shang-chi and the legend of the ten rings – marketing recap

How Marvel Studios has sold an expansion of its character roster with another origin story

shang-chi poster

Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings arrives as the latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe a scant two months after the last entry, Black Widow. The movie stars Simu Liu, the first Asian lead in a major superhero film, as Shang-Chi, a man who leaves his past behind as he sets out to define his own destiny. But his connections to a mysterious organization known as The Ten Rings and to his family may be things he can’t shake and has to confront.

The movie also stars Tony Leung as Wenwu, Shang Chi’s father who has his own secrets, Fala Chen as Shang’s mother Jiang Li, Awkwafina as Katy, a friend he makes in his time away and more. Notably, Benedict Wong reprises his Doctor Strange role as Wong and Ben Kingsley makes another appearance as Trevor, a character last seen in Iron Man 3 who was hired to pose as The Mandarin.

It’s directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, who cowrote the screenplay with Dave Callaham and Andrew Lanham.

announcement and casting

While the movie had been announced as “upcoming” well before that, the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con panel with Marvel Studios was where announcements regarding official release dates, cast and full title were revealed.

A couple months after SDCC 2019 Cretton was interviewed about his hesitancy to take on the project as well as what he hoped to accomplish with the movie.

In March of 2020 production was halted when Cretton self-isolated out of concern surrounding the Covid-19 outbreak. He later announced he was fine.

Several months later Disney pushed its release back at the same time it moved a number of other titles because of coronavirus closures.

In December of last year additional details, including cast members, were revealed during Disney’s investors presentation which coincided with the wrapping of production.

the marketing commences

The formal marketing campaign kicked off this past February when Marvel put out a video overview of the character to help introduce him to audiences who may not be familiar, which is nearly everyone, including long-time comics readers.

The first teaser (22.3m views on YouTube), released in April, introduces us to Shang-Chi and shows he is reluctant to embrace the destiny his father and others trained him for. But that reluctance isn’t stopping a variety of bad guys from coming after him, meaning he needs to put that training to use to survive. No one’s motivations are explained, but it sure does look cool, and that’s the goal of this first spot.

Shang stands in front of the 10 rings – all of them seemingly inscribed with runes – on the first poster (by marketing agency BOND), also released in April.

First glimpses at the film itself included in the studio’s “Marvel Studios Celebrates The Movies” video from early May.

The first real good look at Liu in costume as the title character came in May as part of an interview with him where they talked about getting involved with the movie and what the character meant to them. Later that month Disney CEO Bob Chapek confirmed the movie would receive an exclusive 45-day theatrical run instead of going to streaming simultaneously or shortly after that theatrical run. That put it in stark contrast to Black Widow, which recently had a simultaneous Disney+/theatrical debut.

More of the history of the power of the 10 rings and the connection they have to Shang-Chi’s family is explained in the second trailer, released in June. The trials – both physical and emotional – the hero is put through are shown, including how he wants to be his own man. Toward the end there are surprise appearances by not just Abomination but also Fin Fang Foom, of all things.

An EW cover story from July had Liu talking about the audition process along with lots more about getting to know the character and so on.

Advertising for the film essentially kicked off with an extended TV spot released in July that offers more details on how Shang attempts to reject his family’s legacy and entanglements but finds himself ultimately needing to confront things in order to become his own man.

A featurette released around that same time has the cast and crew talking about the characters and story as well as producer/overlord Kevin Feige making the first overt connection with the 10 Rings organization that was introduced all the way back in the original Iron Man, The Mandarin being a long-time adversary of that character in the comics.

The cast introduced their characters in another featurette where they also answered questions about themselves.

Shang-Chi is in the same pose on the second poster, released in July, that he was on the first. This time, though, he’s surrounded by the other characters, from Kate to his father, the latter looming in the background in the traditional “villain” position.

a marvel legend will rise

More TV commercials – also run as preroll on YouTube and as social promoted posts – continued to come out beginning in early August. As is the norm, each focused on a slightly different aspect of the story, from the action to the family drama to the humor and more. Some also included slightly better looks at characters like Wong and even Abomination.

Those spots also began positioning the film and the character of Shang-Chi as “a Marvel legend” that is finally getting the spotlight. That’s interesting branding in that it gives the character a little more importance, but it also makes you wonder why that debut is only happening now if the character is such a legend.

Additional posters came out that broke out each of the main characters onto their own one-sheet in early August. Shang-Chi is finally in an action pose on another poster that came out a week later.

Liu took issue with comments from Disney CEO Bob Chapek about this movie being “an experiment”, pointing out that Asian-American representation on film is necessary and good, not something to play around with to see if it works.

The world premiere red carpet event was held in Hollywood at the El Capitan in mid-August.

At the premiere, Feige responded to Liu’s comments, attempting to clarify that the “experiment” was in the 45-day theatrical exclusivity, but that feels like it only addressed part of the issue. There were also interviews with Liu, who espoused his opinion that the movie would be world-changing, and others at the premiere as well.

Run It” by DJ Snake, Rick Ross, Rich Brian from the movie’s soundtrack was also released in the middle of last month. That song was featured in another commercial.

Fandango MovieClips had the first clip, which shows Shang-Chi and Kate escaping a bunch of ninjas.

That “legend” branding was continued with a TV spot that starts out showing clips of Iron Man, Thor and Captain America, positioning Shang-Chi as a hero in the same vein, one who stands at the same level.

Tickets went on sale in mid-August, announced with another TV spot.

Around that time a special IMAX advance screening in select markets was announced with just about 24 hours notice, an attempt to create some buzz for the film by showing it off to more people.

Awkwafina talked about the movie and filming action sequences when she appeared on “Kimmel”. Liu also appeared on that show a few days later.

Another song from the soundtrack, “In The Dark” by Swae Lee feat. Jhené Aiko, came out later in August.

A scene from the trailers of Shang-Chi and Kate being attacked by assassins on a bus was expanded on in another clip.

An interview with Feige had the producer discussing some of the issues that had complicated or delayed the movie’s release in China, an important market for Marvel but one that is up for grabs here given the subject matter.

Cap, Thor and Iron Man make another appearance in a later TV commercial that hints at the 10 Rings themselves being not only powerful but also not from this universe.

The action sequences of the movie were covered in another featurette, with Liu talking about the choreography and filming.

How Awkwafina not only got involved in the project but also found herself leading the chemistry read sessions looking for the lead were covered in an interview with her. Liu expanded on the process that resulted in him being cast and how life-changing the opportunity is.

Similar to other films with Asian and Asian-American leads, the Gold House initiative organized a campaign to get people to theaters, partnering with GoFundMe for this one. The topic of Asian-American representation on film was also the subject of a joint interview with Awkwafina and Kumail Nanjiani, who stars in the upcoming Marvel Studios film The Eternals.

The “Rise” portion of the campaign came to an ending (more or less) with the release of a featurette with that exact name and about the debut of a character who is being set up as very important to the future of the MCU.

