Here we are, in a snowy forest at the heart of the action. Around us is a confusing amalgam of ballet and an explosion-heavy wack-a-mole game is under way. In it, the protagonists twirl and hurl at winter-camouflaged enemies. The whole tableau, although a bit grotesque, is filled with intricately designed contraptions: helmets, weapons and vehicles all implying a not so distant future.
Before long, the superheroes return to HQ for a debrief.
They’re still dressed in their carefully crafted suits, in an equally meticulously crafted ship interior. The suits, seats, windows and interfaces all share a unified blue-grey-neo-futuristic-mystic-vibe. Their designs are very geometric with generously rounded angles similar to what can often be seen on concept cars these days. There is an intent to appeal to a general sense of what the future could look like. As the characters gravely voice their concerns about the looming threat of aliens, the camera pans to the right where one of the protagonists is sitting lost in thought, a frown on his face.
On his head sit a pair of Beats headphones. They feel very out of place, like a streaker dashing down a fashion runway. Nonchalantly photo-bombing from atop the pensive super-hero’s head.
Science fiction is about inventing futures. It’s a way of contextualizing abstract concepts of science and technology and toy with them.
Naturally this process relies greatly on artifacts and props that help communicate these new concepts. One of the best examples to date for its evolution from inception to industrialization being Star Trek’s Replicator and how it crystallized for so many the potential of what we now call 3D printing.
In this movie, the Beats, Gilettes, Samsungs, Harleys and Audis of the world shamelessly break the spell of the movie upon every appearance. They are tourists, clumsily and desperately trying to blend into an exotic environment.
Product placement’s aggressive new approach to relentlessly appearing on camera, TV shows, movies, music videos, discredits the universe they invite themselves into. Their appearance gets in the way of imagination and innovation. Through their appearance, they prevent other clever contraptions, realistic or not, to see the light of day and feed our shared imaginary.
When crafting future scenarios no detail is too small to be surrendered to an mildly relevant product’s placement. Because of the mere scale of their audience, it seems the aforementioned companies should instead focus on brand awareness by challenging each other’s R&D departments into rapid-fire hackathons to be used as inspiration by the concept artists on the films’ production teams rather than funding the aggressive marketing of a specific, existing commodity. This would not only create unique and culturally-relevant contributions to the future of tech… But it would make a great Comi-Con booth!