Comic-Con Marketing 2017

While it may have started as a humble gathering of nerds, Comic-Con has grown into a behemoth of a marketing event. Studios come to meet their fans head on and give them a sneak peak into what’s to come. It breeds loyalty from fans and allows creators to meet them head on to get a read on what’s working with them and what isn’t.

What I’m saying is I love Comic-Con. But the best part is the way a new movie or TV series will introduce itself to the fans at Comic-Con. These trailers are so early in the marketing process that they rarely look like what the final film will be. For example:

That’s the original Suicide Squad trailer from Comic-Con in 2005. In the old days a first look trailer like this was only for those who attended the con, but now that’s a futile endeavor. Everyone has an HD camera in their pocket. That trailer leaked, so they officially released it. Which means we can see how the marketing started dark and moody and wound up at Comic-Con the next year as… well…

So yeah, in no particular order let’s take a look at some notable trailers from this year’s Comic-Con with an eye towards how they’re introducing, or re-introducing, themselves to their fans.

Bright

Bright is, ironically, also a David Ayer film like Suicide Squad. This one, however, has a much harder uphill battle towards garnering an audience. It’s an original story about cops in a Los Angeles that features Orcs and Elves. It’s also written by Max Landis, who’s pretty divisive among fans.

Yet I like this trailer. They know Will Smith is their secret weapon and they introduce the world in a clean mundane way. Fairies are nuisances, not special. The marketing wants us to see this as a story about race relations. Then it takes a turn into the weird, and no there’s no cool way to say, “that’s a magic wand.” The trailer takes a turn into a siege movie narrative. The marketing wants you to know you’ve seen this movie before, where two cops find a million dollars or something in a bad neighborhood and have to escape. This version is just going to be the most fantastical version of that.

Plus I really like that song.

Marvel’s Inhumans

I have a lot to say about this show. Namely that it shouldn’t exist and is a bad idea and looks, visually, terrible. But I kind of have to commend this trailer on construction alone. The song it’s wielding with all the subtlety of the Doof Warrior is Human by Rag’n’Bone Man. A choice that induces eye rolls right until that final line of the trailer that single handidly make this project interesting. Well, that and Ken Leung. I’ll watch Ken Leung in anything.

That being said, the most fascinating aspect of this series is how it’s trying to create an event from nothing. Simply putting this into IMAX theaters does not guarantee an audience for that kind of overblown premiere. These characters are complete unknowns to general audiences, and they look insanely cheap here. The marketing isn’t even sure how to sell us this. You have to know what an Inhuman is from Agents of SHIELD to get the significance of a city of them on the moon, but it doesn’t show the city on the moon. Then it becomes a political drama with, again, zero subtlety. And then it becomes, in its final moment, a rumination on genetic superiority.

Basically, it’s a mess. From Iron Fist Showrunner Scott Buck.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

The previous trailer for Kingsman: The Golden Circle was more of a teaser than anything. This new trailer is a much stronger introduction to the film. It’s damn good to. It’s clear up front that this film intends to expand on the world of the first. It’s got the action of the original with the addition of the Statesmen and all of the hollywood celebrities who’ve been cast on that side. They have no intention of showing you what the villain’s plan is, instead showcasing Brits and Americans taking the piss out of each other while kicking ass. I’m for it.

There’s also zero attempt at hiding the amount of Colin Firth in this film, as opposed to another movie near the bottom of this list. What’s great is that Colin Firth still cannot confirm or deny he’s in the film despite everything we can see on screen. They’re just making fun of how these movies operate with secrecy.

The Gifted

Is an X-Men TV series a good idea? Yeah. Totally. It’s called Legion, check it out. The Gifted is a tougher call to make, and this piece of marketing just feels… off. For example, I find it extremely frustrating when the blond girl asks, “How do you think we got out of that ship?” and they don’t show us any piece of that. That’s a perfect setup for a shot to hook us! Instead this switches focus to the Not-X-Men talking about how much they wish the X-Men were there. Then there’s the hero shots with everyone’s code names followed by two teenagers with normal ass names and no clear shots of what their powers actually are.

Also, if they want to make mutations seem like a gift, why are the power shots all destructive? There’s no wonder, powers are either mundane or dangerous, despite the lip service otherwise. And then there’s the last line talking about that one guy’s girlfriend. It’s a joke, I guess, but it’s also the only one in the trailer. Which probably makes it the best one in the pilot. It’s just a messy trailer, and I know TV trailers are hard since you’re often working with one episode of footage, but the only people this is grabbing are die hard X-Men fans.

Star Trek: Discovery

Speaking of die hard fans, I am absolutely a Trekker. I’ve mentioned this before. I have been waiting for a new Star Trek series for a very long time. This trailer looks like it’s for an exciting science fiction series, but it doesn’t quite feel like Star Trek. From the first line, “All life is born from chaos. The world doesn’t always adhere to logic.” this piece of marketing is poetic, sturm und drang, instead of the scientific roots of the original series. Logic is Star Trek’s bread and butter. The production design is excellent, and the overall plot on display here is for a dark war narrative against the Klingons. This will undoubtedly be the most serialized Star Trek series ever, but dude, Harry Mudd shouldn’t be scary. The dude is completely ridiculous.

