Fresh campaign helps refocus interest in film

Call it “Valkyrie 2.0.”

After multiple date shifts, intense media scrutiny and much hand-wringing, United Artists has put a fresh gloss on its WWII thriller, unveiling a new trailer and poster last week.

And if the early reaction is any gauge, the facelift may buy the pic some renewed viability in the year-end box office derby and kudos race.

Since the first trailer and photos of the film were unveiled last November, “Valkyrie” had been largely pegged in the media and public consciousness as “that movie where Tom Cruise plays a Nazi and wears an eye patch.”

But that was hardly the message UA wanted to promote the Bryan Singer-helmed thriller, which is now slated to open Dec. 26.

Now, a new poster, created by design firm BLT & Associates, has energized the film’s campaign with flashy graphics and a central visual of Cruise leading a team that associates the pic with World War II-based classics like “The Dirty Dozen” and “The Great Escape.”

The new trailer follows along similar lines, with desert war footage helping to explain how Cruise’s character injures his eye. There’s more emphasis on action and the tension is amped up as well, driven by the sounds of a ticking clock.

The campaign’s new look, orchestrated by UA’s new marketing chief Michael Vollman and studio consultant Terry Press, will continue to emphasize the pic’s thriller aspects up until its release.

That’s a significant change from the publicity stills released early in the filming, which showed Cruise in full puffy-panted Nazi regalia sporting, yes, a black eye patch.

With some Germans angry that a Scientologist was playing one of the country’s heroes,UA wanted back then to stem some of the bad buzz by showing how similar Cruise looks to Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, the central figure in the plot to kill Adolf Hitler. Trouble is, the images didn’t do much to sell the film’s merits to general auds.

The first teaser trailer didn’t help, either. It was dour and seemed like it was selling a talky stage play with a cast of old British actors. It was more “Lions for Lambs” than “Usual Suspects.”

As one MGM exec put it, “the planes were even slow.”

Not only were auds confused, so was Hollywood. This was the movie UA had been raving about? This was the pic that would put UA back on the map?

The MGM and UA teams are hoping the new angle will provide a “yes” to those questions.

So far, the strategy seems to be working.

According to an internal MGM memo last week, early testing of the new materials — which blanketed websites like Yahoo!, YouTube, JoBlo, Trailer Addict and Spike — “reactions to the ‘Valkyrie’ trailer are significantly favorable (approximately 80%) within Entertainment, Fan-Boy, Video Sharing, Social Networks, Social Bookmarks and Fan communities,” with those taking part calling the trailer “fantastic,” “stylistic,” “intriguing” and “way better” than the initial teaser.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more