Leung finally got a profile of his own late last month, the emphasis being on the amount of preparation he did before filming his scenes and how he paid attention to what was happening even if he wasn’t involved on a particular day.

Format-specific posters were released in mid- to late-August for 4DX, ReadD 3D, Dolby Cinemas and IMAX.

overall

  • Considering everything that’s going on in the world right now – continued pandemic spikes, wildfires that are engulfing much of the western U.S., hurricane aftermath that has much of the southern U.S. underwater or utterly destroyed – the $50 million projection for opening weekend isn’t bad.
  • The “Rise of a legend” theme really tried to make Shang-Chi into something he isn’t in the comics, but is a good sign for what he might mean to the movies. It’s also an attempt by Marvel Studios to overdo it a bit in making the first Asian character to lead an MCU movie a big deal without earning it at all in previous entries.
  • It’s a bit surprising to me that there wasn’t much said or done to address how problematic and drenched in racist stereotypes Shang-Chi, The Mandarin and other supporting characters were in the comics. If you’re wondering why there aren’t new collected editions of old comics on sale right now, that’s why. But there could have been more acknowledging the past here.

black widow – marketing recap

How Marvel Studios has sold a long-awaited – on multiple levels – super hero solo film.

Over a decade after being first introduced in Iron Man 2 and following several supporting appearances in other MCU movies, Scarlett Johansson strikes out on her own in this week’s Black Widow.

Set in the aftermath of Captain America: Civil War, which gets around the fact that Natasha Romanoff sacrificed herself in Avengers: Endgame, the story follows Natasha as she’s on the run from the authorities. A series of events lead her to reunite with Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), a fellow agent of Russia’s Red Room who shares a sister-like bond with Natasha, as well as former Black Widow Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz) and Alexei Shostakov / Red Guardian (David Harbour), the Russian equivalent of Captain America. All four, a surrogate family of sorts, face off against Taskmaster (Olga Kurylenko), a villain who can copy anyone’s movements and who is after the same MacGuffin sought by Natasha and Yelena.

Originally scheduled for May of last year but delayed multiple times because of Covid, the movie hits both theaters and Disney+ Premier Access this week. It’s notable for a number of reasons:

  • It is, of course, the first solo movie Marvel Studios has released with a female lead character, the only founding Avenger other than Hawkeye to not get a standalone story (and his turn is coming via a Disney+ series later this year).
  • It’s the first MCU release in two years, the longest the franchise has been absent from audiences since the gap between the first two Iron Man movies.
  • It’s the first MCU feature film to be released on Disney+ day-and-date with theatrical, a circumstance brought on because plans made during the worst of the pandemic were hard to adjust on short notice.

First reactions have been largely positive, with critics calling out the movie’s spy genre heritage as well as the strong performances, particularly Pugh’s. That’s resulted in an 81% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes for a film that’s received a full court press campaign from Disney that’s focused on Johansson finally getting her own turn in the spotlight. This confluence of events has led to speculation the movie could score a pandemic-high opening weekend box office of $80 million or more.

The Posters

In November 2019 the first teaser poster (by artist Andy Park) came out offering a look at Natasha as she stands at the forefront of an arrangement of the other characters, the red “X” that will dominate the film’s branding from here on out in the background.

The second poster (by marketing agency LA) from December of that year brings that branding even more to the surface as the solid red “X” dominates the design, Natasha shown at the bottom walking toward the camera ready for action. It’s inspired by a cover from the character’s 2016 comics series.

An exclusive poster handed out at CCXP in early December 2019 features an artistic drawing of Natasha’s face looking weary and tired, as if she’s come through a difficult battle.

Disney used the social media app Weibo to release a special poster designed in the style of Chinese tapestries to celebrate Lunar New Year.

The four major heroes received character posters released in February 2020, each standing in front of a background made up of heavily-redacted documents, the kind a bunch of spies would be very interested in.

Everyone’s brought together on the initial theatrical poster, which came out in March of last year, including a handful of faceless women at the bottom who look very much Black Widow and are walking away from the Kremlin, establishing them as part of the same program that trained Natasha.

Another poster came out in March of this year that shows Natasha in her white uniform.

More character posters, including ones for Taskmaster and the agent played by O-T Fagbenle, came out in May.

A similar approach from the character posters is taken on the final one-sheet, with Natasha at the center of her surrogate family, with other supporting characters scattered around as well.

Additional posters for RealD 3D, Dolby Cinemas, ScreenxUSA and IMAX offered their own takes on the character and settings.

The Trailers

The first trailer, released in early December 2019, opens with Natasha’s lines from Endgame about how the Avengers gave her a home and a family. At this point she’s ready to confront her past and so heads home, leading to an interesting reunion with her sister. The two set out to investigate the organization that made them what they are, but why is unclear. What is shown are brief looks at Taskmaster and his goons along with an extended introduction to Natasha’s father, who can still fit into his Red Guardian costume.

One thing that’s not clear is the movie’s time period. Natasha’s comments and narration are vague, so you have to have some foreknowledge that the story takes place before the events of Infinity War.

A “Special Look” trailer came out in mid-January 2020 that introduced a key premise of the film, that there is a new generation of Widows being trained that Natasha and her family must confront before they’re loosed upon the world.

The bond between Natasha and her chosen family is the focus of the next trailer, released in early March. It starts with her and her sister reconnecting and sharing the lies they’ve told and ends with everyone gathered around the table as we see the same kind of dynamic that might be found in any family. In between we’re shown Natasha has found some of the mistakes she made before becoming an Avenger have caught up with her. The Taskmaster is introduced as the new head of the Russian training facility she came out of, but he’s more cruel and so she sets out to stop him and free the girls that have been sent to kill her.

The final trailer, released in early April, is all about secrets and dealing with the sins of the past. It’s the same basic message being sold here about family and such, but with a few new shots and the promise of a lot of action and a lot of drama.

Online and Social

Marvel’s page for the film featured some videos, posters and other background information, but not much details on other aspects of the marketing campaign. There were also social profiles that offered a bit more.

Advertising, Press and Publicity

After years of speculation, rumors, comments by Marvel Studios execs about how they’d “love to” make a Black Widow movie (as if they were subject to someone else’s whims), it finally moved into the realm of reality when Cate Shortland was hired to direct the feature. Many people pointed out as the synopsis was released that the story sounded more or less just like 2018’s Jennifer Lawrence-starring Red Sparrow about a female Russian agent trained to seduce and spy at all costs in the service of the Motherland.

The topic of the movie’s existence came up during the Avengers: Endgame press tour, but Johansson remained mum on whether it was happening or not, part of Marvel’s strategy of not officially announcing any future projects.

Plans became much more official when the movie was part of Marvel’s Hall H panel at San Diego Comic-Con 2019. That event featured revelations about the cast, characters and story, including Johansson commenting on her desire to keep playing Natasha over the last decade. Marvel put out a video of footage from the panel that included insights from the cast.

There were more comments from Johansson about the timing of the project and what it means for her and the character. She kept teasing the movie while promoting other projects in 2019.

