Since When Are Movies Known for Their FX Teams?

[Editor’s Note: With this post, The Bonus View is pleased to welcome our newest contributor, Luke Hickman. Luke will be joining us to weigh in on various movie- and TV-related topics. For his first post, he takes a look at the foolishness of studio movie marketing. Please give him a warm welcome. -JZ]

When the ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ teaser trailer went online the other week with its text saying, “From WETA DIGITAL the Visual Effects Company for AVATAR,” I was left with one big question: Since when are movies known for their FX teams? If listing the outsourced production teams in trailers was common practice, just about every trailer out there would say, “From SKYWALKER SOUND and INDUSTRIAL LIGHT AND MAGIC… the Companies Who Have Worked on EVERY MOVIE EVER.”

There are only two reasons why a studio would mention an FX team in a trailer. 1) There isn’t a single noteworthy filmmaker attached whose credits can replace WETA’s. Or, 2) The studio knows that the movie is a piece of garbage. It’s clinging onto the one buzzword that might convince general audiences to give the film a decent opening weekend. That’s right: ‘Avatar‘, the biggest movie of all time.

Since almost nothing is known about ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ yet, it may be too early to jump to conclusions about which category this one falls into. However, looking at the facts will give you a hunch.

Neither the director nor writers of the ‘Planet of the Apes’ prequel have decent notches on their belts. Who involved with ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ does? The actors. Why not say, “Academy Award Nominee James Franco” or “Slumdog Millionaire’s Freida Pinto?”

Or perhaps, why not say, “From WETA Digital the FX Team for Lord of the Rings”? After all, didn’t the combined ‘Lord of the Rings‘ trilogy win 17 Academy Awards? Although nominated for nine, ‘Avatar’ only brought home three. Aside from ‘The Two Towers’, each ‘Lord of the Rings’ film individually earned more Oscar nominations and wins than ‘Avatar’.

Surely ‘Avatar’ is noted for its unmatched box office glory. On Rotten Tomatoes, the ‘Lord of the Rings’ films respectively hold 92%, 96% and 94% critical ratings, while ‘Avatar’ only holds 83%. Wouldn’t the studio want to promote critical acclaim over the box office record? Not if it doesn’t think that ‘Apes’ will pull in an audience that prefers critical acclaim over pretty pictures. But even as that goes, the ‘Rings’ movies collectively grossed $3 billion worldwide, which isn’t exactly shabby.

I don’t mean to be the negative guy who bashes on ‘Avatar’. I actually thoroughly enjoy ‘Avatar’ and even own the extended Blu-ray. I even think that ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ looks promising. But flashing the name ‘Avatar’ in the middle of the first teaser raises an enormous red flag. While I want ‘Apes’ to succeed, after studying the facts, I can’t help but fear that it’s going to fail.

13 comments

  1. Well, I think this is still better than ads that say stuff like “from the studio that brought you ‘The Godfather'”. Yeah, and it’s also the studio that brought us ‘The Love Guru’.

    • Ian Whitcombe

      Hmm, I can’t think of a recent example of that, except probably Disney, Dreamworks or Pixar, or Ghibli…. which for them is valid enough since they’re trying to build an ongoing “canon” of work.

      I imagine, for example, that Paramount trailers featuring a reference to The Godfather, were probably made during the Bob Evans regime…so it still came from the same production mogul.

      Back to the main point, neither WETA Digital nor ILM have any inherent creative control of the movies they work on, mostly being outsourced by the VFX supervisor or the director himself. I suppose if the companies decided to produce the films outright, then we may see that on the publicity materials.

    • I see this all the time, and I agree, it’s worse. Wow, something is from Disney. Yeah, great, they made tons of animated classics. They also made THE ALAMO.

      an FX team is much more interesting and telling than a STUDIO or PRODUCTION TEAM.

  2. avatar was released by fox , so is apes. avatar was a huge hit. if the studio didn’t feel right about the movie , they would of dumped it in january after moving it from november , now it’s in the summer , looks good.

    • Many trailers don’t hesitate to name-check movies from other studios when it comes to the “From the Director of…” line. I think the real issue here is that the studio presumes that Avatar will be fresher in the audience’s memory. The last Lord of the Rings movie was released in 2003. The target audience for this film (13-16 year old boys) would have been somewhere between Kindergarten to 3rd grade when that came out.

      Anyway, I had the exact same thought that Luke did when I saw this trailer. “From the visual effects company… Really?” This is almost as bad as: “From the studio that brought you Shrek and Kung Fu Panda, comes a new movie not made by any of the same people from either Shrek or Kung Fu Panda. But we have the same marketing department, so that’s something. Right?”

  3. HuskerGuy

    It’s just marketing crap, I pay no attention to “From the same . . . “. If the movie looks good, I will see it regardless of former associations.

    • HuskerGuy

      Forgot to mention the one exception to this. If I ever see something reference a link to M. Night Shamalamadingdong I refuse to see it regardless.

  4. The best one I’ve seen was for NAKED GUN 2 1/2 where the trailer said “from the brother of the director of GHOST.” Of course, that was supposed to be tongue-in-cheek – as opposed to these other ones.

  5. Patrick A Crone

    I understand it on a visual level. In some aspects, visual effects artists have become actors themselves. The only part I liked about Avatar was how good the visuals were. So advertising that the company behind the digital performances in that film is a positive when you know that characters in the film will be purely digital. The advertising I can’t stand is ‘From the studio that brought you..’. Every studio has it’s hits and misses. Why lump a movie your marketing in with films that bombed?

  6. I try not to let crappy marketing campaigns have a impact on my expectations. For all the fits of rage about lack of creativity in Hollywood currently, there’s an even deeper drought of creativity in the marketing of said Hollywood.

  7. Its understandable why they do this, your normal every day movie goer will see that and say, wow thats awesome, Avatar was awesome so I’ll go check this out. Nothing more to it really, for movie buffs and fans of these types of movies I for one am always interested in who is doing these type of things.

    I would go as far to say that WETA has surpassed ILM on most fronts in regards to quality CG and realistic performances, so seeing that Apes is going to have them behind these aspects makes me want to see it, same goes for movies in the horror genre, if KNB FX Group is involved in the makeup and gore FX, I’m always there for a watch because they are the best in the business (they did everything for Piranha 2010).

    To me its cool to know this information, I always follow the producers, directors and writers as well but thats because I follow film as a major past time, its probably my biggest hobby, other people will just see Avatar and the FX and be interested in seeing the new Apes because of it, dont blame them for marketing stuff that way 🙂

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