Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Trailer Park: Dueling Snow White Movie Trailers

In this corner: Charlize
Once in awhile, you can sniff out marketing strategies that have nakedly obvious objectives. They’re designed to go after your hard-earned money and sell you a “notion”, a “fantasy” or a “lifestyle”. And then there’s the occasional strategy that is actually a corporate battle royale played out in public.

Universal Pictures has a revisionist tale on a classic fairy tale coming in June 2012. This is Snow White and the Huntsman, starring Twilight's Kristen Stewart in the title role. The tale is revisionist because it doesn’t just show the titular princess fleeing an evil queen and a contract killer who has been commissioned to bring back her heart in a box. Snow is draped in armour and wields a mean shield.

The evil queen is none other than Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron, whose embodiment of the villainess appears to be in the same vein as Sigourney Weaver’s acclaimed interpretation in Snow White: a Tale of Terror. This is a queen who has the power to literally suck the life out of those who get in her way the way those Death Eaters do in the Harry Potter books. It’s a bold fanboy-style epic and a tone that is guaranteed to bring in anyone except for the family crowd. The trailer came out on November 11.

A few days later, a dueling project had its trailer released. Relativity Media has a more comic take on the tale, entitled Mirror, Mirror (no relation to Gregory Maguire’s novel), out in March 2012. This version is a light-hearted version with Julia Roberts sporting not so much an English accent as a peculiar enunciation that recalls nothing more than an American trying to pass off for British. (This is what Carrie Bradshaw once described as having "a case of the Madonnas".) I think she’s directed to sound regal and nothing more. Since she herself is film royalty and an Oscar winner, Relativity has clearly brought out the big guns for their competing project.

The film is not interested in courting the fanboy audience, as it’s a big, fun, cheery version for the whole family. All you have to do to differentiate between the two, if you knew nothing else about them, was to check the lighting. This one’s colour palette recalls Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, not Saving Private Ryan. While Theron gets to instill genuine fear while barely containing masked pathology, Roberts lets loose with her trademark laugh and those quips for which she’s known. Since Roberts is first and foremost a movie star and not a chameleonic character actor, she plays a variation of herself, but cut to fit the character. This is not a bad thing, unless you happen to hate Roberts herself. (Also, she clearly had a lot more fun than you and I do in collecting her paycheque.)

In the other corner: Julia
These two studios initially had a handshake deal or gentleman’s agreement to not steal one another’s thunder. After all, it’s not even Thanksgiving and the public has yet to see such eagerly awaited projects as Spielberg’s War Horse and Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. But that these studios have forged ahead several months in advance of either film’s opening is a clear sign that the marketing will only become more aggressive as Universal and Relativity fight it out for your hard-earned money. For those of you wanting to see variations on the tale without seeing either film, remember that you can see the excellent new ABC series Once Upon a Time on your TV for free. (How exactly is Snow White suddenly the subject of so many concurrent projects?)

In the meantime, enjoy the trailers and sit back for more aggressive marketing.