Knights of Badassdom
, starring Ryan Kwanten, Steve Zahn, Peter Dinklage and Summer Glau as LARPers, comes out in theaters today (via fan-requested Tugg screenings
) before going to VOD and Digital on february 11th, followed by the DVD/Blu-ray release on April 1st, 2014
. This is a good time to restore some truths and also to share with you my impressions on the launch campaign of the long-awaited adventure/comedy. And as a bonus, I describe a clip with Summer Glau that has not been made public and involves the woods, a sword and a succubus.
Ignorant or misinformed people spread the word here and there that they're not willing to see a version of Knights of Badassdom that is not Joe Lynch's cut. I will not elaborate on a rumored 70-minute version (cut down from Lynch's original 90-minute movie) being screened to potential distributors on March 2013
, since there is little we actually know about it. That said, this is obviously not the version that lucky fans will be able to see in theaters starting today. The current version is 85 minutes long, and while I can't say what ended up on the cutting room floor, this is perfectly acceptable for a feature film.
To those people I would say that that it's not the director's cut doesn't mean the movie won't deliver on its effort to entertain a targeted audience of role-playing geeks and those that enjoy some good ol' fun. Keep an open mind, don't listen to the people who judge something that they haven't even seen yet. I have personnally collected the fans impressions from the movie premiere at Icon Festival
in Israel and the audience loved it.
I am still excited to see the movie and very neutral on which cut we're gonna get. It's better than a kick in the teeth, plus it will be great to see Summer Glau wielding that sword as Gwen (plus she isn't too hard on the eyes in that outfit).
However, which lenght/cut is not the main point I want to draw attention to. The team behind Knights of Badassdom and the distributor eOne have started to advertise the release of the movie and they have not been very good, to say the least. For me, this marketing campaign is far below what I was expecting. Obviously, they don't have much money to spend for a decent launch campaign.
It all started when the Facebook page for Knights of Badassdom published funny images, captioned in the movie's own inimitable way. Funny but definitively cheap.
KNIGHTS OF BADASSDOM follows three best friends (Peter Dinklage, Steve Zahn and Ryan Kwanten) and dedicated LARPers (Live Action Role Players) as they take to the woods treenact a dungeons and dragons-like scenario fresh out of the mythical Middle Ages. Trouble arises after they unwittingly conjure up some serious evil in the form of a blood-lusting Succubus, from the pits of hell.
Fantasy and reality collide on the Fields of Evermore in an all-out epic battle of make-believe wizards, demons and assorted mythical creatures. Their courage and friendship is put to the test as they attempt to vanquish the evil they have summoned. Will the group prove to simply be foam sword-wielding LARPers, or true “Knights of Badassdom?”
In comparison, here's the synopsis published in July 2010, shortly before the movie began filming in Spokane, Washington:
After being dumped by his sexy girlfriend Beth, Joe (Kwanten) reluctantly decides to join Eric (Zahn) and his LARPing (Live Action Role Players) friends in the woods rather than stay behind and feel sorry for his newly single status. There he meets hot, ass-kicking, intimidating LARPer Gwen (Glau), and finds himself plunged into a surreal adventure wilder than he ever imagined when a make-believe wizard casts an all-too-real spell from an ancient book. That spell releases an actual demon with a taste for human blood -- and souls -- that starts systematically decimating the players in this suddenly deadly "game." Will our guys become the heroes they have been pretending to be before time runs out?
As you can see, the first synopsis didn't mention Peter Dinklage, who wasn't the big star he is now thanks to Game Of Thrones, since HBO's hit serie started only April in 2011. That Dinklage's name is now featured in the second synopsis is perfectly understandable.
The second most noticeable change between the two versions is the removal of Margarita Levieva and Summer Glau's characters Beth and Gwen (you'll notice that Summer's name was mentioned, since she's a main draw for geeks). And this is where the new marketing angle takes shape: the producers have decided to relegate to the second level the romantic angle and favoured the epic LARPing tales of the three buddies played by Dinklage, Zhan and Kwanten. This is not a coincidence if the word friend/friendship is mentioned twice in the new synopsis (2009 comedy "Fanboys" anyone?).
