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By Chris Thilk | September 15, 2004

As it says below, one of my favorite posters, as well as one of my favorite films, is “The Rocketeer”. I love the art-deco look of the poster, with the character soaring into the sky. The movie, too, continues to dazzle me with its set design (not to mention Jennifer Connelly in the white dress. If you’re a guy over 25 you know what I’m talking about).

So when I began seeing the first posters for “Sky Captain & the World of Tomorrow” I was intrigued. It seemed to have a similar aesthetic sense and nostalgic feel. Then I realized it co-starred Angelina Jolie and the feeling in the pit of my stomach began to grow. After all, this is the woman who is such a bad actor she actually made Lara Croft look un-sexy. Quite an accomplishment. It also looked like a terrific CGI mess and, most confounding, looked like a black-and-white movie that had been colorized. I’ve slowly lost all but a little desire to see it.

The Trailers

It’s my understanding, based on various press accounts, that this movie was shot almost completely against green-screens, with backgrounds, props and just about everything else CGI-ed in during post-production. I can tell you, it shows. All three trailers have a computer-generated shine to them. The sets (if you can call them that) have that “just barely out of proportion” look to them that I find common in CGI. The perspective of where the human actor is standing just doesn’t quite match up with the backgrounds.

The trailers do all have a consistent look and feel, exhibiting the grayish tinge that seems to hang over the entire movie. I admit to thinking the visuals are pretty cool, but can they sustain an entire movie?

The Posters

There are, by my count, at least four different posters floating out there, most of which show a single character in half-profile. This is a common tactic for comic-book or sci-fi adventure movies where there are a lot of actors (think “Matrix” sequels, the “Lord of the Rings” series, etc). Here, though, is why I don’t like this play for this movie: It’s not a sequel. Why are you selling me Angelina Jolie’s character when I have no idea what character she plays? It’s one thing when you’re dealing with an established property, but when it’s the first movie it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

The Website

The whole site carries the cloudy grey look and feel of the posters and trailer over very nicely and has a consistently pulpy feel to it, almost as if it was lifted straight from a dime-store novel.

“The Film” contains the usual Synopsis of the movie but lacks the accompanying About the Film section that most sites seem to have. Since I’m rarely able to tell what differentiates the two concepts, I didn’t really feel anything lacking. You can also find information on the soundtrack as well as the Trailers here. There is also a brief video of the filmmakers speaking on a panel at the recent Comicon about the movie. This was a great thing to add as Comicon is really all about whetting the fans appetites. Including it here shows they are reaching for this to be a grass-roots type hit, where the excitement of the early viewers will turn into a general positive buzz on message boards, forums and chat rooms.

The “Character” descriptions are fairly brief and, as a stated above, very pulpy. Interestingly there is no profile here of a villain. What a gyp! I don’t know about anybody else, but it was always better to be Cobra or the Empire than G.I. Joe or the Rebel Alliance. You had the freedom to blow up an entire planet with no sense of remorse. Heck, nobody cared who played Batman in the last two movies, it was all about who was playing the villains. Alright, I’ll admit by the time they got to “Batman & Robin” nobody cared about that either, but still…

Moving on, “The Chronicle” (named after the newspaper Gwyneth Paltrow works at) brings you to the latest News, Updates on the game demos and various Contests. “Downloads” lets you sign up for the Flying Legion Dispatch, an e-mail newsletter and download about 25 different desktop images. There is also the usual array of AIM icons, Wimamp skins and IMvironment (an instant messaging background tool. I have no idea.)

Finally, there is a Game you can download for either PC or Mac and play online. You can then post your scores, assuming of course that you Join the Resistance (read: register).


I’ll give higher than usual marks to any campaign, such as this one, that demonstrates such nice carry over from one aspect to another. All aspects of the trailer, web and poster all have the same look and feel to them so that, if you were to see the poster devoid of text, you would still be able to identify it as belonging to “Sky Captain”.

The problem is that none of this, particularly the trailers, seems particularly good. I don’t mean they blow outright, but they seem to have been assembled by people who weren’t so much going by what they thought would work but what they thought had worked for other movies in the past. This is no way to assemble a campaign for a movie that has the potential (despite my feeling this movie will tank in a spectacular fashion, ala “Wild Wild West”) for being fairly original even if it is in a nostalgic slightly derivative way.

My main problem, though, is that there is no mainstream crossover appeal. If only comic book fans had gone to see the first “Spider-Man”, it would not have been the whopping success it was. You have to get people to cross the parking lot from the mall to come see your movie not just lure the geeks out of their basement bedrooms.

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 Random Thoughts blog.

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