Terry Gilliam, Guy Ritchie & Alejandro González Iñárritu Direct Soccer Ads for Nike

Even if you don’t hail from one of the world’s many soc­cer-lov­ing coun­tries (you know, the ones that don’t call it “soc­cer”) sure­ly you can get on board for the World Cup. Here in the Unit­ed States, I often hear “I just watch it for the ads” said about the Super Bowl. And if that game’s breaks show­case some pret­ty cool spots, then its non-Amer­i­can foot­ball equiv­a­lent offers an even high­er lev­el of pro­mo­tion­al spec­ta­cle. Last year, we fea­tured Brazil and 12 Mon­keys auteur Ter­ry Gilliam’s two ven­tures into the form of the World Cup com­mer­cial, “The Secret Tour­na­ment” and “The Rematch,” the first of which you can watch at the top of the post. They came com­mis­sioned by Nike in 2002, and six years lat­er the for­mi­da­ble shoe man­u­fac­tur­er put a pre­sum­ably decent chunk of its mar­ket­ing bud­get behind anoth­er fea­ture film­mak­er with a vision: Lock, Stock, and Two Smok­ing Bar­rels and Snatch direc­tor Guy Ritchie. The result, “The Next Lev­el,” appears below:

“The entire film is seen as if through the eyes of an ama­teur foot­baller fast-tracked into the big time,” says the web site of The Mill, the adver­tis­ing agency behind the spot. “We see what he sees in the thick of the action, on and off the pitch: the foot­work, the fouls, the goals and the girls. Film­ing in Lon­don, Man­ches­ter and Barcelona with per­haps the world’s small­est cam­era (SI 2K) took a month. The Mill pushed post pro­duc­tion to the extreme, ven­tur­ing into some unchar­tered FX ter­ri­to­ry, set­ting up a new data pipeline for the cam­era (used here for the first time in com­mer­cial pro­duc­tion) and to track shots pre­vi­ous­ly con­sid­ered impos­si­ble.” These hyper­ki­net­ic, celebri­ty foot­baller-filled two min­utes cer­tain­ly do take the wish-ful­fill­ment aspect of sports fan­dom to the next lev­el, or at least a more lit­er­al one. The Mill and Nike would then step up to a three-minute pro­duc­tion with Ale­jan­dro González Iñár­ritu, he of Amores Per­ros and Babel, for 2010’s “Write the Future,” a med­i­ta­tion on how, in sports as else­where, one good move might lock in a des­tiny, or one bad move might shat­ter it:

The Mill calls it “one of our biggest jobs to date,” with “a stag­ger­ing 236 VFX shots made up of 106 foot­ball shots which includ­ed a CG sta­di­um com­plete with flags and ban­ners, crowd repli­ca­tion using Mas­sive, grass clean up and replace­ment, and full roto­scope of all the play­ers.” Impres­sive, sure, but some sure­ly feel that such a degree of labor and atten­tion placed on adver­tis­ing dur­ing tele­vised match­es takes away from the beau­ty of the Beau­ti­ful Game itself.  “Soc­cer is a lie,” says the dis­ap­point­ed would-be foot­baller pro­tag­o­nist of Eduar­do Sacheri’s new nov­el Papers in the Wind. “It’s all a farce … And yet … some­how … there’s still a ‘but.’” You may also con­sid­er the adver­tis­ing enter­prise a lie, but when it can bring togeth­er rare tal­ents from cin­e­ma as well as the rest of the cul­tur­al world for high-impact moments like these, well, some­how… there’s still a “but.” Just think back twen­ty years to anoth­er Nike ad, the one with the clas­sic turn by none oth­er than William S. Bur­roughs:

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch “The Secret Tour­na­ment” & “The Rematch,” Ter­ry Gilliam’s Star-Stud­ded Soc­cer Ads for Nike

Beat Writer William S. Bur­roughs Spreads Coun­ter­cul­ture Cool on Nike Sneak­ers, 1994

Video: The Day Bob Mar­ley Played a Big Soc­cer Match in Brazil, 1980

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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