In addition to the trailer shown, attendees of Disney’s D23 Fan Expo in August of 2019 were able to see costumes from the movie on the show floor.

The first paid promotion came via a commercial aired during the College Football Playoffs on ESPN in January, 2020, when the movie was still expected to be just a few months away.

A featurette released in mid-January 2020 had Johansson talking about the potential for future stories the character has while also reflecting on the fact she’s been playing Natasha for 10 years now, with this movie offering audiences something new as well.

Marvel had three Black Widow comics already on the schedule for May, all of them focusing on characters that would be seen in the movie, when it announced in January the launch – also in May – of a new ongoing series for the character. Later on the publisher showed off movie-themed variant covers for some issues of those titles.

Widow has unfinished family business in the Super Bowl commercial that shows the drama and action of the story, including some of the threats she’ll face off against.

An explanation of who Red Guardian is was the subject of a video released by Marvel in mid-February.

The movie was a major part of Marvel’s promotional presence at two major conventions earlier this year. Toys based on the film were shown off at ToyFair in February, while C2E2 in March included Black Widow merchandise for sale.

A profile of Johansson had her talking about her long history with the character and what it means to finally have her stand on her own in a film. Another piece had her sharing what she felt were the character’s best scenes from over the years.

An Omaze campaign was launched in March with a video featuring Johansson telling people they could win a trip to the movie’s premiere. That was followed by an International Women’s Day greeting from Johansson and Pugh.

At that point – early April 2020, about a month after Disney pulled it from the schedule – the first date change happened as the movie was pushed to November, when we thought things would be back to normal again.

Harbor spoke about his character of Red Guardian and what it means in the context of the story.

In an interview from last July, Shortland revealed the film essentially puts a cap on Johansson’s time in the MCU and lets Pough’s character pick up the baton going forward. Another feature package in Empire came out in September that had more comments from Johansson and others along with exclusive new images. Shortland also commented on how the story, which mixes super heroics and family drama, evolved during development and production.

Another interview with Johansson and Pugh had the two talking about production of this movie, the pandemic-related delays and what future plans there might be for both of their characters.

In November Black Widow, sporting the same white uniform she’s wearing in many of the trailers, was added to Fortnite.

The question of release seemed to be settled in December of last year, when Disney made it clear during its investors presentation that the movie was still planned as a theatrical-only title. It reiterated that commitment in February during the company’s earnings announcement, which also included the news Disney+ had grown to 94 million subscribers.

A few months later, in March, that commitment was (unsurprisingly) called into question when Disney announced A) one last date shift – from May to July – as well as B) that the movie would get a simultaneous theatrical and Disney+ Premier Access release.

Johannson presented the movie as being a chance for audiences to finally get to know Natasha’s true story in a video released on National Super Hero Day in early May.

Additional footage was included in the “Marvel Studios Celebrates The Movies” video also from early May. It’s not a lot, but it puts this film in the context of the previous MCU entries while also playing up the communal experience of theatrical viewing.

The first clip came in mid-May during the “MTV Movie & TV Awards” broadcast, where Johansson accepted the “Generation Award.”. It shows Natasha and Yelena bickering like the sisters they are while trying to get away from a bad guy.

A “special look” came out in early June telling fans the wait is over, though technically there was still another month or so to wait.

Weisz talked about the movie when she appeared on “Kimmel” in June, as did Pugh when she appeared a week or so later.

Tickets going on sale in early June unlocked a host of content, almost like a tide that’s been held back for a year and was suddenly unleashed. That included:

Around that same time, Shortland was interviewed about what movies and other stories she drew inspiration from.

Harbour talked more about the movie when he appeared on “The Tonight Show” in June of last year

In a much-shared interview, Johansson talked about how her character has evolved since being introduced in 2010’s Iron Man 2 where, she said, Natasha was overly-sexualized and objectified, underestimated because of that by almost all the other characters at some point or another.

Harbour had some fun speculating on his character’s backstory and what potential there might be in that unexplored territory while the rest of the cast talked about working with Shortland.

In a video released on Father’s Day Harbour read some corny “dad jokes” much to the embarrassment of his costars.

Johansson appeared on “The Tonight Show” to hype the movie, convince people to see it in theaters and tease some revelations.

A ton of commercials and other promo spots started running in early June, each taking a slightly different take on the story but all selling the movie as a fast-paced action romp with the Romanov family.

Weisz answered a handful of questions about the production like the person most likely to pull a prank on set in a video from mid-June. Later on Johansson, Harbour and Pugh answered their own sets of fan questions.

A joint interview with Johansson and Pugh had the two of them sharing anecdotes over how they bonded on set, particularly over the ridiculousness of some of the fighting poses they were expected to perform and more.

A fan screening event was held in Los Angeles recently with some of the cast in attendance and some appearing virtually. Similar events, each with some subset of the cast and crew, were held in major cities around the world.

Another interview with Shortland had her talking about the multiple times she declined taking on the project, only to eventually be worn down/won over by the persistence of her agent and Marvel.

Regal Cinemas shared an exclusive video interview with the cast.

More background on Taskmaster was shared by Marvel in a featurette released just a week or so ago. There was also a recap of Widow’s character journey through the 10+ years since her introduction to the MCU.

The last wave of commercials like this explicitly called out this being Marvel’s return to theater screens after a two year absence.

Natasha and Yelena are breaking Alexei out of prison in the last official clip released before the movie was made available.

One last featurette had the cast talking about the makeshift family the characters have formed.

Additional interviews with Shortland like this had her talking about the opportunity that exists for more female directors to be brought into the MCU. Meanwhile Feige talked about how this story takes place during the third phase of the MCU arc but sets the stage for things that will happen moving forward.

Disney+ released a movie-themed episode of the “Legends” series, offering more background on the character and her history.

Promotional partners for the movie included:

  • Geico, which has the company’s spokesgecko imagining what it would be like to ride along with Natasha and Yelena.
  • BMW, which released exclusive interviews with the cast in support of a campaign that shows the company’s cars executing some of the movie’s big driving stunts.
  • Synchrony Bank, which launched a campaign encouraging people to learn about its savings tools.

Overall

This is probably the biggest campaign in terms of sheer volume of elements in quite a while, even bigger than F9 and other recent releases. As such it’s hard to judge on an objective level. But what’s impressive is how Marvel Studios has maintained a sense of brand consistency despite the unexpectedly long period of time the marketing has been forced to stretch over. Add to that a very professionally enthusiastic push from Johansson and a focus on Pugh that sets her up as the future of this part of the franchise’s future and you have a solid campaign that hopes audiences are ready for more of the series after a prolonged break.

Now we just see if it can stick the landing.

Scarlett Johansson GIF by Marvel Studios - Find & Share on GIPHY

The New Mutants – Marketing Recap

How Disney is selling the much-delayed mutant thriller.

Of all the movies to become the first major studio release to hit theaters since mid-March, The New Mutants seems the most unlikely, for a number of reasons.

