Five Things To Learn From Super Bowl LIII’s Movie Trailers

There was, as you likely well know, a sports ball game last night. Not being someone who follows the National Football League all that closely (we don’t have a team here in Chicago, unfortunately) I’m a little fuzzy on the details but if I understood Twitter correctly, Tom Brady gave Adam Levine the final rose and the two are already planning the wedding. Which is nice.

Super Bowl LIII was, as has been the case for all the games since they were back in the Xs, used as a massive platform for brands of all types to hawk their wares and try to make an impression on the audience. Burger King showed Andy Warhol eating a hamburger, Bud Light had everyone Googleing “corn syrup in beer?” and Verizon tried to undo some of the brand reputation damage incurred last year when it throttled the wireless plans of firefighters in California. Oh, and there was [checks notes] chunky milk?

Movie trailers were once again a huge part of the game’s advertising package, with studios promoting some of the biggest and most anticipated films still to come in 2019. There were a few people were expecting as well as a handful of surprises in this year’s mix of films as well as some puzzling omissions. Most importantly, there were five lessons that became clear based on what movies were advertised and how.

1: Bring the Adventure

Marvel Studios brought a new spot for Avengers: Endgame to the broadcast, but the real winner was the commercial for Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson. From the outset it’s made clear that she – and the audience – will be going “Higher. Further. Faster.” on a thrillride through outer space and back to Earth again.

So too, the trailer for Hobbs & Shaw, an extension of the Fast & The Furious franchise, looks like a ton of utterly ridiculous fun. The story seems incoherent, the premise outright ludicrous and the performances unbelievable. It’s not as inspirational as Captain Marvel but you can’t say it doesn’t look like a load of over-the-top fun.

Alita: Battle Angel sports some incredible behind-the-scenes talent, including director Robert Rodriguez and producer James Cameron. The commercial that aired only hinted at that pedigree but did try to sell audiences on a cinematic adventure they’d have to see in 3D to get the full impact of.

2: Bring the Scares

Writer/director Jordan Peele dropped a new one-minute spot for his new doppleganger thriller Us on Reddit just before it aired on CBS. The spot tells the same basic story as the full trailer from a few months ago, but exposed it to a new audience, likely intriguing at least some of them because of its creative connection to Get Out.

There were also two short teasers for Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark, the upcoming horror film produced by Guillermo del Toro. This is the first footage released from the film and while there wasn’t much shown in the brief spots they definitely convey the one of creepy mystery that should go over well with horror aficionados.

3: Bring the Cute

Wonder Park is an animated adventure coming from Paramount Pictures in a few months, a basic message conveyed adequately by the commercial that teased the new trailer. It’s not especially memorable and this isn’t one of the year’s more anticipated releases, but Paramount obviously is hoping to score a hit with an original feature, especially in light of a recent round of bad press.

By contrast, Toy Story 4 is on many people’s radar already and the new spot that aired just after the game ended. There isn’t much about the story that’s explained here, but it does show that the series’ sense of humor is still intact and that Woody is still needing to get Buzz out of tough situations. It’s also notable in that, when you add in the promo for the “Twilight Zone” revival coming to Apple’s streaming service this makes three commercials with Jordan Peele.

Netflix also promoted its upcoming documentary Our Planet, not only with a 30-second spot but it also shared GIFs from the program all night on Twitter as a light form of counter-programming against the game.

4: Bring It Everywhere

If, like me, you were following along on Twitter you still got the gist that the game was less than thrilling. It also means you likely saw that many of the spots mentioned above were placed as Promoted Tweets at the same time they premiered on television.

While that makes a certain amount of sense, particularly when you consider many of the posts included links to buy tickets or find out more, it also shows that $5 million doesn’t buy the guaranteed mass reach a “Big Game” spot once promised. It’s not essential that a super-expensive TV ad buy be accompanied by another ad buy on social media to promote the ad that was run on TV.

