Unfortunately, marketers trying to appeal to the broadest audience possible often include too much information, too many jokes, too many plot details. With that said, I give you the trailer for “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.”
Is there anything more satisfying to fans than the first glimpse at a highly anticipated movie? Movie trailers, a billion-dollar industry on their own, have become ubiquitous on the web. Often the trailers themselves are teased with multi-day ad campaigns building up anticipation for the release of a film.
Unfortunately, marketers trying to appeal to the broadest audience possible often include too much information, too many jokes, too many plot details, which upsets the delicate balance required to create the right level of intrigue to generate a well of hype that powers word of mouth.
With that said, I give you the trailer for “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice”:
So much for actually having to see the movie. Warner Bros. and director Zack Snyder have basically delivered the entire plot of their movie for free in the span of three minutes. For starters, despite the fact the film is promoted as a “versus,” we know by the third act that Superman and Batman join forces to battle a CGI monstrosity that looks like a reject from the “Lord of the Rings” movies.
From just one viewing of the trailer, I already know Batman and Superman aren’t friends, and they fight until Lex Luthor creates Doomsday, which requires them to team up. Then Wonder Woman shows up (another big reveal in the trailer that was clearly written to be a surprise in the film), they win, and they start to put together the Justice League. Roll credits.
Less is more
Normally it’s the larger studios like Warner Bros. that are guilty of forgetting the “less is more” credo in a desperate attempt to maximize a film’s opening day box office, which generally accounts for one-third of the movie’s entire domestic box office gross.
This is why is has been so surprising that Disney, in promoting the latest installment of the “Star Wars” franchise, has acquiesced to director J.J. Abrams’ desire to release as little information about the film as possible prior to its release.
This isn’t just some one-off science fiction romp that equates to a rounding error on Disney’s immense balance sheet. “The Force Awakens” will lay the groundwork for a new series of films in a franchise that Mickey Mouse and company paid a whopping $4 billion for. And so far, their trust in Abrams’ ability to market and mine the curiosity gap of fans — a hallmark of his previous productions — has payed off already at the box office, where the film netted more than $50 million in advance ticket sales a month before its Dec. 18 opening.
With each successive tease of the film, Disney and Abrams have been able to build excitement by showing just enough spectacle to wet the whistles of viewers, who then go crazy on social media over every new glimpse that’s been revealed to them. I’ve lost count of the number of stories I’ve seen written about changes to the Millennium Falcon or new glimpses at bad guy Kylo Ren.
Here’s the full trailer, released during halftime of Monday Night Football to a crowd of millions:
This is marketing perfection, offering enough glimpses of the sci-fi blockbuster to create excitement without really revealing anything about the plot. On top of that, there is the overwhelming question, “Where is Luke Skywalker?” Actor Mark Hamill is billed second in the credits for “The Force Awakens,” but we have yet to actually see him. He isn’t on the official poster. He hasn’t yet shown up in any trailer. He hasn’t even shown up yet as a toy, and we’re less than a month away from Christmas.
“It’s no accident,” Abrams told the Associated Press, noting that Skywalker’s absence is a conscious decision to smartly build up anticipation about what’s happened to the original trilogy’s main protagonist, and arguably that last Jedi in the galaxy. “These are good questions to be asking. I can’t wait for you to find out the answers.”
In lieu of the successful marketing campaign of “The Force Awakens,” it’s baffling why Warner Bros. felt the need to roll off such a clunky and spoiler-filled marketing campaign months before the movie is released, especially considering both Batman and Superman have near-universal recognition among the general public. Maybe they were intimidated by the successful buzz attached to the new “Star Wars” film, or perhaps they felt threatened to push something out in the wake of the new “Captain America: Civil War” trailer (which smartly avoided revealing a major cast spoiler).
It’s even more of a head-scratcher considering both Warner Bros. and Snyder successfully minded the gap between spectacle and intrigue so successfully with the trailer for “Superman: Man of Steel” just a couple of years ago:
In fact, prior to the release of the full trailer Wednesday night on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” Warner Brothers teased it with a successful 30-second spot that seemed to follow “The Force Awakens” in revealing little about the plot in an attempt to build anticipation for “Batman vs. Superman’s” March release:
Why does Superman look so angry? Why are soldiers kneeling before him? Why is Batman strung up? Thanks to the new trailer, released just days after this intriguing tease, I already know the answers to these questions.
Is “Batman vs. Superman” going to make a lot of money at the box office? Of course it is. But these marketing missteps have the potential to cost Warner Bros. millions of dollars at a time when they’re reeling from expensive, high-profile flops like “Jupiter Ascending” and “Pan.”
Listen, when I was a kid, both “Star Wars” and the duo of Superman and Batman competed for my playtime imagination, so getting me to cough up $12 to see each film should be relatively easy. I’ve already purchased my opening-night ticket for “The Force Awakens,” but I.m still debating if I’ll even need to see “Batman vs. Superman” in the theater.
Sorry Zach Snyder, but as Yoda would say, “That is why you fail.”