First, there is of course the fact that so many others – including titles like Mulan and Tenet that have been held up as saviors of the theatrical industry – have been delayed anywhere from a few months to a year to indefinitely.

Second, The New Mutants itself has a long history of having its release delayed. Fox, prior to its acquisition by Disney, originally slated the film for August 2018, it’s also been on the calendar for early 2019, late 2019 and, finally, March of this year. Some of those delays were efforts to avoid other releases like Deadpool 2, some reportedly to allow writer/director Josh Boone to reshoot portions of the film to make it more like his original horror-centric vision instead of the YA story the studio requested.

When the Covid-19 pandemic closed theaters in March, right as the film was about to open, it seemed the movie’s fate was sealed and that Disney would finally punt it to Hulu (a move that had long been speculated on) or PVOD.

But no, that was not to be, as The New Mutants was moved to August, meaning it’s about to hit theaters amid a wave of questions about whether going to the theater, even with the protocols put in place by NATO, is a safe activity to participate in.

With the main X-Men film series now complete and the fate of Deadpool up in the air, The New Mutants is now the sole mutant-based film franchise at Disney. This isn’t the first time the characters have been in that situation, since their 1982 Marvel Comics debut was a spinoff from the successful X-Men comics, an attempt to introduce younger characters to the series.

In this case, the characters and premise are slightly different than what appeared in the comics. Maisie Williams plays Rahne Sinclair, a young woman who wakes up in a strange hospital with no memory of how she got there. Mysterious and unexplained things keep happening as she meets some of the other patients/inmates, including Illyana Rasputin (Anna Taylor-Joy), Sam Guthrie (Charlie Heaton), Danielle Moonstar (Blu Hunt) and Roberto da Costa (Henry Zaga), each of which has special powers just like Rahne. They slowly come to understand they’re being studied, not helped, and seek to unlock the secrets of the institution and free themselves from it.

It shouldn’t be surprising, given everything laid out above, that the marketing campaign has zigged and zagged over the years, starting and stopping and shifting tone with some frequency. At times it’s been sold as a straightforward horror film, with the characters’ super hero identities conspicuously missing. More recently, it’s those super powers have come more to the forefront, though the thriller aspects of the story have still been prominently featured.

The movie was tracking for an opening weekend of $15-25 million tracking, the lowest in the X-Men franchise, but that was in advance of the March release date, and no updated estimates have been made because so much is in flux. Likewise, there are no reviews to date on the film.

The Posters

The first poster (by marketing agency Ignition) came out a lifetime ago, in December, 2017. It takes an image from the trailer, specifically a photo of various faces trying to poke through an unexpectedly flexible wall, and makes it the central focus. This would be part of the horror-centric angle that was initially presented to audiences in the early days of the campaign.

Over two years passed before the next poster was released. In this case, Disney used the social media app Weibo to release a special poster designed in the style of Chinese tapestries to celebrate Lunar New Year in January of this year.

Later that month another poster was released that began to more clearly display the characters. This time they’re all shown standing together, but with the movie’s title scratched across the picture, revealing the skulls of each character in a slightly creepy way. Another poster from February has them all huddled in a dark and scary hallway, their eyes all lit up, conveying both the eerie setting and they are all slightly unusual in their own ways.

An IMAX-specific poster has the nascent team standing outside the institution they’re being kept in, with Magick (Illyana) at the front with her sword at the ready. For Dolby Cinemas, they’re arranged like fingers in a bloody handprint on a concrete wall. The Cinemark XD poster arranges their faces in a darkly contrasted photo that’s reminiscent of a teen drama from the 1980s. Finally, the Fandango one-sheet, released about two weeks prior to the movie hitting theaters, takes the concepts back to something more simple, showing all the main characters standing in what’s clearly some sort of cell, with the shadow of wire grates appearing on their faces and the wall behind them.

The Trailers

It’s hard to overstate how odd the first trailer (12 million views on YouTube) from October, 2017, is. There are no character introductions, no sense of what the story might be or anything else. Just a slowed down version of “Another Brick In The Wall Part 2” sung by a children’s choir and footage that sells it as a horror movie. There are even standard horror cliches like strange-colored IV bags, faces that try to protrude from walls and more. It mentions mutants a couple times, but other than that this isn’t notable at all and could easily be selling any of a dozen generic horror films featuring a young cast that are released every year.

In early January of 2020, over two years after that initial spot, the second official trailer (8.2 million views on YouTube) was released as Disney finally gave the movie a locked-in release date. It starts out by showing Dani is the audience’s entry point into the story, having been sent to a mysterious facility after surviving a tragedy that killed the rest of her family. She’s there with other mutants like her, most of whom we meet during a group therapy session. The hospital isn’t what it appears to be, though, and seems to be more interested in torture than healing.

Where the first trailer seemed to be selling the movie as something like The Ring, this is more of a traditional super hero movie, albeit with an apparent focus on psychological torture being conducted on adolescent mutants. That’s a stronger message and allows the trailer to present a more coherent and intriguing story to the audience. But, strangely, it was the last full trailer released.

Online and Social

Very odd that the official site for the movie is so stark and bare, featuring only the most basic of information about the film. It’s not like there hasn’t been time to work on it, but there are no character introductions or anything else to be found here.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

It was surprising, given the ups and downs the movie has experienced, when it was among those Disney showed off to exhibitors and press at CinemaCon 2019, two years after it was first included by Fox at the show in 2017. The studio maintained it would be getting a theatrical release – dispelling rumors it was being shunted to Hulu or another streaming service – and was still on track to hit theaters this year.

Things went quiet for a good long while then until March of this year, about a month before the planned April release date. At that point a TV campaign began that included spots focusing on Dani’s story as she’s taken to the mysterious facility and slowly learns the truth of what’s happening to her and the others, as well as how dangerous mutants are and how they need to work together to escape and survive.

That last spot in particular seemed to mark a new approach to the campaign, one that leaned more fully into the idea of super heroes instead of just positioning the movie as a horror film with gifted individuals.

A roundtable with the cast was released on The CW, an attempt to reach that network’s young audience.

Just as things seemed to finally be rolling, another delay – this time because of Covid-19 related theater closures and disruptions – happened, putting the movie’s future once more in doubt. In May a new August release date was announced, but that date was taken as aspirational more than anything else, and our collective breath was not being held. Still, a new phase of the campaign kicked off shortly after that.

In June released one of their “101” videos that gave viewers an overview of the team’s history and members in comics.

A short teaser introducing the characters and some of their powers was released in early July, also announcing the cast and crew would participate in a remote panel as part of Comic-Con @ Home later in the month. That panel ended by showing off the movie’s opening sequence, which certainly sets a chaotic tone as we see Dani in the middle of some kind of attack that ends with her father’s death and her being taken to the institute.

In mid-August the advertising campaign picked back up with spots that showcased the mystery the characters find themselves in the middle of along with the powers each possesses. Further spots teased more of the action and then, 10 days out, began counting down to the movie hitting theaters.

