Movie trailers have always been one of the more reliable content varieties for online video. Trailers for even the most average-looking films typically score high view-counts. But the latest trailer making the viral rounds sticks out from the rest like a sore thumb, and that's because it stars a bunch of people who are only famous because of their involvement in a previous popular viral video.
The Details: The Chronicles of Rick Roll
Called "The Chronicles of Rick Roll," the trailer boasts an impressive cast of web-video stars, including Antoine Dodson (of Bed Intruder fame), the Double Rainbow Guy (who is making a nice career out of playing off his accidental fame), and even the Numa Numa guy.
Before we go any further in discussing this project, let's just take a look at the trailer, shall we?
[Video removed from YouTube]
The film comes from Nurv, a marketing and creative agency in Colorado. And, before you ask… yes, this is apparently a real movie. Not just a fake trailer created to grab some viral views. There's a Facebook page to keep track of the film's latest news and progress. These viral stars are all making a salary as cast members, and the movie aims for an honest-to-goodness theatrical release. They even have a script, though there's no word on what the actual storyline might be.
It's too bad, really, because it sounds like a fun project.
Why It Will Fail
But a theatrical release is pretty misguided, and I'll be happy to tell you why: because the public still doesn't view online video as something akin to Hollywood films. The two entities are not on the same level in the eyes of the audience. They will not respect these viral stars as actors, or the movie as a legitimate film. They'll see it as an Internet trend trying to grab extra time in the spotlight.
Want proof that I'm right? Look at Never Say Never, the Justin Bieber movie. Bieber is the king of YouTube. His music video for the song Baby, which features Ludacris, has over 474 million views. If you add up the view-counts for the original videos these Chronicles of RickRoll stars (Numa Numa, Freak Out Kid, Boom Goes The Dynamite, Bed Intruder, Double Rainbow, & Leroy Jenkins), you get 182 million… just about 1/3 of Bieber's "Baby."
And yet when he's the focus of a feature film… despite all his global fame, screaming fans, magazine covers, and entertainment value… the movie couldn't even take the weekend–it ended up as the #2 film of the week on its opening weekend, behind a new Adam Sandler comedy. That's not to call the film a failure–it's grossed over $62 Million so far–but if the single biggest star in the history of YouTube can't do better than "average box office success," what makes Nurv think these viral stars will put butts in the seats?
When the public is ready to see online video and its stars as equals to Hollywood–which I'm not sure will ever happen–then maybe a project like this makes sense. Right now though, it's only going to prove how far online video has to go to legitimize itself in the eyes of the consumer. In fact, I could make an argument that most viewers don't even necessarily respect these viral stars–that there's maybe an element of mockery to the fame the world gives them.
People love YouTube videos and viral clips, and will watch them all the time. But that doesn't necessarily mean the respect the stars. They simply see YouTube and the local multiplex as two completely different worlds. This is the same reason people like Sean Penn who are vocal about politics don't actually run for office–they know the public has a clear line of demarcation between entertainers and presidents (with Reagan & the Governator as the exceptions that prove the rule, I guess).
In addition, online video has an infinite shelf life, and seems to work best in short bursts of only a few minutes or less. Asking audiences to go spend two hours in theaters with the stars of popular viral videos is just misguided.
I don't hate the idea of taking previous viral stars and casting them in a new piece of video content–even though I could argue that it's far from a novel concept, as Weezer can tell you. But make something viral like a fake trailer. Or make a web-only film. Don't try and make viral video a pipeline for Hollywood. It won't happen anytime soon, and I'm not sure I would want it to.
So while you might have expected me to champion this thing like I do with all the other harebrained ideas people come up with on the Internet… you'd be wrong. I wish Nurv had simply made this trailer alone… and launched it as a spoof trailer with the goal of going viral. That I could get behind. But thinking the world is anxiously awaiting the jump of Antoine Dodson from an auto-tune song to the movies is erroneous. They're not. You'll be lucky if they even notice.