Contemporary movie releases are accompanied by a promotional website where visitors can watch trailers, read a synopsis, download stuff, and enjoy games, apps, and other content. Over the years these sites have evolved enormously thanks to advances in web design. Despite this adaptation, the genre has a specific presentation which is often strictly adhered to. Standard features include:
- Large, eye-catching images and video which often explodes fully into your browser.
- Rich, interactive content powered by Flash.
- Movie trailers and film clips.
- Splash pages before entering the main website.
- Photo galleries.
- Reviews and awards.
- One-page design with little scrolling.
- Social networking links.
- Downloads including wallpapers, games, and apps.
Although often glamorous, it has to be noted there is little innovation on offer. Loading screens are commonplace due to the advanced nature of the sites, and an enormously prominent trailer is what usually greets a visitor. However, all concerned do go to great lengths to outdo their competitors with increasingly fancy additional features. As a showcase of this competitive flamboyance, here are 15 examples of the movie industry in online action.
1. Despicable Me 2
Despicable Me 2 is a twee animated feature film. The movie follows the exploits of Cru, an ex-evil mastermind who has refocused his life around jam-making.
As the film boasts a family friendly nature the design isn’t complex. There are a myriad of activities to get involved with: a “GruTube” play on the familiar video streaming site, Fan sections which encourage participation (including art, stencils, and Halloween based antics), and a focus on the popular yellow Minion characters. With the latter, there has been an entire new site launched to promote their amusing behaviour. It’s all very eye catching and is one of the more enjoyable, and involving, sites I came across.
2. Man of Steel
Man of Steel, directed by Zack Snyder and produced and written by Christopher Nolan, is a re-imagining and reboot of the Superman story, a 3D action adventure which explores the superhero’s genesis and arrival on Earth.
The website is a prime example of a contemporary movie promo with full-screen clips playing in the browser, plenty of trailers, photo galleries, downloads, and a pretty diabolical flying game. The latter requires some obscure software to be installed in order to play, and the site itself requires plenty of loading time. Much like the film it’s a protracted experience.
3. Star Trek Into Darkness
Director JJ Abrams’ Star Trek Into Darkness is the sequel to 2009’s Star Trek. The movie continues to follow the bromance between main characters Captain Kirk and Spock, played by Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto. Simon Pegg and Benedict Cumberbatch also have starring roles.
The Star Trek promotional website is a slick presentation with full-screen clips, photo galleries and apps, and also features links to US community service organization The Mission Continues. The enormous space themed image on the landing page is very impressive, and as the film was fantastic it makes the design seem all the more welcome.
4. The Lone Ranger
Here we have producer Jerry Bruckheimer, director Gore Verbinski, and Johnny Depp starring as Tonto. Despite this promising line-up and blockbuster investment from Disney, the film was a major flop.
Nevertheless, The Lone Ranger site features massive set-piece special effects and strong imagery with a Western aesthetic that verges on monochrome. This look and feel is reflected in the film’s promotional website, which offers plenty of videos, photos, character profiles, apps and games.
5. Iron Man 3
Shane Black directs the third instalment of Marvel’s Iron Man superhero series, which stars Robert Downey Jr in title role, Gwyneth Paltrow as the love interest, Guy Pearce as a brilliant scientist and Ben Kingsley as an explosive middle-eastern terrorist.
The Iron Man 3 official website is a good example of modern movie web presence: a one-page site with trailers, synopsis, galleries, apps, games and links to Facebook and YouTube for news and extras.
6. Fast and Furious 6
Another of the year’s blockbusters is also the latest episode in what is becoming a very long running series – Fast & Furious. Part six of the franchise sees Paul Walker and Vin Diesel reprising their petrol-head lead roles.
The movies’ promotional website is sleek and stylish with image galleries, trailer, downloads, games and links to exclusive content via iTunes. As you’d expect cars play a great deal in the visual appeal of the site, and Vin Diesel’s presence is all over the place.
7. A Field in England
Much of 2013 movie market is dominated by blockbusters, superheroes, fast cars, sci-fi action and cutting-edge special effects. In contrast, director Ben Wheatley’s A Field in England is a subversive slice of filmmaking.
The promotional website also has a unique feel and offers advice on how to watch the film – unusually it was released across all formats on the same day so viewers could choose between seeing it in cinemas, on Film4, DVD, Blu-ray or view-on-demand without waiting for their preferred platform. The site also contains a masterclass on how the film was made from development, pre-production, shooting and acting through to post-production and release.