A featurette hosted by the cast allowed them to introduce their characters and their powers along with the basic outline of the story, shown here to be a mix of psychological horror and super hero action. More detailed introduction videos went a bit in depth on Rahne, Roberto, Dani, Sam and the rest of the characters.

On Spotify, Disney has created a “Young and Powerful Playlist,” a collection of songs “inspired by” the movie and curated by both Boone and the cast.

Media and Publicity

There were certainly conversations about the movie before this but the first major press for the movie came when it was announced it was being pushed by several months to 2019. Shortly after that Boone talked about the tone of the movie and how it was going to push the boundaries of the PG-13 rating, as well as how the characters in the story were too messed up to associate with the more “normal” X-Men.

News broke in late 2017 that the movie’s release date was being pushed well past what it was originally scheduled for, with it later coming out that the delay was at least in part to do reshoots that would introduce a whole new character to the story. That initial delay, which moved it from 4/13/18 to 2/22/19, was followed by another one to 8/2/19, almost a year and a half after its original release date. That’s a *huge* shift and one that, a report later claimed, was due to nearly half the movie needing to be reworked to bring it in line with studio expectations.

Further insights into the delay said Fox was in part reacting to the success of It with a trailer that was very horror-oriented and the reshoots were designed to bring the movie more in line with that expectation, which was different than what was originally filmed. Interestingly, that gave Boone a chance to do what he originally wanted to, since he had to curb his horror-leaning instincts during the initial filming.

While promoting other projects the cast would occasionally talk about this movie as well. Heaton talked about playing Cannonball while on the press circuit for Marrowbone,

Producer Lauren Shuler Donner commented back in February on the movie’s frequent delays and uncertain future with the Fox/Disney merger, saying she hoped the movie still got a theatrical, not streaming, release. The question release date came up when Williams was out promoting the final season of “Game of Thrones,” with the actor saying reshoots had yet to happen – a year after they were reported to be in the works – and she had no idea when the film might finally come out.

Producer Simon Kinberg dismissed concerns over the reshoots and subsequent delays, saying it was all due to some simple “pick up shots” being needed while actor schedules were difficult to wrangle.

Unsurprisingly, the movie’s fate seemed to be even more in doubt following the severe underperformance of Dark Phoenix at the box office. Disney execs reportedly saw little potential in a theatrical release of the film, fueling renewed speculation it would be dumped to Hulu or killed outright.

With all the reports of reshoots – which were never confirmed to have happened – that had circulated, Boone stated in January that the movie slated for release represented his version of the story.

A new batch of photos and character descriptions were released in mid-February to familiarize audiences with who would be in the movie.

During the Emma media tour, Taylor-Joy spoke about this movie and how she’s handled the delays between production and release. A profile of Heaton included him talking about his hesitancy in joining the movie over concerns he would be typecast.

Boone confirmed the story would feature a full-out LGBTQ love story between two main characters in an interview, setting it apart from other franchise films that promote such elements but then wind up allocating it to blink-and-you-miss them situations and characters. At the time of the Comic-Con @ Home panel, Boone hinted that this could be just the first of a planned trilogy of films that ends with a massive crossover story pulled from a key X-Men comics event from the 80s. He also was interviewed about the long time between production and release and what factors might have influenced that, along with how the movie fits into his overall career.

Williams appeared to talk about this movie and more on “The Tonight Show.” She was interviewed again about the film finally being released and what got her involved in the project.

Overall

The shift in tone that the movie’s campaign has undergone isn’t completely surprising given it’s been spread out over almost three years. In that time there have been substantial changes not only in the structure of the studio behind the film, but also in the fate of the X-Men franchise this is part of and, of course, the world in general.

So much time has passed there’s a good chance that the false starts between the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2020 have fallen out of many people’s memories. For all intents and purposes, then, the campaign started fresh around April with the August release date in place.

Using that as the yardstick, this has been a relatively successful campaign, presenting an interesting mix of comic book action and psychological terror. Those themes are consistent through the posters, TV spots and other elements, putting Williams’ Rahne at the forefront but promising lots of other characters with unique powers and backstories to offer audiences.

That there’s no real connection to the X-Men cinematic series to date is obvious but it’s unclear how much that really matters since it’s not what’s being sold here. If the goal was, as has been reported at various points, to present something different along the lines of Deadpool or Logan, the marketing here achieved that goal.

The question then becomes whether the campaign was effective enough to convince people to come out of their homes at a time when public health officials are saying they really shouldn’t do so to see a movie that doesn’t flaunt its connections to a popular franchise and features all-new characters the audience doesn’t already know.

Those are high hurdles to clear, and without more recent tracking or other data it’s hard to tell if it did so. While there may be enough theaters open to support a release like this, there may not be enough people who have been convinced by this campaign to make it a success.

Picking Up The Spare

Two more character introduction videos came out after the movie was in theaters, on for Sam and one for Illyana

More stories about the movie’s backstory and history, including reports that Fox was massively unhappy with the first script from Boone and almost spiked the project entirely. Meanwhile, Bob McLeod, who created the characters for Marvel, took issue with not only how they appeared on screen – though he praised the actors – but also with the fact that Fox/Disney couldn’t even spell his name right in the credits. 

Boone took a potshot at Disney by claiming the gay love story in the film was much more substantial than the one barely seen in The Rise of Skywalker

Another clip/commercial came out that shows Illyana confronting something creepy happening in the hospital. Additional spots encouraged audiences to “find yourself” and more. IMAX also put out a promotional spot for the big screen format and released a brief exclusive interview with Boone.

Marvel Phase Four: Sure, Let’s Do That?

The conventional wisdom seems to be that the movie news and trailers that came out of San Diego Comic-Con were lackluster at best. Sure, a few surprises were dropped like the Walking Dead movie announcement, but in general there weren’t too many jaw-dropping headlines generated. That’s not surprising given Sony, Warner Bros. and Disney (with a notable exception) all sat out the convention.

An exception to that rule was Saturday night’s Marvel Studios panel in Hall H. It was there that the studio finally provided a number of insights into what they have in store now that Avengers: Endgame has put a cap on the first 11 years of stories that have spanned two dozen films. In addition to a number of series for the Disney+ streaming service, those plans include the following films:

  • Black Widow (2020)
  • The Eternals (2020)
  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)
  • Thor: Love and Thunder (2021)
  • Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2021)
  • Blade

marvel studios comic con 2019 thor doctor strange black widow shang chi eternals blade

Unlike announcements from other comics publishers/movie studios, this lineup will likely turn out to be entirely legit and be close to what actually hits theaters. Something may slip by a week or two here or there, but with full casts and creative teams largely locked in it would be a safe bet that all five of these movies come out in the next 30 months.

Of course there are a few notable things about that lineup that need to be considered.

It’s So Weird

Like really weird.

Doctor Strange dealing in some manner with the Multiverse isn’t actually the weirdest of the bunch. That honor goes to The Eternals, a mysterious ancient race created by Jack Kirby after he returned to Marvel following his sting at DC, where he created The New Gods (also being developed for an upcoming film). Some recent stories have tried to retcon aspects of the characters through memory issues and other tricks, but the premise of them being hundreds of thousands or millions of years old and having incredible powers seems to remain largely intact.

