(Warning: Spoilers for “Dark Phoenix” ahead.)
When Marvel Studios released the second trailer for the highly anticipated “Avengers: Endgame” last week, the teaser gave fans a lot to talk about without revealing too much about the follow-up to last summer’s smash “Avengers: Infinity War.” The studio employed the same tactic with the release of the first “Endgame” trailer in December, pledging to use footage from the film’s first 20 minutes in the movie’s marketing to keep the film’s plot shrouded in secrecy.
The studio’s cautious moves come in stark contrast to the recent second trailer for Fox’s “Dark Phoenix,” which revealed the death of a major character in the teaser’s opening moments. The dueling techniques beg the question: Just how much of a movie should trailers give away to potential moviegoers?
The purpose of a movie trailer is to stir excitement for an upcoming release. It aims to pique viewers’ interest in order to get them to see the film when it hits theaters.
However, a trailer can take one of two paths. It can show just enough to reel viewers in but keep them guessing, maintaining an air of mystery. Or it can show too much, leaving moviegoers to figure out the plot in advance or even give away key twists.
After successfully protecting its major twist in “Infinity War,” Marvel Studios is taking the former route. Viewers know the remaining Avengers – Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Hawkeye/Ronin (Jeremy Renner), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), War Machine (Don Cheadle) and Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) – will come together to try and undo the devastation from “Infinity War,” which saw the Mad Titan Thanos (Josh Brolin) snap half of the universe’s population out of existence.
But how Earth’s mightiest heroes will accomplish this is still unknown. The latest trailer hints that the group – wearing snazzy new white suits similar to Ant-Man’s – may visit the Quantum Realm and engage in time travel. The new teaser also relies on flashbacks from several of the original Avengers’ solo movies, indicating the past could collide with the present.
Yet nowhere does the trailer state or show the superheroes actually going back in time. Viewers know the group has a plan, as stated by the members vowing to do “whatever it takes.” But what that plan is, we don’t know – nor should we. The anticipation and suspense of seeing “Endgame” will be finding out just what the heroes have in store and whether it will ultimately work.
On the other hand, a revelation in the trailer for the latest installment of the X-Men franchise, “Dark Phoenix,” deprives the audience of a major shock. In the second teaser for the film, which comes out in June, the footage shows telekinetic mutant Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) in mourning over what the dark Phoenix force influences her to do: kill Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), one of the franchise’s biggest characters. The trailer shows an out-of-control Jean deliver what is likely a fatal blow to the shapeshifter. If that wasn’t enough, “Dark Phoenix” director Simon Kinberg confirmed in an interview after the trailer dropped that Mystique does indeed die.
Kinberg said the decision to kill Mystique raises the stakes of the movie, which is “unlike other X-Men movies. It’s a movie where shocking things happen.” This makes sense for the movie itself, but why give away such a big gut punch in the trailer? Now the audience knows going in that Mystique is a victim of Jean/Phoenix’s wrath. The death might not hit as hard as it otherwise would while viewing the film.
The Mystique reveal brings back memories of 2015’s “Terminator: Genisys.” The “Terminator” reboot revealed in its trailer and poster that John Connor (Jason Clarke) – believed to be humanity’s savior in the war against the machines – was corrupted by Skynet and is instead the film’s villain, becoming a Terminator himself. The marketing spoiled a huge twist that would have been best saved for the movie, which ended up a box-office failure.
Is “less is more” better for trailers? It certainly seems so.
After the release of the second “Endgame” trailer, Marvel Studios’ Vice President of Digital Marketing Dustin Sandoval asked on his Twitter account Sunday if the teaser should be the last one before the movie bows in six weeks. The tweet seems to have been deleted, but not before the majority of fans who responded expressed their wish that there shouldn’t be any more trailers. They’d rather the film continue to be kept under wraps to prevent any surprises from leaking out.
If a trailer is meant to lure in moviegoers without giving away the film’s entire plot or big twists, then Marvel Studios seems to have mastered the art of mystery. It’s a good lesson from which other studios could benefit.