8. Django Unchained
Considered by some to be one of the finest films of 21013, Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained is a slavery-era western starring Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L Jackson and Christoph Waltz.
As one of the most violent films of the year. The loading screen is long (in a true First World Problem sense, it takes around 20 seconds). It contains the original theatrical trailer, an interactive trailer, app, game, and an engaging section where you can explore the movie’s scenes and characters.
9. World War Z
World War Z appeared to have cast-iron credentials for summer success: a big budget action zombie thriller based on a cult novel by Max Brooks with the latest CGI special effects and Brad Pitt in the leading role. Despite these promising ingredients the film hasn’t been received well.
The website isn’t any more inspiring. Eager to hammer home the fact Brad Pitt stars, a large image of his troubled features is present, and the designers are keen to hammer home the Blu-Ray/DVD release. A standard game and Quiz challenge offer little else, and when you enter the official landing page there’s little more than a trailer of panic stricken people. Disappointing.
10. The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby is a glamorous extravaganza set in the hard-partying Jazz Age. The film dazzles the eye but loses some of the subtlety and complexity of F Scott Fitzgerald’s original novel. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as the eponymous Gatsby.
The Great Gatsby is compactly designed with an aesthetic which reflects the art, fashion, and glamour of the period. Images from the film adorn the landing page, including stills from “The Making Of”; immediately the gist is the high art, and attention to detail, of the film. Elsewhere there are features videos, soundtrack samples, downloads, a guide to style, and a monogram maker in which you can design Gatsby-styled logos.
This is Ron Howard’s take on the dramatic 1976 Formula One World Championship. James Hunt and Niki Lauda took centre stage for a worryingly dramatic season, with Lauda barely surviving a horrifying accident at the Nurburgring.
As “Rush” is occupied by the famous American band, Ron Howard has had to push the line “Rush Movie” in order to avoid any confusion. Given the dramatic nature of the film, its source, and the plot, the Rush site is as naturally flamboyant as James Hunt. It offers a history of the true story, as well as numerous other features to allow fans to immerse themselves in the story. Clips from the film blast away pleasingly as you navigate – it’s all very enjoyable.
12. The Bling Ring
The Bling Ring, directed by Sofia Coppola and starring Emma Watson, tells the true story of a bunch of celebrity-obsessed brats who formed a gang to burgle the homes of Hollywood’s rich and famous. The movie captures the inane shallowness of fandom.
The official site is a disjointed affair. Visitors are greeted with the most enormous trailer in history, and scrolling below this is an array of pictures from the film. However, each picture cleverly offers a link to a new section of the site, offering further insight. This backfires somewhat as wherever you head you are plagued by the enormous trailer! It’s an irritation more than effective promotion.
13. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Catching Fire is the second instalment of The Hunger Games, a post-apocalyptical tale about a brutal society. Jennifer Lawrence plays the central role as Katniss Everdeen.
The site is a joy to behold and extremely easy to navigate. The compact use of scrolling images and accessible icons make it a perfect example of a film website done well. It doesn’t lose itself in its visuals and allows the visitor to search for clips from the film. It hints at what’s to come very effectively, which is certainly a good tactic to drive up movie hype.
Billed as one of the films of the year, Gravity is the George Clooney/Sandra Bullock vehicle which centres on very good looking people in space. Stuff goes wrong (blame the Russians), and events become an all out blast for survival.
The site doesn’t deviate from the other designs, with a loading screen followed by a large selection of film clips of some of the zero gravity antics. As the film’s just so spectacular the designers really didn’t need to work too hard on this one. There is, though, an intriguing “3D Space Walk” feature to get you in the mood (complete with huge loading time), and the eerie music compliments the mysterious nature of space. A well designed, practical site to get the point across.
15. Studio Ghibli
Finally, looking to the East we find animation masters Studio Ghibli. Famed for classics such as Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Princess Mononoke, the site belies the gloriously artistic nature of their films. It’s simplistic and shows off their most famous character, who stars in the legendary My Neighbour Totoro.
Impenetrable Japanese text to one side, any fan visiting the site will be aware of the familiar company mascot and everything it implies. It may not appear effective, but for fans this is a wonderful design hinting at the sweeping majesty of their movies.