TALKING POINTS: Does Marketing Affect the Quality of a Film?

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Hey, guys--

So, I wanted to do something a bit different today... which is basically just: pick your brains and chat about stuff.

A couple weeks ago, I posted my "review" on Vantage Point... or at least, some thoughts on the writing of the movie. One of my biggest gripes is that the movie, like all mysteries, inherently asks the audience to go along for the ride and have the fun of trying to solve the riddle. This is the point of mysteries. And Vantage Point's marketing campaign supports this with the straightforward (although no less ridiculous) tagline: "Can you solve the puzzle?" The problem is: no, you can't solve the mystery, because the movie intentionally cheats you out of the clues necessary to do so. Which, I think, breaks the unspoken covenant between mystery storyteller and mystery audience.

Anyway, several of you wrote in, both in the blog's comments section and via email, with some interesting thoughts of your own, and one in particular caught my eye. Loyal reader Jake writes:

"Isn't it possible that the bigger problem is the marketing machine at
whatever studio put this out? Isn't it at all possible that they made
the film they wanted to make, and then the marketing machine said: hey,
let's make it a puzzle in need of solving?"

Well, before I get to the larger, more interesting question in Jake's post... lemme throw in my two cents worth for Jake.

In answer to: "Isn't it possible that they made
the film they wanted to make, then the marketing machine said: let's make it a puzzle in need of solving?"...

No. It's not possible. Or rather, if it is possible, then I'm even more dismayed by the filmmakers. Because regardless of its marketing, Vantage Pointdoesnotwork. It is fatally flawed as both a mystery and a story, so if it is the movie the producers set out to make, then... well... the producers have even more egg on their face, because they set out to make a crappy movie.

In fact, I think Vantage Point's marketing was the best thing about the film. It had great marketing! The trailers were cool... they clearly articulated the gimmick and the story of the movie... they made me want to see it! I actually think the marketing campaign was marketing the movie the producers had hoped to make... they just didn't pull it off.

Now, Jake also writes-- "At least the film was different. Give it some credit for that." And I agree. I appreciate what the film was trying to do... but that doesn't mean it didn't fail miserably. Which is also why I don't think the filmmakers "made the film they wanted to make." They had a vision, sure, but their final product fell far short. And that's not the fault of bad marketing.

However... the more interesting question buried in Jake's comments are: "How does movie marketing affect our enjoyment of a movie?"

In other words, if a movie's marketing campaign leads us to believe one thing, and it leads our expectations in a certain direction, but then the movie turns out to be something different... even if it's a good movie... how do we react? Do we hate the movie? Are we surprised but pleased?

I'm just thinking out loud... and I'm trying to think of examples where the trailers and marketing campaign made the movie look like one thing, and it was actually entirely different. And when a movie is mis-marketed, does it affect how much you like the movie? Can good storytelling and acting still shine through and trump an audience's misled expectations?

I dunno... I'm wondering...