The Super Bowl had its apocalyptic half-hour early in the third quarter Sunday, a fitting complement to "World War Z" and other disaster-laden movies that made their case to audiences in and around the big game.
"Z," the embattled Brad Pitt zombie feature, had its moment before the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers kicked off their blackout-tinged contest at the Superdome in New Orleans. The spot featured such proclamations as "We lost the East Coast," though it showed only some of the cataclysm that Pitt's character will face when the Marc Forster-helmed movie opens June 21.
Studios have used the Super Bowl to flog upcoming releases with respectable if not overwhelming results in recent years, as "Transformers" and other big-ticket franchises have begun their advertising campaigns during the championship match. For this year's game, advertising spots cost as much as $133,000 per second.
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Among the other movie hopefuls Sunday was "Fast Six," which delivered the requisite car chases, Noel Coward-esque dialogue ("We've graduated to a whole new level") and burning airplane wings.
Directed by Justin Lin and starring Dwayne Johnson, the latest installment in the long-running Universal "Fast and Furious" franchise will look to reprise the success of its 2011 installment when it hits theaters Memorial Day weekend.
Coming out more imminently — March 8 — is "Oz: The Great and Powerful," Sam Raimi's Emerald City prequel starring James Franco as Oscar Diggs, a Kansas huckster-turned-wizard. Disney hoped to use the game to launch the adventure film much in the way it did with the Tim Burton blockbuster "Alice in Wonderland" three years ago.
In its new spot, the studio went heavy on computer-generated creatures, throwing in some shots of the balloon accident that lands Diggs in Oz.
Disney also took the wraps off its Johnny Depp "Lone Ranger" reboot, in which the actor re-teams with his "Pirates of the Caribbean" director Gore Verbinski. The 90-second ad offered a fair bit of plot detail involving Armie Hammer's John Reid as well as some comedy with Depp's Tonto.
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Several years ago, "Super 8" used a bit of mystery marketing on its way to becoming a summer hit. This year, a different J.J. Abrams film was flogged, as "Star Trek Into Darkness" saw its first major TV spot in an intense ad that suggested the fabled crew, then a city, were in serious danger.
On the superhero front, Shane Black's "Iron Man 3" was unveiled in a spot that perhaps appeared a little close to the surrealness of the blackout.
With their loud explosions and built-in trailer moments, movie ads generally do not attract as much attention as other Super Bowl commercials. But the studio buys were hardly the only way Hollywood made its presence felt at the game.
Jon Favreau, helmer of the previous two "Iron Man" films, directed a spot for Samsung Galaxy featuring Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen that had the actors jawing at each other about such things as their age and their reviews.
Meanwhile, though Sunday's ads lacked the explicit reference to a hit film that a Matthew Broderick-starring Honda spot did last year with "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," an ad for Axe Apollo body spray did featur an homage to "Jaws," a Mercedes spot with Willem Dafoe nodded to "The Omen" and a Coke ad centering on a desert chase prompted some on social-media sites to offer snickering references to "Ishtar."
Cinematic influences were also felt in Chrysler's "So God Made a Farmer" ad, in which a series of Americana-themed stills accompanied a lyrical voice-over by the late radio icon Paul Harvey about the glories of farming. The extended spot, on behalf of Dodge Ram, continued a tradition at Chrysler of employing filmic techniques or personalities; the company aired Clint Eastwood's provocative "Morning in America" spot last year and the Samuel Bayer-directed "Imported From Detroit" ad featuring Eminem in 2011.