What is going on with the marketing campaign for the release of Star Trek Beyond? Not a lot is the obvious answer, but with a little over three months until the film’s release Star Trek fans could be forgiven for wondering what’s happened to the movie that is supposed to help celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the enduring science fiction franchise in all its glory.
In December 2015, Paramount Pictures, the franchise film rights owner, dropped a trailer on an unsuspecting audience and it was well & truly met by the haters; armed and ready with their keyboards - phasers locked on obliterate! It seems the replay of the Beastie Boys track ‘Sabotage’ was a bridge too far for too many. Given the track had already been heard in the J.J. Abrams 2009 reboot film, there appeared a slight sense of desperation on the part of the Paramount ad agency; almost hoping that lightning could strike twice if they wished hard enough.
The only part of the Star Trek Beyond trailer that got a universal thumbs-up was the brief scene between Karl Urban’s McCoy and Zachary Quinto’s Spock, where the Vulcan is beamed away just as good Doctor utters “at least I won't die alone…” Famous last words. The trailer has its problems, there’s no doubt about that. For a start, it fails to acknowledge the 50th Anniversary in any way shape or form. That is a mistake. In a year when the franchise should be celebrating, the trailer goes for the action angle; confirming fans fears that previous remarks attributed to Paramount executives, who were believed to have wanted a Guardians of the Galaxy tone to Star Trek Beyond, were indeed accurate.
A problematic trailer is, after all, just a problematic trailer. There’s no shame in pitching the film as an action adventure story, but there’s no need to try and hide from the fact the movie has Star Trek in the title. Paramount have, quite literally, made billions of dollars of income off Star Trek. That doesn't happen because the brand and what it represents are flawed. You don't need to make Star Trek GotG; Kirk, Spock and McCoy were the guardians of the galaxy before it became cool to save the universe! Leaning on the old saying, the best form of defence is attack, the best way to quell the disquiet would have been to get a second trailer into the market quickly. Did this happen? No.
In light of the negative sentiment that took hold after the trailer debuted, it has felt like Paramount have simply given up trying to sell Star Trek Beyond. There has been one meaningful TV segment with Chris Pine, who plays Captain Kirk, going behind the scenes with Access Hollywood movie critic Scott Mantz. There was the short-lived Omaze campaign that seemed to finish before it even got started. Entertainment Tonight have done a couple of puff-pieces about uniforms and weapons, but nothing that actually tells people what the hell this film is about!
In more recent times, stories have surfaced that the film was undertaking additional filming. This in itself is not uncommon. Most big-budget movies do that these days, as the editing process helps define the finished product, sometimes producers decide they need more or different footage to deliver the best possible film. Marvel, for example, actually budget for additional photography and most franchise actors have it written into their contracts that they must be available for them.
What is interesting with Star Trek Beyond was the timing and language of the stories associated with what was happening. With sixteen weeks to release, the film is undergoing reshoots. Not additional photography; reshoots. The term reshoots sends a whole different message and it's not necessarily a good one. This is but one example of how Paramount are doing a terrible job of marketing this film. Why allow a story about “reshoots” to perpetuate? The reality probably is that Star Trek Beyond is, indeed, undertaking additional photography (to capture new material to make the film better). If that’s the case, get a good news story out there that tells people that Director Justin Lin has finished his edit, but, because everyone wants this film to be awesome, Paramount and Skydance (the film's financier) have agreed to put more money into the project! There’s no better way to get the fans on side than to say “Hey, we really appreciate your support. We want to make the 50th Anniversary great. We think our movie’s great, but we want to make it really great!”
Maybe I'm expecting too much. I see a lot of films and I watch as franchise movies jockey for audience attention. These days that starts with the film’s pre-production. Ryan Reynolds understood this in trying to get Deadpool made. It took him six years, but boy has the effort paid off. Reynolds, along with the 20th Century Fox marketing people, pushed the boundaries with the character, putting him in all kinds of unlikely scenarios across all different forms of media. He raised the profile of Deadpool to everyday pop culture, transcending the character’s core comic book fan base, and created an audience who were clamouring to see what two hours of big screen entertainment with him might turn out like. As it stands, Deadpool’s worldwide cumulative box office will finish just south of $800 million. Not bad for a film that cost $55 million to make. Putting that into perspective, Batman V Superman cost $250 million to make and will finish north of $900 million, but probably less than the vaunted $1 billion barrier. Reynolds made people want to see Deadpool. Nothing I’ve seen about Star Trek Beyond actually makes me want to see it.
Without sounding like I'm on a bandwagon, Star Trek Beyond shouldn't be worrying about whether or not creatively emulating a film like Guardians of the Galaxy. It has its own formula that has endured for 50 years. What it needs to find quickly is a marketing plan that makes audiences want to connect with the film, its story, its characters and the legacy it’s intended to celebrate. As it stands currently, Star Trek Beyond will come and go like so many other big, brash, action films; a largely forgettable affair that audiences didn’t connect with because everyone inside the tent forgot to tell movie-goers what it was about. For goodness sake, at least give us another trailer...
For more information about Star Trek Beyond, go to the Screen Fantastique webpage: