Ain't It Cool News (
Movie News

Mark Romanek shoots a KIA commercial that shows a very different side of his genius!

Hey folks, Harry here...  From time to time - we get sent commercials shot by filmmakers that I like to pass along, especially when the commercials are so wildly different from that director's established comfort zone.   Here - we have Mark Romanek's KIA commercial.   If you know Mark's work...  ONE HOUR PHOTO and the recent amazing film, NEVER LET ME GO...  he has established a reputation for intellectual, deliberately told intelligent, soulful filmmaking that few can parallel.   And then you see something like this KIA commercial from Romanek and you realize - holy shit, this guy can do anything, right?


Readers Talkback
comments powered by Disqus
    + Expand All
  • Aug. 29, 2011, 3:12 p.m. CST

    I guess so

    by Vicconius


  • Aug. 29, 2011, 3:14 p.m. CST

    so sick of this song

    by regan

    its on no stop all day, and what do robots and rats have to do with a KIA

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 3:14 p.m. CST

    so sick of this song

    by regan

    its on no stop all day, and what do robots and rats have to do with a KIA

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 3:16 p.m. CST

    Every day I'm Shufflin'

    by blakindigo

    Kubrick would be proud.

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 3:19 p.m. CST

    Harold Throckmorton Knowles IV


    Come on, this is fucking terrible. Besides, everybody knows that the Kia Soul is the car for poor (as in impecunious) idiots who aspire, for some confounding reason, to be guidos or hipsters or whatever it is the fuck socially insecure idiots feel they have to be these days. Consider this commercial, and this post, CHOPPED.

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 3:19 p.m. CST

    Stop. Hamster time.

    by buggerbugger

    Someone needs to change those hamsters, their pants look like they're full to capacity.

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 3:23 p.m. CST

    And then the hamsters fled that apocalyptic wasteland


    for the warmth and comfort of Richard Gere's rectum.

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 3:36 p.m. CST

    talent.... that's what Mark has.

    by Mennen

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 3:36 p.m. CST

    trying way too hard

    by Grace_Panda

    and yet not trying nearly hard enough with the CGI; or is it actually supposed to look like a video game?

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 3:42 p.m. CST

    oh, and NEVER LET ME GO was balls

    by Grace_Panda

    I preferred it when it was called 'The Island'. Which just goes to show; you know you've got problems when the Michael Bay equivalent to your movie is actually vastly superior.

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 3:45 p.m. CST

    I don't understand the future this commercial is selling me.

    by blackwood

    I mean, robots I can understand, although the Chinese robots that will be our inevitable usurpers will probably not look so much like Master Chief. But hamsters? Really? Rise of the Planet of the Habitrail? Either these are some mutated human/hamster crossbreeds, which doesn't make sense because human/hamster genetic symmetry just isn't, or they're giant, mutated hamsters, and that's just so fifties. In short, I will not buy this car because I don't want to contribute to such a lame apocalypse. Also, there's nothing 'special' about this commercial. It could have been directed by marketing.

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 3:46 p.m. CST

    One Hour Photo? I won't hold it against him.

    by Damned if I can login That film was, Robin Williams' character is a nut-job, so he gets fired from whatever passes for Wal-Mart in the film. And then what? After he's fired he wanders around the store in a daze only to find himself where? At the weapons display! And what does he do? He promptly pulls out his pass keys, opens the display and steals a big ol' gnarly hunting knife!'s obvious that the screenwriter neglected to ask Wal-Mart what their standard procedure is when firing nut-jobs. If you *retire* from Wal-Mart that's one thing, they let you hang out all day long on your last day if you want. If you are *fired* from Wal-Mart (especially for being a nut-job) they immediately: 1- Confiscate *all* your keys. All of them. 2- Security escorts you out the door...immediately. 3- You're then warned that if you show up again you'll be arrested. 4- In many cases all the locks are changed.'s also obvious that I'm not a fan of this film, and even my wife (who really wanted to see it) said it was very disappointing.

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 3:51 p.m. CST

    i wouldn't be caught dead in that car

    by fred

    but I really liked the Black Sheep ad from last year

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 3:53 p.m. CST

    damned if i can login

    by Tightlines

    are you retarded? that's a serious question.

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 3:59 p.m. CST

    It means he can take a paycheck better then all of us...

    by Mr. Osato


  • Aug. 29, 2011, 3:59 p.m. CST


    by Jackson

    nuff said

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 4:02 p.m. CST

    damned login

    by ReportAbuse

    Sorry your high-class Wal*Mart gig didn't work out for you. I hear the Dollar Tree is hiring. Oh wait, no they're not.

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 4:07 p.m. CST


    by Billy_D_Williams

    what level of genius is this commercial showing? you wanna see a genius commercial? ya go:

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 4:10 p.m. CST

    Mark Romanek is...

    by MainMan2001

    not a genius. He just isn't. Someone tell me what makes him a genius?! One Hour Photo was a really, really bad movie, except for a few shots and Robin Williams was completely laughable. Also, the ending was terrible. The guy can speak never well and has some interesting theories on filmmaking and images but he can't translate that to film because it isn't about intelligence it's about instinct and the guy doesn't have it.

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 4:15 p.m. CST

    mainman, well said

    by Billy_D_Williams

    you need intelligence AND instinct...i am undecided about Romanek? but genius? i dunno

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 4:19 p.m. CST

    Awesome commercial for a mediocre car.

    by SmokingRobot

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 4:30 p.m. CST

    Awful commercial for awful car

    by catlettuce4

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 4:30 p.m. CST

    WTF? Is harry on pain meds? or did he get paid off by Kia?

    by mistergreen

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 4:36 p.m. CST


    by Meadowe

    I know he does car commercials but I'm not positive it's kia although I'm about 90% sure. Anyway it was an aight commercial but if it wasn't Mark Romanek I don't think anyone would care.

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 4:53 p.m. CST

    Loose definition of genius

    by hellcatsagogo

    So, I like Mark's flicks, and this commercial is cute - but genius? In any capacity. ? We may as well call this and his films "Masterpieces" and just dillute the meaning of the words.

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 4:54 p.m. CST


    by Tug

    That's not going outside his comfort zone, that's going backwards. I have a sense just like the next guy and can see why a director might want to do something different than what he's known for, but that was just plain amateur film school reject bad. I hope this doesn't mean he's going the same route as Robert Zemeckis and George Miller and start making forgettable, computer animated family crap for the brainless masses.

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 4:54 p.m. CST

    Halo:Reach teaser spoof

    by Lourdes Galan

    nothing more.....

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 5:03 p.m. CST

    STATIC is one of the greatest films of the 1980's

    by beamish13

    Romanek is absolutely crazy to distance himself from it.

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 5:23 p.m. CST

    The first Kia hamster ad was good

    by Teddy Artery

    This one has a bad song selection and it falls flat.

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 5:55 p.m. CST

    Not that great

    by Teddy Artery

    Not a great evolution from the first ad.

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 5:59 p.m. CST

    That was as uninspired as it was expensive to make

    by Nathan Adame

    I own the director's series DVD with his music videos and I generally like his work. Personal favorites being NIN's Closer Audioslave's Cochise and Jay Z's 99 Problems. This comercial doesn't look any better than the standard video game commercials I see regularly. I was also severely disappointed by One Hour Photo.

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 6:04 p.m. CST

    wow...shitty postmodern crap. a far cry from NINs "Closer" video

    by FleshMachine

    that was the best music video ever

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 6:06 p.m. CST

    Romanek gotsta eat i guess...this is far beneath him.

    by FleshMachine

    pays da billz yo....but seriously hes a pretty solid artist

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 6:12 p.m. CST


    by SpikeBeoulve

    You say it was expensive to make, which it no doubt was, yet you compare it to the video game commercials you see regularly. .... That tells you how much thought and money goes into those game commercials. The ones made by Blur Studios especially.

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 6:30 p.m. CST

    That was

    by Dan

    Horrible. Hamsters dancing in some pseudo Halo knockoff world to rubbish music. I hope I don't see it again.

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 6:30 p.m. CST


    by Fritzlorrerains

    I expected more from him

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 6:39 p.m. CST

    Alvin and the Chipmunks meets District 9 and Battle:LA

    by Bobo_Vision

    Whether that's a good thing or not depends on who you are I guess. The best thing about the commercial is that it's directed by Mark Romanek. It means he might give some depth to a CGI sci-fi film since he apparently knows how to apply the technology...though his depth wasn't seen in that ad. <p> BTW, that 'shuffling' song is probably the most annoying song I've heard this summer.

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 7:47 p.m. CST

    Harry's not getting paid off by Kia...

    by Ribbons

    ...he's just a really big fan of Mark Romanek, in case you couldn't tell or haven't been reading Ain't It Cool News long enough to know. And deservedly so, as the man has a resume full of brilliant music videos and a couple well-made films under his belt (and a halfway-decent "Wolfman" script that was eventually chopped to bits). I agree that some of the articles AICN runs are questionable, but I actually think it's worth pointing out that Romanek directed this stupid Kia commercial that's been on TV constantly. It sort of makes me re-evaluate my opinion of Romanek, but it's newsworthy nonetheless...

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 8:03 p.m. CST

    Kids and sub-90 IQ adults love anthropomorphic rodents

    by Rupee88

    It's stupid, but commercials are not art. Their only purpose is to seperate people from their $$$, so if it did this, then it's a good commercial.

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 8:20 p.m. CST

    Not yet sold on the Romanek genius thing.

    by justmyluck

    Saw ONE HOUR PHOTO and NEVER LET ME GO theatrically and both left me cold. Well photographed, but both were devoid of pacing, intriguing and/or sharply drawn characters, meaningful subtext, etc. He's certainly got talent for the short subjects in music and product advertising, but very lacking in sustained interest department, IMO. I felt you could see scene 1, scene 2, scene 3 approaching in headlights with little variation. Very talented and well-spoken individual, clearly, and visually innovative, but not enough for a satisfying cinematic meal. Hopefully it's just a matter of not having found the right script...the potential's there.

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 8:28 p.m. CST

    Mark Romanek

    by Green

    Harry, I appreciate and respect your opinions, whether I agree with them or not. For what it's worth, here are my thoughts, take them as you will: This hamster commercial was funny, well made, and better than most. It wasn't genius. Mark Romanek's films -- all three of them -- have been well made and better than a lot. I don't think they qualify as genius. Romanek is talented, I freely admit that. But I do NOT believe that the highly limited body of work he's presented (at least on the narrative film end) has warranted 20 years of adulation. That's what it's been, folks. Even before he made his first movie (STATIC), he was presented as a genius. In many of the development meetings I've sat in on (or colleagues have been part of) the general consensus from higher up executives is: "let's try to get Mark Romanek. He probably won't take the project...but he's a genius!!!" I beg to differ. He's only made three films, and they were good. But this guy is NOT Terrence Malick, or any of the other directors who with a limited body of work managed to create something truly extraordinary. Mr. Romanek has been attached to quite a few projects, but for a variety of reasons, they never seem to go. The press -- and fans -- attribute this to "Mark staying true to his vision" and his so-called "artistic integrity". Personally, I think that's ridiculous. Many of our finest directors have found ways to tell stories in their medium without having to compromise that much (and yes, there is ALWAYS a degree of compromise in any film). In short, I believe Mr. Romanek has great potential, but that his greatest skill so far has been to create an image of himself that is much greater than his actual ability or experience.

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 8:32 p.m. CST


    by Nathan Adame

    Your reply is completely lacking in any clear argument, thought or idea. I don't know what thoughts are going on in your head, and it's up to you to use words to convey them. Your use of the word "yet" tells me that you have some contention, but you don't follow with any statement as to how my talkback doesn't fall in line with your ideas. You then follow with "That tells you..." What is "That" and what is it your attempting to say that it's telling me? Am I supposed to know Blur Studios to have any context to your statements? YES, time, money and thought goes into many commercials. What they lack is a visionary director like Mark Romanek. My talkback simply states that Mark's true talent is not on display here. For all of the money that went into this commercial, they could have used any other, and I'm sure capable, director and gotten similar results.

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 8:39 p.m. CST

    He's a hack. Ruined Locke & Key

    by Joshua Baker

    Ask anyone involved, the guy thinks he's God's gift to film, but he's really wildy overrated. Genius? I hope you like your Kia, Harry.

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 8:41 p.m. CST

    everyday i'm shoveling!

    by RedBull_Werewolf

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 8:48 p.m. CST

    Not even close to the bottom of the ankle...

    by ObiBen

    ...of the toy fantasy series, also for Kia.

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 9:24 p.m. CST

    I can not believe you guys reported on this

    by D.Vader

    Why? Because Slashfilm reported on this too? Its completely derivative of many things that came before it, mainly the previous Kia commercials which this relies on one's knowledge of (its the latest in a series about the hamsters/gerbils), as well as HALO ads. And you guys report on this shit? Seriously? Were you reporting on David Fincher's football commercial utilizing the newest CG camera angles for his football ad? Or Michael Mann's awesome football oriented commercial for Nike featuring the music from "Last of the Mohicans", which relates to movie news a helluva lot more than this? Jeebus Cristo, I can't believe you devoted bandwidth to this. I know you don't give a shit what anyone thinks (that has been obvious for over a decade), but it could not look any more like you are kissing someone's ass for future "pwesents". Fucking hell. Seriously.

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 9:25 p.m. CST

    This guys can do anything, right?

    by D.Vader

    Anyone can do this "anything", "right"?

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 10:41 p.m. CST

    Fuck You Momma Basement Nerds

    by Nuck81

    I like the commercial and KIA is a hell of a car company. So pop your own fat man boob nipple out your mouth and get a life. This one commercial is more accomplishment than any of you "gimmick" talkbackers will every achieve. You'll go to your graves with your two greatest life accomplishments being 1. Not procreating because you will never have sex with a human female 2. Paying your taxes on time through turbotax....

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 10:58 p.m. CST


    by justmyluck

    Oh, having enough intelligence and taste to never create a hamster dance plug for an industrial waste production company is all one needs to illuminate Romanek's accomplishments.

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 11:17 p.m. CST

    Once Again @ natester

    by SpikeBeoulve

    Yes, you would need the context of knowing what Blur Studio is. Since you seem knowledgeable enough, I assumed either you knew them, or would have the sense to look them up before responding back. I guess neither were true. I am in no way defending the content of the KIA commercial. What I'm defending is the artistry behind it. The song choice was ludicrous, much like using the damn hamsters in the first place. My clearly thought out argument against you is that you CLEARLY state, "That was as uninspired as it was expensive to make," in your headline. Then in your main body, "This comercial doesn't look any better than the standard video game commercials I see regularly." Those quotes make it seem like the artistry is what is uninspired because it reminds you of the videogame commercials you see. You obviously have no idea how much effort goes into making stuff like that. If you did, you would be in awe. FUCKING AWE. I can't even begin to tell you how hard that shit is to do. I'm just starting to learn how to model, texture, light, animate, score, and render stuff like that. The ART is not uninspired. The choice of it being for a KIA, and using hamsters IS. My argument is for you to clarify better what you're bitching about. Don't bitch about the art, it's beautiful and I hope to make stuff remotely as good as that someday. Bitch about him sinking to doing a damn KIA commercial. His talent, as you say, is not being used to its full extent, but he's limited by the commercial and the ideas that KIA want to be shown. Why he did this, I don't have any idea on. I find it interesting that he did though. Maybe he will direct more animation in the future.

  • Aug. 29, 2011, 11:21 p.m. CST


    by D.Vader

    Welcome to the Internet. Your attitude first right in.

  • Aug. 30, 2011, 12:06 a.m. CST

    rupee88...Well said...and exactly my thought.

    by Cheif Brody

    If that commercial sells 100 KIAs, all over the world...that's $1.3 million. More than pays for that commercial. And they'll def sell more than 100 KIAs. More like 65,000 units. That's $864,500,000 smack-a-roos. <p> The spot was made specifically to debut during yesterday's MTV's VMA's...directed at tweens, teens and college folk. Yes...the song has worn out its welcome to most, having spent 6 weeks on top of Billboard's Top 100, but this complex animation wasn't created in a day...hence, the delay in getting this ad out at the peak of its popularity. That said, the song is undeniablly catchy and immediately identifiable...but more importantly...memorable...made even moreso by the combination of the slick dancing Hamstars & Halo reject squads. <p> The music also makes the spot more appetizing in ANY foreign language worldwide...thus, one spot for a global market. <p> This was also the 1:00 long version, which will likely never see the light of day again after last nite. Likely you'll have to sit thru this thing a million times this football season, but in :30 & :15 cut down versions. <p> Will this ad sell a shit-ton of KIAs? More than likely. But, one things for sure...these Hamstar ads aint going away any time soon. But, nice to see they aren't skimping in the director department. <p> Watch it again, with the sound muted, if need be, and look at how much is going on in the peripheral of the frame. Or train yer eye on just ONE of the Hamsters. They are all doing something different with each move. The Halo guys in the background are all doing very detailed shit, too. <p> If the spot didn't work for you, you def aren't in the demo it was targeting....and that's not Mr. Romanek's fault, neccessarily. That's the marketing department's fault. He just directed's WELL directed...for what it is. <p> But, as Rupee88's all about hitting the desired target and removing $$$ from their wallets. They know video games are also popular with the target throw the Hamster's in that environment and see if it sticks. Time will tell.

  • Aug. 30, 2011, 2:11 a.m. CST

    To all the haters...

    by wierdo27

    your mom. hamsters up, haters down PEAAAACE!!!!! And I'm Audi.

  • NEVER LET ME GO is proof of this. <p> Having said that, I just read a statement above that declared THE ISLAND to be a better film, so I doubt the truth matters much around these parts. <p> You can't convince people with bad taste that they are wrong, no matter how hard you try.

  • Aug. 30, 2011, 6:28 a.m. CST

    No, he's not.

    by Ecto-1

  • Aug. 30, 2011, 7:02 a.m. CST

    I'd gladly kill a whole tribe of starving African kiddies...

    by MaxTheSilent

    ... to never have to hear that song again. Because it plays constantly on the radio at my work.

  • Aug. 30, 2011, 7:05 a.m. CST

    god I hate those rats

    by Thunderbolt Ross

    this commercial is slightly less annoying than the Black Sheep one but still fucking annoying

  • Aug. 30, 2011, 7:18 a.m. CST


    by SenatorNado

    Man Harry, you've got some low standards. This ad is boring, has subpar CG, bad costumes (I guess those are bad on purpose for "comedic" effect) and the punchline is delivered within seconds, only to be followed by tedious repetition for what seems like minutes. Whatever.

  • Aug. 30, 2011, 7:51 a.m. CST

    Glad I never heard that song until now...

    by Tikidonkeypunch

    Hope I never have to hear it again.

  • Aug. 30, 2011, 8:37 a.m. CST

    Yes...the shit side of genius

    by m_prevette

    How in the name of all that is holy is this commercial cool? Good lord. This is fucking desperate

  • Aug. 30, 2011, 9:02 a.m. CST

    Please do NOT take this as a peek into Romanek's "genius"

    by Dave

    Easy cash-in. You see great actors take craps parts in crap films for $$. Guess what Romanek did here. To say Romanek used even a sliver of his talent in this ad is an insult. He prob gave the job to Digital Domain, give a couple instructions and left it to the techs.

  • Aug. 30, 2011, 9:45 a.m. CST

    Romanek helped me with my senior thesis.

    by fattyaaron

    In college, I was doing my my senior thesis on students trying to get their first film made. I sent out letters, emails and calls to tons of people in the industry. Including Harry. Romanek was one of the only people to reply, and was extremely helpful and a really nice guy. He let me phone interview him twice, and answered emails very promptly. This was right after One Hour Photo came out. Needless to say, I'll always have a soft spot for his work. Still hate these hamsters!

  • Aug. 30, 2011, 10:06 a.m. CST

    Nice use of Iron Man sound FX.

    by CREG

    for the larger droid/robot thingies...

  • Aug. 30, 2011, 10:07 a.m. CST


    by Grace_Panda

    I in no way consider The Island to be a good film or even a competent film. I however stand by my statement that Never Let Me Go was an unmoving, dreary, meandering mess that just flat out failed to engage with me. terribly sorry about that but I tried my best.......

  • Genius? Romanek should be ashamed of this.

  • Aug. 30, 2011, 4:18 p.m. CST

    The music

    by Judge Dredds Dirty Undies

    There is plenty of very catchy well produced dance music out there that doesnt make one wish to stick a cordless power drill in each ear.

  • Aug. 30, 2011, 9:48 p.m. CST

    @fattyaaron, Mark Romanek is NOT a nice guy

    by Green

    I'm glad you had a better experience with him than I did. When I met him -- about 18 years ago (and before he'd really done anything) he was an arrogant and rather dull young man. He is intelligent -- and talented, to an extent -- but then, as now, it was more show than substance. I remember him talking about a host of projects he had in development which were designed to be "classics". Not one of them made it to the screen. I have no doubt that he has been responsive to requests from fans, and I certainly hope they've helped people. However, I believe his quick answers were more about enhancing his own image than any sort of selfless attempts to teach. He needs must face the sad facts: he is a former wunderkind who is now in his 50s, a middle aged man who has been in this business for decades and only has three films to his credit (along with some above-average music videos, and a hamster commercial).

  • Aug. 31, 2011, 10:37 a.m. CST

    Only two jabs at my Wal-Mart post???

    by Damned if I can login

    Ya slackin' off, folks. I would've expected at least ten rips for the Wal-Mart tirade. Two is disappointing, and only one of them was mildly amusing. Wanna know the ironic part of it? I know quite a few people who work at Wal-Mart, and they make DOUBLE what I make in the IT field.