Even the titles seem more playful and eccentric than what we’ve seen in the past. Not how Doctor Strange and Shang-Chi don’t actually have subtitles but instead have long, crazy titles that serve as plot summaries. They both sound like the kinds of titles given to film serials in the 40s. And Thor’s subtitle along with the supporting title treatment look like either a PC video game from 1986 or a hard rock album from the same year.

It’s Diverse

It’s great that Natalie Portman is finally getting her own Black Widow movie 10 years after Natasha was introduced in Iron Man 2. That’s a win.

Also good is that Marvel cast an inclusive group of actors for The Eternals. And Shang-Chi features an ethnically appropriate cast, perhaps in part because of the blowback the studio encountered when it cast Vague White Guy #4,382 in the lead role on “Iron Fist” for Netflix and didn’t want to replicate that mistake.

Of course what got the most headlines was that Tessa Thompson hinted – and Kevin Feige later confirmed – that her Valkyrie character was actually LGBTQ and would be more explicitly so in the upcoming Thor movie.

It’s all a far cry from the “Oh look, another white dude named ‘Chris’” approach taken in the casting for the first decade of films.

It’s Got Natalie Portman

Portman hasn’t been seen in the MCU since the second Thor movie, at least in part because she reportedly wasn’t thrilled with how little her character Jane Foster was being given to do. Her not being in Ragnarok was explained away by Feige when he pointed out the movie’s cosmic setting wouldn’t allow Foster to be part of the story but Portman has made other comments about being done.

You have to think, though, that she watched Ragnarok and, like the rest of us, thought that looked like a lot more fun than the previous Thor movies. The prospect of working with director Taika Waititi combined with the story seemingly being inspired by Jason Aaron’s recent comics run that had Foster taking up the mantle of Thor and it’s easy to see why she would make a much heralded return.

It’s Got An Easy Out

What jumps out from the lineup of films here is the lack of connective tissue. There’s no Avengers-like central point that everything seems naturally inclined to come back to and connect with. While there are two sequels and one character spinoff, the rest are essentially one-offs that, to my knowledge, haven’t been setup in previous stories.

That means that if any of these experiments with the absurd don’t pan out, it’s easy for Marvel Studios to say “Well that didn’t work out. We’re going back to the drawing board.” before Phase 5 – which could include the not-announced Fantastic Four, “Mutants” or other sequels for Captain Marvel and Black Panther – kicks off.

Spider-Man: Far From Home – Marketing Recap

You can read my full recap of the marketing campaign for Spider-Man: Far From Home at The Hollywood Reporter.

Online and Social

Surprisingly, the movie’s official website is actually pretty basic and a little boring. It just has the standard marketing content along with a “Fan Art” section that’s a nice touch. There are also links to the Facebook, Instagram and Twitter profiles.

Media and Publicity

Before any other formal publicity had started, Holland showed up in a skit on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” to retrieve his mask and let people know the movie was coming out in the summer of 2019. In early December, Gyllenhaal joined Instagram with a post teasing his role as the movie’s big bad.

Gyllenhaal talked about how this was the right time for him to make the move into big productions while he was promoting Velvet Buzzsaw earlier this year and how he was obsessed with his costar Holland.

During the Avengers: Endgame press cycle, Marvel’s Kevin Feige revealed that this, not Endgame, was actually the final entry in Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, though he was still vague on when the story actually takes place. How that movie impacted this one was the subject of an interview with the creative team. Holland also teased what’s in store for Peter Parker as he tries to be a super hero outside his native New York City.

After the second trailer came out and created all sorts of post-Endgame questions Watts addressed some of them, including how the time jump from that movie might impact the characters in this one.

Much of the primary cast appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” to talk about shooting the film and what they thought of it in relation to Endgame. They also made a surprise appearance at Disneyland to the delight of visitors to a stunt show featuring Spider-Man.

An extended bit on a later episode of “Jimmy Kimmel Live” was billed as an “exclusive clip” but was really just a fake scene with Kimmel playing a dry cleaning employee interacting awkwardly with Peter Parker.

Holland appeared on “The Late Show” to share stories of filming the movie and more. He later teased there were rough plans for him to make a brief cameo in Into the Spider-Verse that were spiked early on in the process. Zendaya stopped by “The Late Show” to talk about filming and stunts and more.

Watts talked more about how he worked over the last couple years with the Russo Brothers to make sure his movie worked in connection with theirs and what surprises he’s planted for fans. He also later explained that scenes included in the trailer that were cut in the final film would reappear in a new short on the home video release.

The cast made an appearance in costume at a Los Angeles children’s hospital to visit patients there.

The Gyllenhaal/Holland pairing on the publicity circuit isn’t quite at Gyllenhaal/Reynolds, but it’s close, reinforced by the results of the photo shoot for another EW cover story.

Overall

One more point I didn’t fully make in my THR column was that, upon further review, there were almost no story stakes presented the campaign for the movie. Sure, Spidey seems to team up with Mysterio at the behest of Fury, but beyond stopping a handful of ill-defined creatures, what does it matter? Neither that showdown nor Peter’s crush on MJ are shown in any way that the outcomes matters in a tangible way.

That’s remarkable and shows that with these massive event movies you don’t need to make the audience care about the characters or story, just show them that they’re there.

Picking Up the Spare

There have been a lot of conversations with the movie’s writers and directors, including one where the writers discussed *that* Nick Fury line from the trailer. The costume designers also talked about the looks sported by Spidey and Mysterio. 

EW offered lots more on the movie, including reports from an earlier set visit and an exclusive custom Snapchat lens.

The movie reportedly received $288 million worth in media promotions from Sony and its partners.

Gyllenhaal’s appearance on “The Late Show” continued the love fest between him and Holland.  

The Empty Cynicism of Avengers: Endgame Returning to Theaters

Last week Marvel Studios and Disney announced – at least kinds sorta – Avengers: Endgame would be returning to theaters. The news actually came from producer Kevin Feige, who said in an interview that there were plans being cooked up, and tickets are going on sale tonight according to CNBC for showtimes this coming weekend.

Unless I’ve completely missed something, there doesn’t appear to be any sort of grassroots groundswell demanding an extended version of a movie many thought was, at 3:01 in its original form, overly long and bloated to begin with. Instead this seems to be among the more cynical ploys engaged in by a Hollywood studio in some time.

Barring more information from Marvel itself, there seem to be a few possibilities for why a movie that’s already grossed $2.7 billion worldwide is coming back to drain audience Venmo accounts just a little bit more.

