Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Faux Pas of Film, Pt. 2


• Obvious Product Placement
This one may seem to be an obvious pet peeve, as most people with reasonable intelligence can pinpoint product placement in television or movies and roll their eyes exclaiming, Gee, you think Lexus paid ‘em any money?” I’m not talking about the ‘casual’ placements, such as someone using an Apple computer or something. No, the ones that drive me over the edge are the incursions so blatantly obvious, you can almost envision the executives being handed bags and bags of cash, while laughing sadistically at the thought of ruining another film just to buy another 50 kilos of coke. There are two such over-the-top placements in recent memory that particularly struck a cord with me.

Example 1: Matrix.

Setting: Our protagonist, computer hacker Thomas Anderson, has just been instructed via cell phone to escape capture by climbing out onto a window ledge. This he does reluctantly, as he is naturally several stories high, but not without the cliché slipping-and-almost-falling-to-his-death scene. In the middle of slipping-and-almost-falling-to-his-death, he loses his grip on the aforementioned cell phone, and as it is flung into the air, it pauses momentarily on it’s faceplate, clearly showing the world that this is, in fact, a Nokia-brand phone, before continuing it’s fall to the ground. I could almost picture the words “4 out of 5 Computer Hackers recommend Nokia for their cell-phone needs” as it pauses so unnecessarily for the audience. Now, the so-called “bullet-time” effect was pioneered and used in this particular movie several times, but mostly to demonstrate how the characters could move much faster than normal, dodging bullets and the like, hence the name “bullet time”. Our Mr. Anderson had no such powers at the time, so there was absolutely no reason to slow down his falling phone other than to sell Nokias to the viewer. I would have accepted this commercial a lot more readily had our character dropped his phone while having this ability to slow time, and as the phone slowly reveals it’s make and model, he grabs it quickly to demonstrate he now has this amazing ability. No, come to think of it, it would still piss me off, but not nearly to the extent it does as it stands now. Had I owned a Nokia phone at the time I, too, would have flung it out the nearest window.

Example 2: I, Robot
There is absolutely no excuse for this one, no matter how you look at it. The movie is set in the future, 2035 to be exact, the last place you’d expect a new sneaker from 2004 to show up, right? EERRR!!! Wrong! Within the first few moments of the film Del Spooner, a Chicago city cop with a pension for chasing down robots, displays his winning online bid: a brand new pair of “vintage” 2004 Nike’s! If that didn’t remind me of the purposely blatant product placement in “The Truman Show”, I don’t know what does.

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