5 Ways Hollywood Tricks You Into Seeing Bad Movies
Movie studios rarely worry whether the film they're producing is "good" or "bad" or "technically pornography." There's only one driving motivation, and if you can't guess what it is, there's a good chance this is the first time you've heard of the economic system referred to as capitalism.
In the rare instance an inferior product does slip out of Hollywood, producers have plenty of tricks to convince you to see it anyway. Here are the five most shameless:
The Genre Bait & Switch
Sometimes, even movies with expensive stars and famous directors are hard to market. Maybe the film's plot can't be explained in eight words or less. Maybe it's a bit heavy on "themes" and "character development" and too light on the important things like "low-cut shirts" and "explosions."
Whatever the case, it's nothing a little creative trailer editing can't fix.
The Movie: A deliberately-paced meditation on boredom and isolation set during the Gulf War. Many have described it as "a war movie without the war," a phrase that ranks up there with "deliberately-paced" and "meditation on boredom" among "Phrases Producers Really Don't Want To Hear."
Lucky for producers, the trailer puts the damn war back.
The featured battles and shenanigans falsely promise a film somewhere between Saving Private Ryan and Police Academy 8: Drafted! Of course, it's all editing room smoke and mirrors. Even a shot of Jake Gyllenhall dodging enemy fire at 1:22 turns out, in the film, to be nothing more than stray fireworks.
Some people like musicals. Some people like incredibly graphic horror films. However, as the bloody yet melodious Sweeney Todd neared completion, producers made a tragic discovery:
Some creative trailer editing should solve that ...
Another delightfully wacky Johnny Depp character? Accents? Boats? Why, it's Pirates of the Caribbean for the Hot Topic crowd!
Good Luck Chuck
In this 2007 film, lots of women want to sleep with Dane Cook for some contrived and difficult to explain reason. The original trailer goes to great lengths to convince you that Dane Cook should be allowed to star in movies.
Producers eventually realized that not only was co-star Jessica Alba an actual celebrity, she was pretty damn easy on the eyes, too. A new trailer was quickly cut:
Why, Dane Cook is barely in this film! And the only time we hear him is when he's uttering grunts of pain while being abused by an underwear-clad Jessica Alba! To the box office, my good man!
The T&A Smash
According to science, nearly 50 percent of the world's population are huge fans of erections. If all else fails, producers can always try to draw in the audience with the promise of good ol' fashioned soft-core pornography.
Is the female lead leaving your film's posters a little, um, flat? No problem. They're lucky we live in an era where an 11-year-old can give Margaret Thatcher a dog's face (and even manipulate the picture too, hiyoo!).
Cameron Crowe's comedy/drama about rock in the '70s was aimed squarely at middle-aged Americans who traded in their vinyl records for pleated khakis and a mortgage. Studio executives apparently didn't think Baby Boomer nostalgia would translate overseas, so they created an international poster that spoke the universal language of "jailbait."
Free-floating technophobia rarely spawns two hours of cohesive cinema, and this story of a computer-generated starlet is no exception. Fortunately, the poster promises plenty of boobies to make up for it!
In the actual film, Simone not only fails to appear clothing-impaired, but an aging Pacino remotely controls her every move. There's no better remedy for arousal then seeing Al Pacino attempt to mince seductively.
The Controversy Bid
Moral outrage is a super-fun tool for studio executives. Who needs expensive advertising when newspapers will cover a "controversial" movie for free? While responsible citizens nationwide develop their opinion on the same-sex kiss a possibly antisemitic Angelina Jolie shares with an emu, the film's quality somehow becomes a moot point.
The Passion of the Christ
While intellectuals yammered over the possible antisemitic subtext, studio execs really just wanted to know one thing: could Christ open a movie? Hell yes. The highest grossing independent film of all time, Mel's pet project demonstrated the economic upside of sincerely (if somewhat insanely) appealing to the Christian Right.
However, due to Hollywood's slippery grasp of "sincerity," similar attempts to harness such religious fervor (see: The Nativity Story, Evan Almighty) continue to flop miserably.
Don't remember it by title? Don't worry, neither did we, and now the Cracked IT guys are asking why we have "Dakota Fanning rape" in our Google cache.