1: It’s a Spider-Man: Far From Home marketing stunt

Coming just a week before the sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming hits theaters seems like interesting timing, and there’s a decent chance the extended version will have some sort of additional tie to the upcoming movie, the first MCU entry to be set after the events of Endgame. Perhaps there’s an additional post-credits scene that shows Peter Parker reintegrating to society after being brought back to life.

spider-man far from home pic

The two movies seem very closely tied already, with Far From Home’s marketing really ramping up after Endgame was in theaters for a couple weeks so the studio could show more footage and explain what position Peter and other characters were in. So this wouldn’t be a surprising development.

2: Someone *Really* Wants to dethrone Avatar

One of the most common headlines as Endgame began winding down its theatrical run – which is still not fully closed – is that for as big as it was it wasn’t going to be enough to unseat James Cameron’s 2008 sci-fi epic. As it stands right now, Avatar outpaces the final Avengers film by about $37 million worldwide.

avatar

If this is the rationale, it’s solely driven by the desire to claim bragging rights for the MCU. Disney, with its acquisition of Fox, now manages Avatar as well as the Marvel films, so the competition is less “our studio is better than yours” than a passive aggressive interoffice memo.

3: Easy weekend to kill smaller movies

With this past week’s Toy Story 4, Disney already owns four of 2019’s top-grossing films, and the year so far has been filled with stories of how with a few notable exceptions non-franchise films just can’t compete with the behemoths coming out of the studio. Even other series entries or planned launches have fallen by the wayside. With The Lion King, Frozen 2 and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker still on the calendar, there’s little reason to think Disney alone won’t dominate the theatrical landscape.

toy story 4 pic

This weekend is one that has no major blockbuster coming out. Instead there’s a Danny Boyle music drama, a retelling of Hamlet from Ophelia’s perspective and a horror series sequel. In other words, if an Endgame rerelease can gross more than $20 million it’s almost guaranteed to win the weekend, potentially drawing out people who would otherwise be waiting for Spider-Man.

4: Launching Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 4

Feige and others have made it clear that while Far From Home takes place post-Endgame, the Spider-Man sequel is not a part of the next phase of the MCU. In fact, Marvel’s exact plans for the next phase of the shared universe remain murky. While sequels to Captain Marvel, Black Panther and Doctor Strange are in various stages of development, none has an official release date and all seem at least a year or more out. Meanwhile, Feige has said it’s still running through ideas on how – or if – to integrate the characters from the X-Men and Fantastic Four properties it got from Fox.

There’s a decent chance, then, that as the official end of the first era of the Marvel movies. Perhaps it ends with more clear direction for the three characters mentioned above or introduces someone new that hasn’t been seen in the films to date and sets up what’s coming next, providing more definite release dates and titles. The MCU has thrived so far in part because the studio has told fans well in advance what movies are coming out and used each film to set up *something* that will pay off down the road. If it waits too much longer it risks losing the very momentum that’s carried it for the last decade.

As of this moment there’s no official word on the rerelease plans, at least none that have been shared on either the Avengers or Marvel Studios Twitter profiles, two outlets one could reasonably assume would be keen to share the news with followers. While this is likely to be framed as being “for the fans” there’s a more strategic and calculated rational that probably won’t be part of the announcement, whenever it comes. It’s either because such a release would play a role in other marketing plans, or Marvel is going full Al Capone on any and all competition.

UPDATE: These plans were confirmed, with the poster below being given away at select screenings.

avengers endgame rerelease poster

Avengers: Endgame – Marketing Recap

You can read the rest of my recap of the marketing campaign for Avengers: Endgame at The Hollywood Reporter. My coverage of the PSA effort for Stand Up To Cancer also ran on Adweek.

Online and Social

For such a big movie, Marvel’s official website isn’t very informative, perhaps by design. You’ll find both trailers and some basic background on the film, including links to on-site blog posts offering readers a refresher on what’s come before, as well as a list of the promotional partners who helped draft off the movie’s buzz.

Media and Publicity

Of course the movie couldn’t help but come up as the cast was out promoting other projects, as Smulders, Jackson and others were all compelled to comment on it in some manner.

Ruffalo appeared on “The Tonight Show” to help debut the second trailer and answer (or not) questions about the movie. Duke also mentioned the movie while promoting Us last month.

A substantial profile on Evans had the actor talking about not only the future of Captain America and his part in the MCU but also the political stances he’s taken, with him saying staying silent wasn’t an option even if it meant alienating some portion of the audience and potentially costing him work.

The movie’s substantial length became the focus of many conversations in the last month prior to release following the revelation that it was clocking in around three hours, a full 30 minutes longer than Infinity War. The Russos rationalized the expanded time by pointing out the movie wrapped up the story that had been told over 20+ movies and featured dozens and dozens of characters.

A different subset of cast members appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” each night the week of April 8-12, bringing clips and more. That started with Downey, Johannson, Hemsworth and Rudd followed by Renner and Cheadle. Around the same time they showed up on “Good Morning America.”

In the final few weeks of the press cycle, two themes emerged in terms of what the cast and crew were telling interviewers and talk show hosts:

  1. “Let us explain…” That’s what the Russo brothers did to clarify why Captain Marvel is wearing more makeup in this movie than she did in her solo outing (a ridiculous topic).
  2. “We don’t know nothing…” That’s what Hemsworth, Cheadle and others did when asked what they knew about the movie’s story, which isn’t surprising given they’re all just small parts in a very big machine.
  3. “[X] has returned…” That’s what was behind interviews and profiles of Tessa Thompson, who confirmed that she couldn’t confirm anything, and Rudd/Renner, who spoke of how they are finally able to rejoin their comrades.

An EW cover story reunited the original team for a retrospective interview and offered up other photos and details, but not too much.

At the end of the campaign there were profiles of Feige as well as his two long-time aides. The screenwriters were interviewed on how they worked to bring together so many different storylines and characters into something coherent as well as how they reintroduced some of the previously missing heroes. Feige and Downey Jr. reminisced on the beginnings of the MCU, when the idea of a shared cinematic universe was still a “best case scenario” and the bets were much more unsure.

Rudd was announced as the host of an upcoming episode of “Saturday Night Live.”

One final TV spot released the day the movie hit theaters played up the overwhelmingly positive reviews it was getting. A video had a bunch of the stars reminding the audience not to spoil anything for those who haven’t seen it yet.

Adding to the movie’s profile was the news from Fandango it now held the record for the most advance tickets sold.

Larson came on “The Tonight Show” and revealed she shot her first appearance with the rest of the Avengers – which appears at the end of her own movie – on a green screen with no one else around and no idea what her one line meant. Rudd also appeared to have some fun with Fallon.

The media agency Kantar estimated that all in, Disney spent close to $14 million on the marketing and advertising campaign, with TV buys making up a little over half of that and a good chunk of the advertising coming the day tickets went on sale a couple weeks ago.

avengers-endgame-kantor-chart

Another profile of Winston Duke mentioned this movie as well as his appearance in Us.

More details revealed here on the partnership with Fortnite.

Overall

avengers endgame gif

Picking Up the Spare

Wayne Friedman at MediaPost points out how the majority of the movie’s campaign – and ad spending – came in the final month leading up to release. Jeff Beer at Fast Company also has his own recap of some of the movie’s cross-promotional campaign. There was also a look at how altered shots in the trailers kept some of the movie’s secrets hidden. 