This is marketing that feels at odds with the TV series, but closer in line with the movies as they currently exist for good and ill. Now maybe that’s calculated by the marketing to pull in any fans who arrived with the new movies, or maybe this is what Discovery will be like. I know I’ll be there, but I’ll be really salty if I have to pay for CBS All Access just to be disappointed.

Stranger Things

Now this is an excellent TV trailer. The marketing knows what worked about season one. They bring on the time period in both aesthetics and music choices. They’re leaning into the halloween trappings of this season with Thriller dictating the piece. They’re making it clear that all of this is fallout from what came before. It’s going to get worse before it gets better. And before you ask, they even show you that Eleven will be back.

It must be easier to market sequels, because you already know what works.

Westworld

What’s fascinating about this trailer is that Westworld has only been back filming for about a week. They’re showing us almost everything they’ve got in this. Yet they had great and evocative shots in the can for this trailer. The music is their speed, there’s plenty of death, and seeing Delores take out people with a rifle on horseback is damn satisfying. So is William’s smile at the end. It’s a signal to the fans. The revolution begins now.

Ready Player One

Got to be honest. This teaser is way too proud of itself. The voiceover is fine as a lead in to the plot, I just hope it isn’t in the final film. The dirty real world looks great and the stylized Oasis looks far out. It’s the stuff like, “Cinematic Game Changer Stephen Spielberg” and “Ernest Cline’s Holy Grail of Pop Culture”. Calm down WB, the book has serious flaws and Spielberg definetly doesn’t like being called a game changer.

This teaser is showing off the Oasis. It’ll be grand but not otherwordly. You’ll recognize the elements in it. The Iron Giant, the Delorean, it’s all waiting for you. Wouldn’t you rather be surrounded by safe pop culture instead of in the dreary real world? Look, we have Tom Sawyer by Rush! It wants us to want to live there and adventure there. We want to be in that impossible car chase. Now, if all goes well, the film will make us confront that want.

Justice League

This must be the third trailer for Justice League, but it’s the first one since Wonder Woman became the de facto leader of the DCEU and it shows. Diana, and even Themyscira, are front and center here. She opens the show before they remind us Superman is dead. Good idea, because not everybody saw Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. They do that thing where news reports fill us in on what’s going on. I hate that thing. But anyway the bad guy we don’t know, like at all, shows up and we get hero shots of all the new characters.

Shout out to the “No Lanterns” line on behalf of my Green Lantern love alone.

The villain doesn’t matter in this piece. It’s about the heroes and they’re coming together. It’s about how cool their powers look. Batman says they’re all held back, but the trailer shows them all being flawless and awesome. Except the Flash. He isn’t a fighter. It shows you how Cyborg… actually I still don’t have a read on Cyborg’s personality here. He’s just… cool? Like all the other ones? Like, yeah it’s cool that he takes over Batman’s… thingy? God I have no context! Why is he entirely CG!?

Also they straight up lie when they Superman was a beacon who inspired people to be better. That’s reductive of their argument in the previous film! In that he was a Christ figure worshiped by people and in the previous film he was an illegal alien feared by people. This incarnation of Superman has never once been seen as inspirational in the text of these films.

That being said, I do like the exchange between Alfred and Batman. “I don’t recognize this world.” and, “We don’t have to, we just have to save it.”

Look this trailer is almost entirely hero shots with out of context, and very important sounding, dialogue hanging over it all. It’s about as Zack Snyder as you can get. The bit at the end with the Flash was good but why are we pretending Superman is in this movie? We all know he’s in this movie. They’re digitally erasing his mustache so he can be in this movie.

Alright, the best for last.

Thor: Ragnarok

First of all, this trailer somehow picks up exactly where the teaser left off. Thor and Hulk meeting. But it uses that to go back and quickly run through the plot elements we learned from that one. Thor loses the hammer and winds up on an alien gladiator planet. It’s quick and simple, this trailer isn’t about that aspect of the story. This bit of marketing is about Hela and Thor’s new team.

Bruce Banner gets to be our perspective on all of the zany space and Asgardian aspects of the plot, but he’s also the Hulk. The Hulk is a champion of the fighting pits and he’s clearly in control so much that Bruce doesn’t even know where they are.

Cate Blanchett gets to chew the scenery to pieces as Hela with a disturbingly comics accurate head piece. She relishes every line she has and quickly makes it clear she’ll be more interesting than the Dark Elves from the last Thor. She’s not a queen or a monster, she’s a god, and my god do they make her look tough. She’s busting Mjolnir, fighting in the rainbow bridge, taking out the Valkryies and all of Asgard.

Neither Valkyrie nor the Grandmaster are the focus of these, but Loki is here because he’s still a massive draw for the fans. They couldn’t possibly hide him. Everything looks bright and colorful and more apart with Guardians of the Galaxy than anything else. Plus it looks aggressively fun.

This too is full of hero shots, but when dialogue is spoken they typically show the person speaking. They pause for jokes in the middle and the end, and they let the villain shine. People know Thor. This doesn’t need to sell us on him. It needs to sell us on what he’s up against, and this does just that.

 

 

It’ll be interesting to see how the marketing campaigns for these evolve over time, especially the really early footage first looks. Be sure to poke around the internet for the other trailers released over the weekend! These are only a few with the most to talk about.

-JP

PS, It’s kind of my life goal to be on a panel at Comic-Con. We’ll see if it ever happens.

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