connection with a potential Oscar nomination.

As moviemaking costs increase, the pressure to successfully market those movies becomes greater. In an attempt to show how marketers are trying to put the most hinders in the theater seats, Chris Thilk breaks down why some movie campaigns work and some don’t. The posters for “The Rocketeer” and “Unforgiven” remain two of his all-time favorites. For Chris’ ongoing movie journal and other various musings, visit his Movie Marketing Madness blog.

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