Or, more precisely, how to read a movie "press release."
For the uninitiated, a press release is a prepared statement by a business, politician or other sort of public entity and/or figure that is distributed to the media in lieu of an on-the-record statement. In the world of entertainment, press releases tend to be a strange fusion of information dump (here's who's in our new movie!!!) and spin control (our new movie won't suck!!!) written in a coded language that can be impossible to decipher if you don't do this for a living.
Well, I do do this for a living. So here's a handy guide for all of you to understand what moviemakers are really telling you in "news" stories that quote directly from the studio publicity department:
"We are excited to be working with this unique new filmmaker!"
"We are excited that a new talent just coming off a breakout feature has signed on to our project, guaranteeing us favorable early press and not costing us as much as someone more established!"
"I am honored to be involved in such a storied, important part of pop culture."
"I'm psyched to be attaching my name to a movie tied into something with such a massive pre-sold fanbase that it's going to open huge and net me massive industry clout no matter what kind of job I actually do on it!"
"I'm a long-time fan of this comic/book/game franchise!"
"I have heard of this comic/book/game franchise!"
"This genre has always offered such great possibilities!"
"A film in this genre just made a lot of money, and we are following the leader."
"Re-imagined for a more contemporary audience."
"Dumbed down for the Facebook generation brats who we believe are the only people still spending money at movie theaters."
"[Insert Actor] is being considered for the part."
"[Insert Actor] draws a lot of search engine hits right now, so we are floating their name in a non-story that you will now report hoping to get a traffic boost, thus giving our production free publicity."
"We're looking to get to the core of what the character is actually about, and not get hung up on superficial details."
"The main character in whatever our film was based on was originally gay, non-white or in some other way a minority in the U.S., and we are rationalizing changing their race/orientation/etc. to a white heterosexual because we believe that's the only kind of lead character people want to see."
"Starring Vin Diesel."
"Jason Statham said no."
"Easter Eggs, just for the fans!"
"Insubstantial nods to outside-film continuity to keep the fanboy press distracted and skew our press coverage favorably."
"Reminiscent of Black Hawk Down!"
"Hand-held camera at a high shutter speed, processed through a brown filter."
"Reminiscent of the Bourne films!"
"Hand-held camera at a high shutter speed, processed through a blue/green filter."
"Reminiscent of Saving Private Ryan!"
"Hand-held camera at a high shutter speed, processed through a desaturation filter in a period setting."
"Influenced by the Grindhouse revival movement."
"Our movie sucks, but pretending to be intentionally following in Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's footsteps will hopefully deflect criticism from people who don't know any better."
"In the style of Japanese anime."
"In the style of The Matrix."
"Videogame-inspired action scenes!"
"Poorly-shot action scenes involving squads of elite gunmen."
"Martial-arts scenes played just a little bit over the top in terms of physics."