Alright, that’s it! I’ve had enough. The new X-Men: Apocalypse trailer finally reached the breaking point for me – I hate movie trailers. Is nothing sacred anymore? I’m not holding back any longer. I don’t care if I sound like the ultimate old man on the lawn. It’s time to wave my cane around until the damn thing breaks off. Here’s what we learned about X-Men: Apocalypse in this latest trailer:
- Magneto’s entire motivation for joining Apocalypse. He had a family. They’re dead.
- Professor X is gone, forcing Mystique to take on a leadership role
- Not only is Magneto confirmed as Quicksilver’s father, but Quicksilver knows it.
- Oh yeah, and Wolverine is in the film.
Hey, remember that AMAZING scene in X-Men: First Class when Wolverine popped up? That was one of the greatest movie surprises of the last five years. A stand out moment. That stuff doesn’t happen anymore. As someone who loves the art of storytelling, and discovering what a character’s motivation is while watching the film, I can honestly say that officially died today. Maybe I’ll look back on that sentence after watching X-Men: Apocalypse and realize I over reacted, but I don’t care. I’m pissed off. I understand there’s a marketing aspect to cutting a movie trailer, and we have to sell films to a generation that gets new information about every topic imaginable in seven seconds. Even taking out my old man attitude though, studios don’t have to do this, and from a business perspective, does it actually work?
WHY DID THIS HAPPEN?
Standard operating procedure for superhero marketing is a teaser and two full length trailers. That’s what we got with X-Men: Apocalypse. Despite having a great run of critically acclaimed/financially successful X-Men films since 2011’s X-Men: First Class, internet fandom was underwhelmed by the first two Apocalypse trailers. This is what sparked the spoiler heavy, Wolverine-induced cameo third trailer. The studio freaked out, and got nervous. In a desperate attempt to sell their movie one last time, they blew their load and ruined Wolverine, a character who wasn’t attached to this film at all. I know what the snarky, entitled internet response will be:
“Oh, well it’s so obvious he was going to be in it anyway.”
NO IT WASN’T! Did I have my suspicions? Sure. But we didn’t know for sure! I wanted to find this out as I watched the film. Is that such a damn crime! Even though on the surface it appears this will get more butts in seats opening weekend, I’m not convinced.
Aside from this trailer, the other two recent movies that spoiled a ton of state secrets were Terminator: Genisys and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. In the case of both these films, buzz was really bad, so the studio over compensated in their trailer marketing. Terminator: Genisys spoiled that John Connor was actually evil, and even a terminator. As someone who actually likes Terminator: Genisys, this personally pissed me off. The movie would have been that much better if I discovered it while watching the film. In spoiling this huge plot reveal, you’re sitting there waiting for it to happen. It didn’t ruin the movie, but it significantly made it a lesser film going experience. Did this reveal help the box office? Not at all. Terminator: Genisys performed poorly. If anything, the spoiler actually turned people off.
Now we move to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I know even mentioning this film causes shock waves and panic among the internet, so let’s all try and be civil. We all knew Wonder Woman was in the film going in. When the first two trailers hit, all the millennial fanboys cried out in horror:
“WHY ARE THEY HIDING WONDER WOMAN! THERE’S AN ISSUE WITH WONDER WOMAN! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”
So what happened? Warner Brothers gave in to these little punks, and spoiled what is arguably one of the few moments people actually loved about the film – Wonder Woman jumping in to save Batman from Doomsday’s blast. When you see it in the theater, it’s the biggest crowd pleasing moment of the movie, or it would have been HAD IT NOT BEEN SPOILED IN A DAMN TRAILER! The luster of this scene was completely gutted. And did showing Wonder Woman in the trailer help Batman v Superman’s box office. No way! In fact, many consider BvS’s opening weekend to be good, but disappointing.
Studios should know by now that revealing big moments isn’t necessary. What determines a franchise’s success is all about word of mouth and Rotten Tomato reviews. Certainly there are exceptions (Transformers), but has this not been proven the last couple years? It’s undeniable. In fact, maybe the box office for BvS would have been better had the Wonder Woman moment not been ruined. Is it not conceivable that word of mouth would have been more positive if filmgoers were telling people to go see BvS because of how awesome the Wonder Woman moment was? That buzz completely evaporates when you already ruin it in the trailer.
