Jaguar's new film, titled 'Desire', marks the entry of yet another manufacturer into the cinematic world.
These short films, often about 10-15 minutes in length, have all the gloss and sheen – although sometimes not the substance – of multi-million dollar Hollywood blockbusters.
As I sat through the opening credits, I wondered whether what I was about to watch would make the Jaguar brand more interesting, relevant or appealing to me.
After all, that's what one would assume was the point: to promote the brand in a positive light (something Hyundai recently got horribly wrong), as well as pushing it out in front of demographics who may not know or understand the brand in question.
So, cue 15 minutes of glorious tracking shots in stunning desert scenery, some talented actors doing a fine job and – predictably – the very elegant and attractive Jaguar F-type as the centrepiece.
The film, starring Damian Lewis (Homeland, Band of Brothers), Shannyn Sossamon (A Knight's Tale) and Jordi Mollà (Bad Boys II, Knight and Day), tells a story of "betrayal, retribution, passion and greed" in the middle of a lawless desert.
Was the film enjoyable? Certainly. Was it well presented? Undoubtably. Does it make the F-type more desirable to me? Yes. Was I impressed by the quality of the production? Of course.
Do I respect Jaguar more, or appreciate its brand in a new way? Well, no. I admire the company, for sure, for going out on a limb and trying something like this. It's not easy to get right. Desire falls foul, however, where many others similarly stumble.
The car, which should simply exist as a mode of transport through the story, and as a focal piece, suddenly and awkwardly gets dragged into the limelight. How? In one very jarring section of dialogue, which is seemingly crowbarred into the script.
"What did I order?", asks the perpetrator in the film. Damian Lewis, playing a suave, almost likeable and somewhat excessively British 'delivery driver' spy-alike, neatly responds, "Jaguar F-type. Supercharged V8 petrol engine. Automatic quickshift gearbox. 0-60mph 4.2 seconds, top speed of 186mph. All-aluminium double-wishbone suspension."
"Ah... that's a good car, right?", responds the film's villain. Besides the slightly awkward and illogical delivery, you could also hear the audience's suspended disbelief – that this was maybe more than just an advert – clanging to the ground like an anchor.
I can understand why the manufacturer feels the need to do it, but it seems unnecessary and a little gratuitous. Even if you miss all the intro credits, the spiel, everything, you'd still presumably be interested enough – if you liked the car – to casually Google 'What's the Jaguar in the short film Desire?'.
We've seen it speeding along, we've heard it and we've looked it at. We're generally capable of interpolating the rest. We'll probably take more away from it too, if the plot contains some substance and message, rather than if you turn us into some kind of advertorial foie gras ducks.
I have only ever seen one company avoid this pitfall – BMW in its excellent 'The Hire' series. Their creative team nailed it, with the cars never being mentioned, instead just serving as pieces to facilitate the plots, driving the story forwards.
After watching that series, and having seen the cars and brand messages portrayed through much more than just awkward, jilted scripting, the BMW brand commanded significantly more respect and understanding from me.
I even bought the DVD, and showed it to friends and families who, after watching it, just assumed they were standalone set pieces that just happened to feature BMWs.
Filmmakers also need to treat shorts like these with a close eye, as even minor flaws can quickly become major grievances.
Case in point: in Desire, the Jaguar – at a glance – appears to have no rear plate. Ignoring the fact it doesn't have a front one, the absence of a rear one is particularly noticable. Immediately, if you're like me, you think "This is a promo." On closer inspection it did have a rear plate, painted body colour, but the magic had been lost.
Nevertheless, credit and respect must go to Jaguar for taking a damn fine shot at it, and for its support of the Sundance film festival. At the end of the day, Desire could have easily been very bad. Got ten minutes? Google "Aston Martin Rapide - The Movie"...