5: Leave People Confused

OK maybe this isn’t such a great rule of thumb for advertisers and movie marketing professionals to follow, but it certainly would explain a few things, including:

  1. Where was the Star Wars: Episode IX ad? We’re less than a year away from release and have yet to see a single frame of footage. Disney may have seen greater value in promoting its two Marvel releases for this year, but a Star Wars trailer drop would have been epic.
  2. Where are the X-Men? Fox (not long for this world as an independent entity) has two X-Men movies coming later this year, but neither of them made any noise during the Super Bowl. Given both have been pushed back repeatedly this would have been a strong show of faith in them, so maybe that was the point.
  3. Where’s Ad Astra? This science fiction film stars Brad Pitt and Tommy Lee Jones, is directed by James Gray and has a May release date but there’s been no marketing for it at all so far.
  4. Where are the comedies? The genre had a rough 2018, but usually the Super Bowl has at least one straight forward comedy advertised. Perhaps this is a sign that people now prefer their laughs when they’re coupled with action sequences.
  5. Where’s the instant buzz? Last year Netflix surprised everyone by dropping the first commercial for The Cloverfield Paradox just hours before the movie was available in full on the service. There was no such stunt this year, (Amazon promoted the availability of its first episode of “Hanna” ahead of time) but this would have been a great yearly tradition.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I made queso.

Marvel Studios Has a Key Challenge in Selling Avengers 4

To say I’m super-curious about how Marvel Studios is going to sell the still-untitled Avengers 4 would be a dramatic understatement.

Throughout the campaign for Avengers: Infinity War, one theme was repeated over and over again: This is the end. Without spoiling too much of the story itself, the entire marketing campaign – especially elements like earned media and promotional videos – were focused around the idea that the movie was the culmination of the story begun in 2008 with Iron Man, specifically the end-credits tag where Samuel L. Jackson appeared as Nick Fury to introduce Tony Stark to the idea of The Avengers Initiative. Everything since then, we were told by producer Kevin Feige and others, had lead to this point, where it all comes together.

Except that was never really the case. We always knew a fourth movie was coming a year later that would *actually* be the endpoint, the finale of a two-parter. The audience, though, was asked to swallow the narrative in order to build Infinity War up as an event that could not be missed, even if you had decided to skip Doctor Strange or Ant-Man.

Rumors has begun to emerge about what the subtitle for the fourth movie may be, joining guesses about how the 1990s setting of next year’s Captain Marvel film starring Brie Larson might hint at what’s in store. So, based on what we both do and don’t know about the fourth entry in the Avengers series, let’s engage in a little rampant speculation about what sorts of angles Marvel might take to convince audiences to come out again for [checks notes] a second final installment.

Avengers: One Last Time

It’s possible Marvel Studios just leans into how it kinda sorta pulled a fast one on the audience and says “No, really, *this* is the summation of everything we started but without the nice symmetry of it happening exactly a decade after Iron Man.” It could sell it as a straight-up continuation of the story in the first movie, addressing the developments of Infinity War and promising the audience some sort of resolution to the emotional ending of that movie that doesn’t cheapen what transpired.

Avengers: Hawkeye and The Defenders

Picking up on one of the key conversations among fans, Marvel might decide to address head-on Clint Barton’s notable absence as well as bring heroes like Jessica Jones and Luke Cage over from Netflix to the big screen. Imagine a campaign explaining how Hawkeye and the others have rallied in Daredevil’s studio apartment and are coming into take down Thanos through the power of trick arrows and borderline alcoholism. I’d watch that.

Avengers: The Dream of the 90s Is Alive

With Captain Marvel taking us back 20-odd years before Tony Stark announced himself as being Iron Man, it’s possible that the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe takes place fully in the time of the Clinton presidency. There’s actually a ton of story potential here, with other characters who haven’t made their MCU debut yet available to build out a whole lineup of heroes operating in the 1990s. It could even include a younger version of both Hank Pym and Bill Foster, played by Michael Douglas and Laurence Fishburne respectively in the recent Ant-Man and The Wasp, and allow Brie Larson to fill the same central role Robert Downey Jr. has for the last decade.