This latest X-Men trailer is truly frustrating because the Wolverine reveal is totally unnecessary. Even if you’re one of the snarky internet bloggers who criticize everything that isn’t an MCU movie, let’s go on track record. The last four X-Men films (First Class, The Wolverine, Days of Future Past, Deadpool) average 82.75% on Rotten Tomatoes, with Days of Future Past being at 91%, which is what Apocalypse is most closely tied too. Can we all be reasonable and assume this movie will score very well and get good buzz? That’s what the best marketing is – a great film. Not spoiling every damn plot point!
BE SECRETIVE – IT ACTUALLY WORKS!
Let’s look at two directors who spoil absolutely nothing in their trailers, and what do you know, their box office results are insanely good! J.J. Abrams and Christopher Nolan. Remember that little film from last year, Star Wars: The Force Awakens? All three of those trailers gave you absolutely nothing. The main character (Rey) barely even spoke. How did the box office do? I know what your argument will be – “Yeah, that was Star Wars. They could have showed no trailers, and it still would have blown up.” Maybe that’s true, but there’s no question those trailers were met with ridiculously high praise. Why? The trailers were simply great trailers, not because they spoiled major plot points and character motivations.
Fine, forget Star Wars. Remember that little 2008 gem produced by J.J. Abrams called Cloverfield. It gave you nothing but a tease, and was simply a great trailer. The mystery was part of the marketing. The production budget was about $25 Million, and it made just over $170 Million worldwide.
In an age where franchises rule the day and original material is hard to come by, there was a little movie called Inception that came out in 2010. All those trailers did was tell you it had something to do with dreams. No spoilers whatsoever. What happened? It made over $825 Million worldwide. For a non franchise, that’s absurd money.
“But Dan, Christopher Nolan was coming off The Dark Knight! Meh! Meh! Meh!”
Fine, let’s look at Interstellar, a movie that Nolan released after The Dark Knight Rises, in which many believed he lost a lot of luster. That’s another movie where trailers revealed absolutely nothing. Did it do as well as Inception? No, but just over $675 Million worldwide in 2014 for an original property is unheard of. If you think that movie disappointed at the box office, you’re lying to yourself. Why is Nolan’s next movie getting a summer release – because Interstellar did well.
If anything, mystery in a trailer has proven more viable than revealing everything. If the trailers are innovative, people will buzz about it. Maybe you’ll make the argument that Tomorrowland should have revealed more, look how that box office failed. That movie failed because the movie sucked. The only reason people were even talking about it was because they cut great trailers. Had the movie gotten great reviews and word of mouth, it would have been a success.
Bottom-line: From a marketing perspective, spoiling big reveals hasn’t proven effective.
GET OFF MY DAMN LAWN!
I’ve played your game. I’ve looked at this from a business perspective, and not my own selfish bias on how movie trailers should be cut. Now it’s back to my own ranting and raving. Even films outside of superhero movies and gigantic franchises are adapting this “Let’s spoil everything” policy. As much as I loved Creed, a lot of the story was ruined for me when they reveal in the trailer that Rocky gets sick. As I’m watching the film, I’m just waiting for that big plot point to happen. That’s not how you’re supposed to experience a film. It’s wrong!
While studios need to stop giving into the millennial demands, the young film going audience needs to stop demanding it. Stop making assumptions. Stop assuming the Vision is in Avengers: Age of Ultron because you read rumors online, therefore forcing the studio to spoil him in the trailer. Stop assuming there are issues with the new Spider-Man, forcing the studio to reveal him in a trailer. STOP ASSUMING QUICKSILVER IS MAGNETO’S SON BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT THE COMICS DO! I want to see that get revealed in the film, not a throwaway line in a damn trailer!
X-Men: Apocalypse was the movie I was most excited for all year, and some of that has been watered down now. I’m disappointed in the studio for submitting to fan complaints that they needed more in these trailers. At the end of the day, a great movie is your best selling point. They didn’t need to do this. It’s time for marketing teams to get more creative on selling films, just as they did with Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Deadpool. If they want to showcase Mystique taking on a leadership role, you could have done it without the Professor X spoiler.
We need to stop ruining movies for ourselves.