Since Sept. 28, 2023, cinema has been plagued by the trailer for “Kingsman” director Matthew Vaughn’s newest film, “Argylle.” With the release of the film on Feb. 2 (a date that has become engraved in my brain due to annoying, rather than effective, marketing), we have been cured.
The trailer touts the film as the latest “from the twisted mind” of Vaughn, whose filmography barely extends past comic book adaptations that shout, “Look at me! I’m trying to be edgy,” with unrealistic amounts of blood.
The film is marketed as a mystery about trying to find out who the titular spy is, asking “Who is the real Agent Argylle?” This question was so annoying that I immediately looked up spoilers when I heard people were watching early screenings of the film.
The answer lies behind the main character’s revealing writing, in the same vein as “Romancing the Stone.” The author, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, carries her feline pet in a suitcase as well, to seemingly use the phrase “don’t let the cat out of the bag” in every poster for this movie.
The only mystery to this film seems to be who would want to watch it, and I know I’m not alone in thinking this. Big companies like Apple and Universal teamed up to make this movie on a $200 million budget, yet the film only earned $18 million in its opening weekend, competing against an already-timid start to 2024. Apple’s last film, “Killers of the Flower Moon,” also earned less than its budget, but at least it scored critical acclaim and Oscar noms.
I enjoyed the “Kingsman” movies, and I was actually interested in “Argylle” when I first heard about it years ago and saw it had a few actors in its cast I liked. The movie’s obnoxious marketing schemes quickly turned me away.
The trailer itself starts with David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance,” showing Henry Cavill with a strange haircut as he dances with … Dua Lipa? The song has barely started by the time the trailer reveals all this is being written by Howard’s character.
Suddenly, a clock is ticking, Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds” is playing, and Howard is on a train with Sam Rockwell, who turns out to be a violent spy. Throw in some bad jokes, rough visual effects, random shots of famous actors and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it editing, and you have the whole trailer.
This isn’t the first time a movie’s marketing has annoyed me. Last year, the marketing for “Gran Turismo” was hardly digestible and highly jest-able. The film was given the subtitle “Based on a True Story” — an aspect that was constantly pushed on viewers through trailers and posters — and the strange tagline of “from gamer to racer.” Needless to say, all this convinced me to steer clear of this video game movie.
The oversaturation of movie marketing seems to have become a trend for movies that are concocted to become big blockbusters. Their budgets become too big to be allowed to fail, and the distributors continuously advertise these films in hopes that viewers won’t be able to think of any other movie to see in theaters.
Movies like “Barbie” and “Star Wars” have other factors that can help them, like the ability to sell toys and shirts based on the films or the appeal to kids who will force their parents to take them. As an R-rated film based on a little-known book that didn’t even release until months into the movie’s marketing campaign, “Argylle” doesn’t have these pleasures.
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Many lessons can be gleaned from the marketing of “Argylle”: Rapid-paced trailers that are more focused on actors than the movie’s distinctiveness don’t always work; the cost of oversaturating the market isn’t always made up in sales; high-budget movies may need to become a thing of the past; don’t over rely on phrases and images for marketing; and so on.
Perhaps if “Argylle” had taken any of these into consideration, I would have been in a theater this past weekend, willing to take a shot on this bold new movie. Instead, I’m now hesitant to even watch this on Apple TV+ when it leaves theaters in a few months because it means I’ll have to pay $6.99 to renew my subscription.