Without a doubt the most anticipated Valentine’s Day film (probably ever) is Deadpool – the touching story of a man diagnosed with cancer and the strong yet loving woman who stands by his side. If by some chance you awoke from a year long coma yesterday, this would perhaps sound completely normal to you. If not, then you already know from the unholy execution of viral and guerrilla marketing that Deadpool is in fact a film about a rogue vigilante with no actual sense of social justice or the ability to remain silent – who also has cancer.
Deadpool is primed and ready to take the top spot at the box office Valentine’s Day weekend and possibly capture one of the largest openings of the year – at least the largest Spring opening. He has a date with the Super Bowl, is about to embark on a week-long excursion through Fox owned networks and programming (commercial free television – so long as you see Deadpool!) and is plastered across posters, billboards, t-shirts, busses, street art – that smarmy red face is everywhere.
So, will you see it? Of course you will. There is no doubt in mind that a majority of people who have come into contact with a marketing scheme for this film (anyone with a smart phone), will purchase a seat opening weekend. You really have to hand it to 20th Century Fox for the efforts that have gone into making even cynics like myself want to see an R-rated, obscure comic book movie about a pansexual, cancer-ridden lunatic in the middle of February. By all accounts, the amount of hype that has gone into driving this film toward the box office, the release date, the development hell it laid in for ten years, the cheeky humor – this has disaster written all over it. Another sneaky trick by those wizards who make you want to see films like The Fifth Wave or Bad Grandpa – only to realize you were April-fooled in January.
However, with a week to go, it looks like all of the frenzy leading into the release of Deadpool was not indeed a scrambled attempt at your wallet dollars, but something unheard of in Hollywood – confidence. The early reviews are in and they are brimming with delight. Variety dryly insists, “this cheerfully demented origin story is many, many cuts above Green Lantern, and as a sly demolition job on the superhero movie, it sure as hell beats Kick-Ass.” Now those are some bold fighting words. And The Hollywood Reporter gave us a wink and a nod, “For the multitudes who feared that, after Fantastic Four, Fox might simply be rummaging too far down into Marvel’s basement in search of a few more scraps of lucre, the joke’s on them.”
And that is exactly what this all sounds like. It’s a joke. It has to be. No studio is so confident in a project that they market the hell out of it just for fun, that they intentionally aim half their marketing at teenage boys too young to see the film (because they know that will make them want to see it more), and the other half at everybody else because, why not? I recently did my best to tear 21st Century Fox, mother company to the 20th Century Fox film division, a new one for a lack of strategy, foresight and confidence. If, in fact, 20th Century Fox knew they had a winner and this entire year of being bombarded by Deadpool was as equally balls deep (only the finest vocabulary will do) as its main character, well, then 21st Century Fox could learn a lot from its punch drunk cousin.
To me, I was so sure I wanted to see this film, and so sure it would disappoint (as many Valentine’s Day releases do). Everything surrounding the film was invigorating, yet stank like a cheap attempt to make a dead man rise. And I am sure, if you were paying attention, or maybe caught just a waif, you smelled something along the lines of corporate money plotting, using tech savvy interns to “break the internet” and bring Twitter to its knees with red band trailers – where you have to enter your birthday to watch the trailer. Crafty, right?
Alas, today has brought new light to the epic saga that will be told of how Deadpool, another Marvel movie in the vain of Ant Man and Guardians of the Galaxy, made fools of us all – in the best possible way. This is how movie marketing should be. Not a slap dash collection of nonsense, but a well-oiled machine that surges a film into the marketplace because the film is just as solid as the promise.
I will take pride in watching the Super Bowl ads about to air, the coming week of commercial-free commercials, the unbridled PR where Ryan Reynolds and Morena Baccarin make innumerable stops on Today, Good Morning America and that morning show on CBS. I will take pride with knowledge that what I am watching is not another ad for a movie that can never live up the expectation, but a work of marketing art driven at delivering a message that even if you end up not liking the movie, we tried.
We tried to make the best film possible. We tried to give you the best experience leading up to the release. We tried to deliver on what we promised. That is all we should really want out of Hollywood – effort. Whether or not the actual film is a hit or a flop, good or DNR, if there is effort behind the project, well-intentioned people with the hope of bringing about a solid piece of entertainment, then we can no longer feel a constant sense of paranoia and fear that we are being tricked, and take immense gratification that we, as viewers, are part of the system, not just the mucks holding some cash.
Deadpool stands to be a real example of Hollywood getting it right. Who would have guessed the movie about the guy who hates everyone could be such a crowd pleaser? This is what confidence looks like. This is what strategy and risk look like. And come Friday night – let us see what results look like.