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Meet David the android from Ridley Scott's upcoming 'Prometheus'

April 17, 2012 |  1:02 pm

Months before the release of director Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus,” the studio behind his big-budget science-fiction film has been building buzz online with an unorthodox campaign.

Aside from traditional movie trailers, 20th Century Fox has been carefully introducing the film’s major characters (and a bit of back story) through a series of online videos -- including one debuting today that features actor Michael Fassbender ("Shame") in an eerily deadpan performance as an android named David. He serves as the butler and maintenance man on the ship Prometheus, which transports a team of explorers searching for clues to the origins of mankind.

The 2:30-minute video debuted on Yahoo and Mashable and was picked up by more than 60 film, technology enthusiasts and news sites. It's the latest installment in a digital marketing campaign that has turned to unusual venues -- including this spring’s TED conference in Long Beach -- to build awareness for the June 8 theatrical release.

That initial video, screened Feb. 28 for those who attended the technology, entertainment and design gathering, featured a speech on robotics by Peter Weyland, the industrialist portrayed in the movie by actor Guy Pearce. His mock TEDTalk extolled a future inhabited by "cybernetic individuals who, in just a few short years, will be completely indistinguishable from us."

Tom Rielly, community director of the TED conferences, said the group was approached by one of "Prometheus' " writers and executive producers (whose credits include "Lost" and "Star Trek") about the possibility of creating a TEDTalk video from the future -- 2023 to be precise. The conference participated in imagining how these presentations might evolve, including suggesting the flying cameras and real-time Twitter-like feeds depicted in the short film.

" 'Prometheus' got attention, and we got millions of new people visiting who had never been," Rielly said via email. "It was a perfect partnership, untouched by money or contracts, but instead built on the power of a great idea. When I had the opportunity to collaborate with a dream team and three of my favorite creatives in the film world, I grabbed it unreservedly, and, to boot, we had so much fun working together."

Oren Aviv, the studio's chief marketing officer, said the TED conference screening gave Fox a high-profile platform from which to talk about "Prometheus" to fans of director Scott's films, as well as non-fans who would be intrigued by the picture's futuristic setting.

"When the second trailer came out [in March], Google called us and told us ... that the trailer became the No. 1-most viewed video in the world," Aviv said. "The point is it’s all connected. These don't happen independently. It’s designed to be part of this transmedia effort. It gives people a chance to explore and share and discuss and never ruin the movie."

The David video is similarly attracting attention online as it introduces a next-generation robot from the film's fictional Weyland Corp.

An unseen narrator poses questions to Fassbender's character, in which he describes his capabilities, "I can do almost anything that could possibly be asked of me. I can assist your employees. I can make your organization more efficient. I can carry out directives that my human counterparts might find (pause) distressing or unethical."

David professes to understand human emotion, even if he does not experience feelings himself. "This allows me to be more efficient and capable -- and makes it easier for my human counterparts to interact with me." 

"Fassbender's performance, moving his head less than a real human would, or carefully orchestrating that single tear for emotions he doesn't feel, sells David as a robot almost instantly," entertainment site Cinema Blend wrote.

Tony Sella, Fox studio's chief creative officer, said these videos were conceived outside of the film itself, as a form of standalone entertainment which, like "Prometheus," is "this unraveling mystery." The viral campaign is designed to build enthusiasm for the movie among science-fiction buffs and fans of Scott's earlier hits including "Blade Runner" and "Alien," before promoting the movie to a general audience.

"Before we started shooting, we started talking about this," Sella said. "Ridley shared this vision too. He wanted [to do this] in stages ... so that we could build all these levels of awareness. When we go ahead and spend our advertising money on TV spots for the general public, there was this fabric already built."


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-- Dawn C. Chmielewski