24 January 2010 3798 Views

What If: The Men In Black Viral

by Iain Welford

Who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters, of course, but what if your problem isn’t so much paranormal as extra-terrestrial? In that case, it’s time for the mysterious Men in Black to appear.

In their smart black suits and shades, agents J and K arrived on our screens to clear up the alien threat and M.I.B. proved to be one of the biggest films of 1997. Making over 6 times its budget, spawning a #1 single, a cartoon series, a sequel, and appearing in the top 50 highest grossing films of all time, Men in Black is a fitting film for a “What If”.

Based on the 1990 comic book series by Lowell Cunningham, the rights to adapt the series into a film were quickly snapped up by Columbia pictures. The film was actually meant to be released a couple of years before ’97, but due to Barry Sonnenfeld’s commitment to Get Shorty and the producers’ insistence of keeping Sonnenfeld as the director, it was postponed until he was able to commit.

When filming started, there were several changes made to the script and story. Originally the film was meant to be largely set underground in Kansas and Nevada, but changed to New York city as it was felt the people of New York were more open to different styles of clothing etc, helping the aliens to blend in. The ending you see now was one of 5 different endings that were drafted before they felt they had the right one. The script was changed from battling planets with Earth in the crossfire to just one alien race threatening to destroy Earth.

When the film was released in 1997, it was promoted to the hilt, with computer games, board games, a hit single by Will Smith. It even spawned a ride at universal studios. It’s for this reason that I wanted to write a “What If”. It seems only natural that during all this promotion they would have turned to viral to make it more interesting given the chance. I hope you enjoy it.

Author’s Note: The websites contained in this article are meant to be fictional websites. They may or may not be active, and the content of these website have not been checked. You have been warned.

Level 1: Border Patrol Officer – www.galaxybordercontrol.com

Starting off as a border patrol officer, galaxy border patrol will be a “3rd party” border patrol agency. The site would be incorporated into a scene from the trailer that would show the alien we first meet, “José”. In the film it is never explained how they know José is jumping the border, so the new scene would show the van stopping at the border control, a border patrol man asking the driver some questions about his cargo and will then show the van driving off. On the tracking shot of the van pulling away, a man in a black suit will be seen with a clip board advertising galaxy border patrol and making a call on a mobile.

Visitors to the site will find information on the border patrol services as well as an application form for more information on the services they can outsource. Those submitting their E-mail address will be added to the mailing list and a week later will be e-mailed a login to the subscriber’s section, which will include videos of their day-to-day routines as well as some interviews with potential border jumpers.

The subscriber’s section will also include a “work for us” section, which will ask a few generic questions as well as asking if the user sees anything that can be improved upon. One of the videos that the user can watch will include a clip of an alien trying to sneak through, and if the user selects this clip for the application form they will have passed the test and will get a hiring e-mail for the next stage.

The clip in question will show the border patrol officers on a sweltering hot day discussing the extremely warm week they have had, with visual clues of sweating showing through their uniforms as well as a lot of water drinking. The clue will be a disguised alien who is wearing heavy layers of clothing reporting “nothing to declare” at one of the booths.

Level 2: Agent A – www.MIB.gov.com

Upon successful recognition of the stand alien in the previous test, users will be sent a new login for the site. When they login they will be directed to the MIB main website and will be able to watch an introduction from Agent D, K’s partner at the start of film. Agent D will explain that an open mind and a careful eye will help the new recruit to climb up the ranks at MIB headquarters. After the video, Agent D will take you to Jeeb’s Pawnshop where the user will have to use their investigative skills to find the clues and transform Jeeb’s from the pawnshop to the gun store we see in the film.

The user will have to look through several displays and pick out items that are not quite right, including a pair of sunglasses with different colored lenses, a three-fingered glove and a green can of Pepsi. When they pick everything, the display racks will convert and they will be shown the gun racks. A video will show Agent D warning Jeeb’s not to sell any weapons to unlicensed aliens. It will become apparent that Jeeb’s ignored the advice and sold one to the perp that we see Will Smith chasing down at the start of the film. The user will be able to click on a weapon which will show a Small Bio. It will also include a ”weapon of interest” tick box. If the user ticks the box, a window will show asking the user to report why they have selected this weapon and in which location. The answer will lie in the next section.

Level 3: Agent C –  www.theworldweeklypaper.com

After successfully finding Jeeb’s weapons store, Agent D will tell you in a video why they are recruiting new Agents and where they find their information from. The user will then be a left within the MIB website to explore it for themselves. The website will have a links section, and contained in the links will be a link for “The World” newspaper that Agent K reads in the film to find out about the “bug” landing. There will be a couple of articles to read including the one in which we are interested in.

Tuesday 13th March – New York City

On-foot police chase ends in tragedy.

A man committed suicide by leaping from a ledge after an eventful chase followed by one of N.Y.s finest. The man had previously caused a disturbance on the underground, distressing passengers with repeated chants of “he’s coming”, telling passengers he needed to get off “this rock” and brandishing an unusual device at one point described by a passenger as “a shiny thing that looked like a hair-dryer with 3 things coming from it.” Witnesses of the chase reported the criminal was very athletic and very good at evading capture however one officer was able to keep up and eventually found him at the ledge. An official police statement issued states that the death was a tragic one and that no such weapon or device had been found despite extensive searching of the chase route. Officer Edwards, the arresting officer was unavailable to comment.