As an aside, I feared that the romantic scenes between Summer and Ryan's characters (if any) might have suffered from the rumored 70 minutes re-cut, without having any proof. And now I have the same feeling, and this time it is strengthened by this tangible semantic shift.
While the first synopsis describes the plot of the movie, the second one definitively sounds like the description of a fantasy game, filled with monsters ("make-believe wizards, demons and assorted mythical creatures") and mystical quests. It proves - if anybody needed further proof - that the targeted audience is not a large public but role-playing geeks.
I recall clearly that Joe Lynch said in interview during 2011 Comic Con
that his vision was that was that Knights of Badassdom should appeal to a broad audience and not only role-playing fans and LARPers. Horror comedy has been thrown around a lot, but Lynch prefers to call it an adventure movie. That said, I guess the producers/distributors screen tested the movie and decided the movie was better suited for a niche audience (and probably proceeded to the adequate readjustements in the editing room). I can't say that I'm pleased with that since firstly, I'm not a gamer and secondly, I'm afraid a whole side of Summer Glau's character Gwen might be left aside.
The rest of the marketing campaign consists of a series of events that proves that the producers don't want to spend money on the advertising and are simply trying to recoup some of the money which has been spent financing the movie. More, the newly released clips and every marketing action confirm that the targeted audience are the community of LARPers and the gamers.
The announcement video released by eOne on December 2013 is a good example of this. The editing and overall presentation of the teaser is akin to that of a low-budget student production and the cheesy, cartoonesque effects don't do justice to the trailer unveiled at 2011 Comic Con. Please don't show this teaser to anyone who isn't already familiar with the trailer, it way undersells it.
The release strategy that they have chosen - making the movie available on Tugg, than on VOD and digital download/streaming platforms (such as Amazon, iTunes and Netflix Instant) and later on DVD and Blu-ray - doesn't cost much. It is very likely that you won't see any print or TV advertising and you can expect a bare-bones, zero-features DVD/Blu-ray when it comes out in April 1st 2014.
Choosing to release Knights of Badassdom theatrically through Tugg platform is a good way to not spend one dollar on advertising, since all the work is done by the fans who request a screening via their local theater. More, the lack of poster when the movie appeared on Tugg website blatantly stressed the amateurish and/or rushed work that was done. Before the official poster was released, Tugg's page for Knights of Badassdom, as well as the theaters who would screen the movie showed an image filled with black with the movie logo on it. To this day, the event page at Tugg website still shows that black page for the screenings submitted before the release of the new poster. Seriously, how can you advertise a movie in a website and then at a theater whithout a decent poster.
That's where the new official poster that debuted on January 2014 come into play; many have underlined the cheap photoshop work done on that poster. The top part featuring the four main chacaters is ok but the bottom part with characters cropped and pasted onto fire is lazy. It comes down to how you represent your product, and to be honest the announcement video and the new poster are amateur hour.
As an aside, how did Summer Glau not get her name on top of the newly-released poster? Why is it so important, you ask? Well, everyone who follows the cinematic industry knows how important it is to have your name mentioned prominently on the movie poster. Countless movie stars have faught and requested the intervention of their lawyers because they felt their name was not big enough on a movie poster.
I don't know if this is all about what the actors negotiated at the time they signed for the movie appearance or if this is the producers's decision to not have Summer Glau's name on top of the movie poster.
I, and many people not necessarily Summer die-hard fans, am sure, however, that it seems really foolish to not put Summer Glau's name up top, as she has a large following, particularly among the targeted audience, and in many ways would be a huge selling point for a film like this.