Avengers: Captain America Wakes Up Next to Suzanne Pleshette

This is perhaps the least likely scenario, but I like to imagine that at some point in the development process someone pitched “…but it was all a dream” and wrote a whole treatment where the MCU starts over from scratch with all new actors taking on the roles of Thor, Iron Man, Hulk and others.

Avengers: Fox and Friends

It’s what everyone wants, right? For the end of the current MCU to herald the beginning of a fresh one that, thanks to Disney’s absorption of Fox, features the Avengers joining forces with the mutants of the X-Men or scientifically-minded Fantastic Four? Marvel execs have played down the notion of this happening, saying that any potential team-ups could be years away at best, but it’s still out there as a possibility and a line of thinking that won’t end until the movie is released.

What approach is chosen should begin to come into focus when we start seeing some early marketing and publicity for the film, which might start in November based on the beginning of the Infinity War campaign. The studio won’t, though, be able to tap into the same kind of event hype that was used for that movie as it’s a bullet that can’t be fired twice, at least not without experiencing significant drop-offs in effectiveness.

Also presenting a challenge for Marvel Studios is that any use of any character will represent some form of spoiler for the movie’s story. With so many heroes being literally wiped away at the end of Infinity War, any reference at all to anyone will generate moans and complaints from the audience that they now know too much about what happens.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Two and Out: When Directors Abandon Trilogies Before They’re Over

These franchises and series have launched with big name directors who decided two movies was enough for them.

Over the last 20 years Hollywood has realigned itself around franchises that come with built in audience awareness of the intellectual property the movies are based on. Super heroes have lead this movement but also included are science-fiction and action series, many of which are reboots, remakes or reimaginings of older IP, trying to freshen up stale material for new audiences and wring maximum value from series that may have gone dormant decades ago and need a shot in the arm.

Often the pitch to the audience is that the studio has signed a well-known, “visionary” director to helm what otherwise might appear to be a soulless cash grab devoid of artistic merit. The idea is to attach some credibility to the endeavor, earning some cache among cinephiles who might dismiss or ignore it.

Because these are almost always designed to be series and not just one-off films, directors are often asked – or contractually obligated – to return for the sequel. There are quite a few instances, though, where after two installments a big-name director who attached the reputation they’d earned up to that point walks away for one reason or another, turning the reigns of the franchise over to someone else to close out or continue.

I’ll admit that these are, by and large, exceptions that prove the rule. There are countless instances where a single director has overseen every chapter in a trilogy. But almost all of those examples are stories the director had at least a significant hand in developing, usually about something personal or otherwise important or relevant to them. Only Alan Parker was going to tell The Barrytown Trilogy. Only Richard LInklater was going to make the Before Trilogy or Francis Ford Coppola the Godfather Trilogy.

Instead, the below examples represent cases where a well-known filmmaking talent has been brought in to provide a creative spark to help revitalize or launch a franchise, only to find they were indeed a director-for-hire all along, disposable because their name isn’t as important as the brands’ once things are back on track.

Star Trek

J.J. Abrams was brought on by Paramount to revitalize a Star Trek franchise that, despite a few TV shows here and there, had lain fallow on the big screen since 2002’s Nemesis, marking the last outing of “The Next Generation” characters. Abrams embraced the opportunity to bring his “Mystery Box” approach to the series, offering an interesting twist in the 2009 relaunch and a far less interesting one in 2013’s Into Darkness. His involvement in a third film was cut off when he was offered the chance to relaunch another franchise, Star Wars.

X-Men

2000’s original X-Men kicked off a new wave of super hero movies, saving the genre from the regrettable camp the Batman series had fallen into and offering a more mainstream approach than that taken in the Blade movies. As good as that first one was, 2002’s X-Men United was even better, offering more nuanced takes on the characters and setting up a third movie that promised some form of “Dark Phoenix” adaptation. Sadly that promise went unfulfilled when Singer was lured the chance to make Superman Returns, allowing Brett Ratner to nearly dismantle the franchise with a terrible third installment.