Hounddog went to Sundance, but studios apparently put little faith in the buying power of the "Megan's Law" demographic, and the film was not picked up for distribution.
The question "Is America ready for dude sex?" suddenly became much scarier when said dudes were wearing cowboy hats.
Even though recent tragedies have caused some to drag this controversy back into the public eye, at the time strong performances by talented actors trumped prejudice, winning the film both critical acclaim and strong box office returns. However, it has yet to win over the all-important face paint wearing ex-professional wrestler demographic.
RetrofameA-list movie stars, especially those with names sounding a lot like "Will Smith", virtually ensure a profitable opening weekend. That celebrity selling power works retroactively, too. When an actor hits the top tier, all those producers from the pre-fame days smell opportunity.
Tom Hanks in Mazes & Monsters
In this 1982 made-for-TV movie, a young Hanks demonstrated how thinly veiled Dungeons & Dragons proxies were turning America's children into suicidal sociopaths.
The film's message got through--kids everywhere soon abandoned fantasy role-playing and turned their full attention to banging prostitutes for health power-ups. Hanks went on to become one of the biggest stars on the planet. A slick re-design of the DVD suddenly makes the film look like a bargain bin Da Vinci Code ...
In another neat trick, Hanks' headshot is from about 15 years after the film was made. The audience thinks they're getting a world-famous actor between Oscar nods--instead it's just a guy fresh off his first guest spot on Love Boat.
Gretchen Mol in Rounders
She was never A-list, but Gretchen Mol's 1998 status as "pretty young thing" scored her a spot on the poster with fellow up-and-comers Damon and Norton:
Retrofame works both ways. Mol is still working, but as Matt and Ed rocketed to mega-stardom, Gretchen made the stupid decision to become a female actress over the age of 30. You would think she didn't like being famous or something.
We're surprised they didn't actually edit her out of the film.
Jennifer Aniston in Leprechaun
When released, Warwick Davis (of Willow and "third Ewok from the left" fame) was the closest thing Leprechaun had to an actual celebrity. The film was a surprise hit, though, and its legacy includes cinematic gems such as Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood (a sequel to the continuity reboot Leprechaun in the Hood, a film many consider to be the Batman Begins of the franchise.)
Less than a year later, their token eye candy actress Jennifer Aniston made good and landed a network sitcom. The show was kind of a hit, and by the final season of Friends, Aniston was earning the entire budget of Leprechaun per episode. On the new DVD cover, she finally got co-billing with the midget in scare makeup and tights.
Pop culture ignorance cripples many aged members of society, especially those of the so-called "Greatest Generation." Sure, they gave freedom to the "Younger, More Sarcastic Generation," but they also gave us Yu-Gi-Oh cards when we asked for Pokemon. Some producers have taken this deficiency in franchise differentiation and turned it into a business model.
The film is one of many from mockbuster master Asylum pictures(their other works include I am Omega and the groundbreaking Alien Vs. Hunter). According to The New York Times, Transmorphers contains "mad scientists with robot girlfriends, cheap plastic ray guns, girl-on-girl bunk-room catfights and random T. S. Eliot references," which still sounds strangely preferable to two hours of a wisecracking Shia LaBeouf.
From Battlestar Orgasmica to Anal-ize This, there's a long and storied tradition of pornographic mockbusters. Pirates deserves special mention, though. It's the most expensive stag film ever, the producers were so proud of it that they released a non-pornographic version for mass consumption.
Can't stand when impossibly beautiful women ruin bad acting and sub-par special effects by taking their clothes off? This is the film for you.
H. G. Well's The War of the Worlds
In all fairness, Pendragon Pictures had been pitching a faithful adaptation of H. G. Well's novel since 2000. Why stop because upstart director named Spielberg had a few extra zeros on the end of his budget?
Honestly, though, take a look at the pictures below and try to guess who spent more on effects. The answer may surprise you.
For some times we're glad Hollywood lied to us, read this article about 11 Movies Saved by Historical Inaccuracy . Or, if you're more comfortable hating Hollywood, enjoy Dan O'Brien's post on the most creatively bankrupt movie idea currently in production .