The latest marketing actions, if we want to call them that, target exclusively the Larping community. That includes the launch of a dedicated tumblr named LARP fails, where people can submit their pictures of...Larp fails, an on-going interactive text-based LARPing adventure prequel to Knights of Badassdom on Facebook and very recently characters sheets
, which mimic the cards used in LARping.
I don't expect much from the reviews that will inevitably come out in the following days. They are writen by bloggers at specialized in horror websites, who are 100% behind Joe Lynch and are as a matter of principle against a cut that is not Lynch's (see my two side notes at the bottom of the page).
The facts and tangible realities I just described leave little hope for a chance for Knights and Badassdom - and Summer Glau - to reach a wider public beyond the LARPing/geek community. Instead, the producers have chosen to target a limited audience, to focus on the epic LARPing tales of the three buddies, to spend as little money as possible... and potentially miss an opportunity.
It's hard to tell how that translates in terms of screen time for Summer Glau's character. Fan who attended the world premiere at Icon Festival in Israel on September 2013
, reported that she really delivered the whole "I'm not really into this but I'm playing along with it" role, that she had a few great lines and some good action bits.
As promessed, here's a spoilery description of a footaget hat was shown to selected members of the press back in July 2011. The fans, especially Summer Glau fans, would surely get a kick out of this clip, which was entitled "SuccuBeth Rising."
The scene finds Joe (Ryan Kwanten), Eric (Steve Zahn), and Gwen (Summer Glau) out in the woods. They've come across a woman who looks very much like Joe's "psychotic ex-girlfriend" Beth (Margarita Levieva)...except she appears to be feasting on a freshly killed person. As Beth - now revealed to be some form of succubus - advances towards them, Gwen gores her against a tree with a sword. This only slows down the succubus, who removes the sword. At that point, Eric starts reading more spells from his magic book, and the suddenly agonized monster runs off into the woods "like a wounded animal."
It's at this point that Jimmi Simpson's Ronnie shows up, who reveals just what is going on with this strange book with the power to summon hellish demons in the form of ex-girlfriends. According to Ronnie, the book was handwritten in the 16th century by famous mystic and occultist John Dee. The man had tried to use his magic to talk with angels, but he summoned demons instead, so he encased them in the book.
The characters then hear the horn of war, realizing the main LARPing event, the Battle of Evermore, is at hand. Realizing that the succubus will eat the LARPers' souls if she isn't stopped, Joe declares, "We have to save them." Eric is hesitant to go up against a demon, but Joe convinces him that he needs "to man up and avenge the death of a friend." Eric reluctantly agrees, and Joe declares, "The time has come to earn our valor, people." The scene ended there, right at the brink of what we can only assume is all-out war between LARPers and the forces of Hell itself - something backed up by one last glimpse of footage as the succubus began to transform into something really monstrous.
I hope that you are as excited by this scene as I am and that you can't wait to see Summer Glau brandish a sword and chain mail skirt the way the geek gods and a select group of filmmakers intended.
In conclusion, a lot of great folks - the director, the stellar cast, the crew, the dedicated extras - were on the ground making this movie, having a great time doing it and if there’s a cut that conveys half of that fun they had making it, Knights of Badassdom should enjoy some kind of success and why not become a cult classic.
EDIT: Let me add two controversial remarks
1) The abundance of repetitive and negative comments, on IMDB, on Knights of Badassdom Facebook page and everytime an article is published, requesting Joe Lynch's cut and calling for a boycott of this cut, written by horror fans looks very much like a gag order. I would not go as far as to claim that online bloggers have the same kind of practices but their - perfectly understandable - loyaulty to Joe Lynch lead me to believe they are prejudiced against the movie.
2) According to two online bloggers from specialized in horror websites whom I spoked to, the main actors are not promoting the movie because it's not the movie they signed up for and they have chosen to stand by Joe Lynch and not get involved in the PR (could that explain why Summer's name isn't on top of the movie poster?). As a simple fan who likes the premise and cast of the movie, I could not care less.
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