Iron Man

Among the reasons the first Iron Man movie was not universally expected to be a success (don’t let anyone who didn’t follow the press narrative of that time tell you different) was that Jon Favreau was not exactly a mortal lock as a director. He had a couple decent outings under his belt, but nothing on this scale. His light tough and ability to simply control and aim the explosion that is Robert Downey Jr. made it work enough that he returned to helm the sequel. When it came time for the third movie, though, he was too involved in other projects and so turned duties over to Shane Black, who essentially made a Shane Black movie featuring Iron Man, which isn’t a bad thing.

The Avengers

Many of us totally got why Joss Whedon was a good pick for the first team up of the Avengers. While some dismissed him as “the guy from ‘Buffy’,” those of us who had watched both “Firefly” and Serenity and who read his “Astonishing X-Men” run knew how well he could balance characters and create believable team dynamics. According to Whedon his experience on 2015’s Age of Ultron kind of broke him, though, and so he stepped aside and allowed the Russo Brothers, who had just directed Captain America: The Winter Soldier to much acclaim, to take the reigns.

Jurassic Park

It seems director Steven Spielberg just kind of exhausted his interest in directing stories of dinosaurs running amok after the first two Jurassic Park movies, diverting his attention instead to original projects. While he remained on as a producer, he turned directorial responsibilities over to Joe Johnston, a protege from the days of Indiana Jones. He turned in a third movie that has some silly moments (the talking velociraptor) but also features the same pop and sizzle he’d brought previously to The Rocketeer and would again display in Captain America: The First Avenger.

The Terminator

James Cameron couldn’t make another Terminator movie, at first because he was too invested in developing 1997’s Titanic and then 2008’s Avatar. Since then he’s been very busy not making further Avatar sequels while also finding time to criticize other people’s movies while a string of other directors tried to tackle this material. Cameron is returning to the series with a reboot/sequel now in production, but only as a producer.

Batman

It’s hard to describe just how much Warner Bros. openly and actively turned against director Tim Burton when Batman Returns didn’t turn out to be just as massive a hit as 1989’s first Batman movie. Returns looks and feels more like a Tim Burton movie, dealing with many of the same themes as his other films, but that didn’t translate into a plethora of cross-promotional and merchandising opportunities. While he reportedly was developing a third installment he was removed from the project in favor of Joel Schumacher, who took the series in a direction with more potential for colorful toy lines.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Imagining a 90s Cinematic Avengers Lineup

I haven’t seen Avengers: Infinity War yet and so can’t comment on the events of the movie beyond what has been shared in reviews and other commentaries. While I don’t personally get hung up on spoilers and such, it’s still shocking how blatantly some sites have been putting significant plot details in headlines or conveying them through a mix of a vague headline and a photo that 100% answers the question being asked in that hed.

What should be common knowledge by now is that the chairs have been significantly rearranged in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s unclear where that leads with future films, though. So far Marvel Studios has begun to make it clear that Ant-Man and the Wasp happens before or during Infinity War, addressing questions as to where those characters are in the crossover and explaining it does not reflect a post-Infinity War reality. And Captain Marvel is set in the 90s, a decade or more before Tony Stark and Nick Fury introduced us to the broader world of characters.

It’s that latter movie’s setting that currently has me most intrigued. Imagine if Marvel went all in on the idea that there were heroes operating in the 90s?

The current MCU continuity makes it clear that the emergence of enhanced individuals is relatively recent development, with Stark being the first real public hero since the disappearance of Captain America at the end of WWII. While it’s unclear how out there Captain Marvel was, let’s assume for the moment she was operating at least mostly in secret, be it on Earth or in space. So any expansion of the roster would need to be a primarily clandestine group akin to the Secret Avengers.

