Blade Runner 2049’s sales for its opening weekend were not what Warner Bros. had hoped. (Although down 30% from expectations, it may still do well in subsequent weekends). According to an article in the Los Angele Times, 71 percent of the opening-weekend ticket buyers were male.
All too often, I myself see better trailers for films AFTER their opening box-office than the trailers made available to audiences before a movie’s opening weekend. I often wonder, why don’t they show those better trailers in the first place, because in my mind better trailers mean more people wanting to see the movie. And if a studio is able to create those better trailers later on, why don’t they create them sooner and have them advertise a movie before it’s opening weekend? That is just one element to this story.
This problem with Blade Runner 2049 probably isn’t surprising in hindsight, as the trailers for the movie had no female actresses, except for an oversized purple hologram. The sum impression one gets from the trailers are that Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling are on the run from Jaret Leto, end of story, no other supporting cast are shown. So it seems like just an action movie in a sci-fi world largely free of women. Even the short films released before the movie’s official release had minimal female presence. So by all impressions, and despite its rich universe and the performances of Daryll Hannah and Sean Young in the original, Blade Runner 2049 looks nothing more than an action movie that happens to have Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling.
Movie trailers range in quality just like the movies they represent. Trailers don’t always tell the whole story. (Sometimes the tell the whole story to a fault). Sometimes it is like the game of telephone. From a trailer I think a movie will be one thing and it’s really something else. A trailer doesn’t sell me on an otherwise good movie. In the larger context, the marketing doesn’t connect a movie’s natural audience with the movie.
Sometimes when a movie performs badly, it’s not the filmmakers’ fault, but purely because of bad marketing, which is more than just the trailers. If critics can fault directors, produers, writers, or actors for their parts in a movie, it should be acknowledged the part marketing can have in a movie’s performance.
The roll-out to Blade Runner 2049’s premiere had endless interviews with Harrison Ford and Ryan Gossling. Had it been for the original film, there ‘d have been interviews with Darryl Hannah and Sean Young talking about the unique and complex characters they play. How would that have affected womens’ interests in seeing the film? Another aspect of marketing are movie posters. Classic and iconic posters are memorable. The marketing for the original Blade Runner seems to be that. The movie poster for Blade Runner: 2049 is unfortunately in its strange color palette mostly confusing and ugly. It does not match the rich visuals of the original or of the sequel itself.
Simple fact: Star power alone is not a reason to go see a movie. Although the above seems to contradict this, it really doesn’t. With interviews, audiences get to understand the story and characters of a movie. Uninteresting story or characters, and what reason is there to spend the money to see such a movie. Its not even that there is so much content available to people. It’s that any movie or original series has to stand on its own. A lot of younger critics hadn’t seen the original, only knew it was a classic for some reason or another. How much might that be true of the wider movie-going audience. Given the original is indeed a classic but only within a niche of the larger and popular sci-fi genre (see Star Wars).
Without relying on it’s being a sequal to a classic, a movie’s story and characters are either unique, exciting and interesting to audiences or they aren’t. The movies and within the Alien, Terminator, and Star Wars franchises are all looked on differently by fans of those franchises.
Good story, good characters, and good filmmaking are in the eye of the beholder. What one filmmaker or editor finds exciting might not be where audiences are at. A movie or trailer may hit all the right beats for what its trying to do, but is what its trying to do enough to satisfy its intended audience? It may still feel formulaic, or unoriginal to an audience and give them no reason to see the movie. Even for genuinely good movies, one might say: sure the trailer looked good, but what does the film offer that the trailer doesn’t? What are the reasons for an audience to go during their limited time to pay money to see a movie?