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Super Bowl 2011: The force isn't with most film promos

February 6, 2011 |  8:34 pm

Movies figured into some of the biggest ads during Sunday's Super Bowl. Unfortunately for Hollywood, those weren't commercials for movies.

A number of the best-received spots referenced well-known films: Kia threw a slew of movie tropes at the screen — including a helicopter chase and an alien invasion — with a spot for its new Optima called “One Epic Ride.” Coke featured a bevy of computer-generated ogres with cinematic overtones in one of its commercials.

Meanwhile, Chevrolet used a car hanging off a bridge “Inception”-style, and a spot for Budweiser saw a saloon crowd join together in a rendition of Elton John's “Tiny Dancer” in the manner of a popular scene from Cameron Crowe's “Almost Famous.”

Perhaps the most buzzed-about commercial invoked “Star Wars” as Volkswagen touted its new Passat in a spot called “The Force” that used a child dressed as Darth Vader to promote the car's remote-controlled ignition.

The actual movie ads? They landed with more of a thud.

Perhaps the most well received — or at least the most intriguing — came with “Super 8,” the J.J. Abrams-directed, Steven Spielberg-executive produced science-fiction film that comes out in June. While some Twitter users said it reminded them a little too much of Spielberg's “E.T.,” comments about the commercial were retweeted often and generously.

Another Spielberg-affiliated movie, “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” earned a warmer reception than ads for previous films in that franchise, in part because the spot took a less noisy approach than earlier incarnations. (The Paramount Pictures film also teamed with Chevrolet for a post-game spot called “Bumblebee,” named after the auto-robot in the film; both the car brand and the movie were flogged in the commercial.)

But a pregame ad for the new Adam Sandler comedy “Just Go With It,” with a woman running on a beach in a bikini, was less well regarded.

Passing almost as quickly were short spots for “Thor,” Kenneth Branagh's Marvel superhero film, and Fox's ad for the talking-bird animated film “Rio,” which also tried to hook viewers with a multimedia campaign. A spot for Johnny Depp's animated movie “Rango,” directed by Gore Verbinski, did earn a reasonably enthusiastic reception.

Depp also saw his “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” promoted during the game in a commercial that emphasized comedy over action. "Captian America: The First Avenger," meanwhile, gave audiences their first look at the World War II action adventure.

Hotly anticipated coming into the game was a spot for Jon Favreau's genre-bending “Cowboys & Aliens,” which comes out in July. [For the record: An earlier version of this post said that the film was being released in June.] But the immediate reaction online was lukewarm. (The full video below.)

Companies paid as much as $100,000 per second to advertise during the Super Bowl. Nearly a dozen films were pushed before or during the big game, with the aim of appealing to the largest single-day audience on the TV calendar. Last year, however, that effort yielded mixed results: For every ad promoting mega-hit “Alice in Wonderland,” there seemed to be one touting a dud like “The Wolf Man.”

Hollywood did make its presence felt in other ways on Sunday evening. Popping up in several ads were the unlikely faces of Oscar winners: Adrien Brody, Timothy Hutton and Cuba Gooding Jr. all hawked products during the show.

--Steven Zeitchik




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THE FASTEST SUPERBOWL EVER PLAYED: Did anyone besides me notice the dearth of instant replays and color commentary and the hyper-action speed of this Superbowl TV coverage? I've never seen the ball move so fast through the air or people run so fast. I have a suspicion that FOX digitally manipulated, compressed, sliced and diced the entire game to maximize the commercials.

I wonder how many scenes and instant replays were cut to make room for commercials.

This was supposed to be live coverage, not some edited version, shrunk-down and fast-forwarded to funnel money into Sir Rupert's corporate coffers.

But hey, what else are we commoners for but to serve the will of the crown?


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