There are a number of heroes that would fit this bill pretty well without upending anything that happens later on in a post-”I am Iron Man” world. Pulling just from the list of characters that have been on the Avengers in the comics, here’s who I would want to see:

moon knightMoon Knight

Marc Spector’s alter-ego is the first one I think of when I think “operates in the shadows.” Called to act as the vengeful fist of an ancient Egyptian deity, Moon Knight is a street-level hero with no powers to speak of. Still, he’s always been an intriguing character that lends a good deal of mystery and mysticism to the team.

captain marvel monicaSpectrum

Monica Rambeau went by the Captain Marvel moniker for a while but then adopted this identity when Carol Danvers reclaimed the title. She lead the Avengers for a while in the 80s but never got what I felt was her due in terms of recognition, largely because her character was defined at that time primarily by her doubt in her own abilities. Make her the leader of the team and it sets of a great dynamic.

black knight marvelBlack Knight

Another 80s/90s Avenger that has some ties to magic on his side what with his connection to King Arthur and Excalibur. Ditch the flying horse he was often seen to be riding and make him someone who’s struggling with the role of being a hero (a nod to a previous incarnation of the character who was a villain) and it sets up some tension on the team.

Tigra4Tigra

Look, I’m a longstanding advocate for more West Coast Avengers characters and Tigra is going to be on my list. Back in the day there was a WCA issue or two where she explained she was an unabashedly sexual person who enjoyed wearing nothing but a black bikini because she felt it empowered her. Stick with that and you have a very timely hero here.

echo marvelEcho

Introduced in the first volume of The New Avengers, Maya is a deaf ninja who has infiltrated the Yakuza to exact justice. Again, she fits very well with the concept of a clandestine team that features a strong lineup of motivated, independent women.

nomad marvelNomad

It only makes sense that Captain America would have inspired other people over the 60+ years since his disappearance to fight for what was right. Jack Monroe’s Nomad can be just that. Like Phil Coulson, make him someone who grew up idolizing Cap and decided to become his own hero. Just lose the cape.

Your turn. Who would you want to see on a 90s Proto Avengers team?

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Keep Deathstroke. Give Me a Mockingbird Movie

I get why DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. would want to get a solo Deathstroke movie going. I do. He’s male, a “gritty” character and an anti-hero who’s often put in the role of the villain but who has his own moral code regarding the work he does. The character has become a fan-favorite on “Arrow” where he’s portrayed by Manu Bennett and it was semi-announced a while ago that Joe Manganiello would play him in Ben Affleck’s solo Batman movie, though that might change.

Also, I couldn’t be less interested in a Deathstroke solo movie. In fact, I feel like I’ve already seen it.

If this year’s success of Wonder Woman and Spider-Man: Homecoming has taught us anything it’s that audiences want something different, something brighter and more inspirational. They want to see a woman taking on the Big Bad and a hero not being so morally conflicted about every damn thing he or she does.

That’s why I want a Mockingbird movie.

Mockingbird isn’t a huge part of the Marvel Universe, known primarily as either a SHIELD agent or in relation to Hawkeye, to whom she was married for a while back around the time both were part of The West Coast Avengers team. She’s been a constant presence, particularly since playing a fairly integral role in the “Secret Invasion” storyline and recently headlined a critically-acclaimed solo book for a while. Barbara Morse, Mockingbird’s alter ego, showed up on “Agents of SHIELD” for a season or so, played by Adrianne Palicki, an efficient and highly-skilled operative of the agency.

Having been a fan of the character since her WCA days, I want a movie, though. I want a story where Agent 19 is given the leeway to be SHIELD’s own in-house costumed adventurer, not part of The Avengers but using some of the same grey-area tactics they employ and falling outside the usual reporting structure. I want a spy movie where Bobbi goes deep undercover internationally to retrieve a secret vital to national security. She’s patriotic and morally certain while also taking the risks necessary to complete the mission.

If female spy movies really are the hot new trend in Hollywood following Atomic Blonde and with Jennifer Lawrence’s Red Sparrow coming next year, Mockingbird would allow Marvel Studios to get in on that. If adjustments need to be made that account for Palicki’s small-screen portrayal, so be it. If you want to make her part of the all-female movie pitched by Scarlett Johansson, Tessa Thompson, Zoe Saldana and others, I’m good with that too. Just make it happen. Mockingbird has for too long been relegated to the background or defined by her relationship to male characters. That can change and it can be awesome.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.