Once the user reads the story hey will be able to go back to the MIB website and select Jeebs from the locations link. From there, if they select the correct weapon and report an “unlawful brandishing” and New York as the sighting they will be rewarded with the first teaser trailer and well done video featuring our first introduction to Agent K.

Level 4: Agent F and Agent H – Facebook/Google Maps Tie-in

One thing I really like about viral is the potential for teamwork. It’s for this reason that level 4 will tie-in through Facebook and will feature you and a buddy working together solve a case. One agent will take the role of Agent F and one will take the role of Agent H. Each agent will be sent a case file through Facebook, with the goal of correctly identifying and tracking down a rogue alien who has donned a new disguise to escape New York.

The first file for Agent F will detail the “escapee’s” last known whereabouts and will use a special edition of Google Maps that takes the basic street view and adds little visual clues for the user to find.. The agent will be able to use “street view” and look around the last known location, an alley, and look for clues. The clues to look for will be provided by Agent H.

Agent H will get a case file featuring the alien’s last appearance at MIB Headquarters. It will feature photos and a video of the alien, as well as information on past appearances. The user should be able to see a clear pattern of disguises (In this case, emergency service uniforms would be easiest) and using this information as well as passing on what they were last wearing, Agent F should then be able to pick up the trail.

Agent F should be able to pick up on the EMS role information provided by Agent H, and if they search Google maps, they should find an abandoned Ambulance down an alley a block away from where they start. In the back they will find a tossed aside paramedic uniform and a NYPD lapel badge. At this point the F will e-mail H that their suspect is wearing a NYPD uniform.

The roles will now be switched, and Agent F will be presented with records from the last couple of days at the port authority building. They will have access to attendance records where they will see a cop called in sick that morning with the measles, however if they research the records they will see that the same cop arrived at work later that same day with not a spot on him. CCTV pictures timed to coincide with the cops appearance will show several cops coming in and out the building, however, the more observant agent will notice that one of the cops only has one lapel badge. They will now be able to take a snapshot of the video footage and send it over to Agent H.

Agent H will again use street view, and this time will be located in grand central station. Once agent H has the picture from F they will be able to search through central station and find the alien disguised as a cop. Once captured the agents will be able to interrogate the alien and find the location of their spaceship.

Both agents will again need to work together by posing alternating questions and then choose a site in Manhattan where they thing the ship is. Once both decide, they will be able to use street view again and look for the ship. If they have chosen right, they will be able to find the hidden ship and the alien will give clues as to its location if asked the right questions. IF not they will find nothing at the location and will have to come back and interrogate.

When they find the spaceship they will be, and I use the term loosely 😉 with the Will smith tie-in video as well as video message with Agent J congratulating them on their performance as a team and warning them that their toughest challenge is still ahead. The Facebook challenge will update each users page accordingly letting the world know about the impending arrival of Men In Black. After a week of exclusivity by those that have played the Viral up until now, other players will be able to join in.

The alien appearance, EMS uniform and location will change for different users, so one team might be on the look out for a cop and find the spaceship at Coney island, whilst others will be looking for a fireman that has a missing torch with a spaceship located at the statue of liberty. This will help mix things up and give most users a different experience from others in their forum etc.

Level 5: Agent I – AR game.

The final level. By this time, agents will have a feel for what they have to do. Basically, you’re looking for aliens in disguise. So you’ve had your online training, now time to take it out into the real world! Since this is my “What If”, I can make the rules, so from now on all phones are compatible with alternative reality programs, not just the iPhone. Last thing we’d want to do is limit the users that can take part in this level.

Upon successfully completing level 4, the agent will be emailed a link a new log-in and password where they will find a download for their phone. When this program is initiated it will allow the user to use their mobile in the real world to track down an alien. The program would be a global Augmented Reality game built on the pre-existing network of Sat Nav/find your nearest type programs that are available. For M.I.B., a bus station can become a spaceship launch site and a newspaper stand can become a source for information.

The campaign will take place over 4 weeks, with a new challenge to take on each week. Users will get their initial brief sent through e-mail to alert them that a new chapter has started. Agents will then have to use their AR program to scan the barcode of a paper for more information. This could be a national or a local paper. Users will find that if they scan the local paper they will get more information to reflect the local knowledge.

Through the AR interface, the agent will be able to see landmarks that have been singled out in all directions. It is up to the agent to dissect the information they have been given and go in the correct direction. The more information they gather, the smaller the search area. Once they get to the correct area, a “clues” will be layered over the video. Anything from a slime trail to glowing handprints that will eventually lead the Agent to a generic prop such as a vending machine or store front. The agent will then capture a picture for “Intel” and complete the level.

In the quest to “keep it local”, the story will have to play out all over the world, and will most likely have to attach to large global products such as Pepsi, or global chains such as McDonalds. Agents will be rewarded with further teaser trailers and on completing the final mission, will see the full trailer for the film. Users will also get Bonus Bio information by capturing aliens that have been layered over the video feed or finding objects that only show on their phone. The story will truly unfold in front of the Agent for a unique but fun experience.

So what do you think? Would you have followed the viral for Men In Black? I think the premise of aliens hiding in plain site is a great plot tool that could have been utilized for a viral campaign. I also hold high hopes for AR and really hope that it can become a global tool for viral campaigns. More than anything else, I hope I have shown how exciting this new technology is and I can’t wait for a Movie Studio to take advantage of it SOON. Who knows, if M.I.B. 3 is made (the rumours are out there), my wish may be granted!

It would be great to hear your comments below, or join the discussion in the Forums. Hope you enjoyed it!


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