Google added a fun little tool for those who searched for “Thanos.” 

Additional TV spots promised a “once in a generation event” and played up all the records the movie was breaking. 

Another short promotional video shows how every movie has lead to this one while also reminding audiences not to spoil the ending for anyone. Some of the cast reminisced about their favorite memories as part of the MCU. 

Brolin appeared on “Kimmel,” as did Sebastian Stan. 

IMAX continued promoting the filmmakers use of its large-format cameras with another video. 

Trolls continued to hound Larson, criticizing her junket appearances to the point where costar Don Cheadle felt the need to smack them down. 

The writers and directors of the movie kept talking about various aspects of the story and characters. 

Once the spoiler lid lifted more details about the story started to official come out, including a profile on the effects of Professor Hulk, who was also featured in a clip. 

Gillan was the subject of two profiles focusing on her role in the movie. 

Captain Marvel – Marketing Recap

You can read my full recap of the marketing campaign for Captain Marvel at The Hollywood Reporter.

Media and Publicity

Larson talked briefly while promoting another movie about the pressure she felt to get the character right. An interview with Gregg let him tease that we’re going to meet a younger, greener Coulson in the movie, someone who’s still pretty new to SHIELD.

In early September we were finally given our first good look at Larson in character and in costume thanks to an Entertainment Weekly cover story package. That included her talking about what drives and motivates Carol and what kind of tone the movie was taking, a first look at an actual Skrull on-screen, a first look at a digitally de-aged Jackson as Nick Fury and a photo of Law as Mar-Vell along with comments from him. Unexpectedly there was also a pic of Lashana Lynch as Maria Rambeau, mother to Monica, a name that has lots of future implications.

Additional stories explained the movie’s mid-90s setting, how Mendelsohn got involved and what he thinks about the Skrulls and some hints about what role Carol is going to have in future of the MCU. Feige also promised there were more female-led movies coming, though we’ve been hearing that for years.

Mendelssohn was interviewed about his role and how he got involved.

While Law’s role had been referred to in a cagey way throughout production, it was officially confirmed in late December of last year. How Larson trained and otherwise prepared for the role was the subject of an interview with the actress that also included comments from others about her dedication and work ethic. The filmmakers also spoke about what kinds of films they were pulling influences from in order to make this one.

As with a number of other big releases featuring diverse casts, a number of fundraisers were instituted to make sure girls who otherwise couldn’t afford to could see the movie.

Benning appeared on “Late Night” to talk about the movie and share a clip that revealed who exactly she was playing in the film. It was also nice to see Kelly Sue DeConnick, who revitalized the character and gave her the costume and look she sports in the movie, be profiled.

With some helpful promotion by celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres and others a crowdfunding campaign to help underprivileged girls see the movie for free raised over $60,000 as of late February, well over its initial goal.

Nerdist took things a step further with a retro trailer that uses footage from a bunch of 90s movies – including Jackson’s own Die Hard With a Vengeance – and cuts with scenes from this film. EW also dug into the past with another cover story about the movie that reused the cover layout, fonts and logos. That package included a profile of Goose.

Directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck were interviewed about bringing the first solo female hero to the MCU and all the topics and themes they wanted to explore. They, along with comics writer Kelly Thompson and others, also addressed how the film helps bring some much-needed female representation into the franchise.

Larson and the rest of the crew made appearances on various talk shows to hype the film just a little bit more. The directors and writer also commented on the trope that female characters like Captain Marvel need to “smile more” in order to be likable, particularly among men.

Overall

captain marvel gif

Picking Up the Spare

IMAX put out a new featurette with the cast of the movie talking about how great it looks in the large-screen format. Another had the crew talking about creating the world of the story while a third had Larson and Jackson making an overt appeal for the audience to see it in that large format.

Jackson made a couple more appearances on TV like this, as did Chan.

Costar Lashana Lynch got a profiles just before the and immediately after the movie’s release, which was cool to see. Similarly, Gemma Chan’s role in the film received more attention.

An official featurette had the stars trying to spill secrets about the movie while additional TV spots focused on the movie’s box-office win.

The U.S. Air Force’s involvement in the movie and its use of Carol Danvers as a recruitment tool for women has come under some scrutiny given the service’s problems protecting pilots from sexual assault and prosecuting offenders.

Goose continued to be a part of the campaign even after release, with a TV spot focusing on the positive reviews the cat received and a video asking if you can find the real Goose.

The women who brought the character and movie to life have no plans to slow down their quest for domination.

Marvel Studios put out a featurette about the firsts the movie represented for the cast and crew. 

Celebrate the Minifig’s 40th Anniversary With These LEGO Movie Posters

Given how pervasive LEGO construction sets based on movies have become, it might be hard to believe the first ones appeared less than 20 years, one of the tie-ins promoting Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. Over the subsequent two decades there have been plenty of other partnerships for franchises including Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, Jurassic World and more.

Since 2012 The LEGO Group has kicked up their film marketing activities significantly, producing officially-sanctioned posters for a handful of movies – usually the same ones they’ve created toy sets for – that have gotten lots of attention and helped both sides of the partnership.

In general, these alternate versions are recreations of a movie’s theatrical or teaser poster, taking the same layout and arrangement and simply replacing the human actors with minifigs and the ships or buildings with their LEGO equivalents. The results are often charming and playful where the originals may seem more serious and dour.

In the six-plus years LEGO has been producing these posters it’s focused primarily on a handful of key franchises with broad audience awareness and passionate fanbases that are likely to be interested in these kinds of variants, sometimes available exclusively as promotional swag at San Diego Comic-Con or other events.

To celebrate last week’s 40th anniversary of the LEGO minifig, let’s look at the times when minifig versions of movie characters have graced posters for some of Hollywood’s highest-profile releases.

Marvel Cinematic Universe

Beginning with 2012’s The Avengers, LEGO has produced poster variants for many Marvel Studios releases. Those include Iron Man 3, Thor: Ragnarok, Avengers: Infinity War, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Black Panther and Ant-Man.

Star Wars

force awakens lego posterNo movie series is perhaps more closely associated with LEGO than Star Wars. It was, as mentioned above, the first licensed franchise the company got involved with and kicked off a 20 year relationship.

It wasn’t until 2015, though, that LEGO Group started producing themed posters for the franchise. That started with bricked versions of the one-sheets for the Original and Prequel Trilogy films. Specifically, the theatrical posters for the Prequels were recreated while it was the Special Edition versions of the OT movies that were updated. Of course that was all part of the build up for The Force Awakens, which got its own LEGO poster later in the year.

Since then each new Star Wars movie has received LEGO promotional posters. That includes Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Star Wars: The Last Jedi – for which there both theatrical and character posters – and Solo: A Star Wars Story.

DC Comics

Putting aside the fact that much of the marketing for 2014’s The LEGO Movie and 2017’s The LEGO Batman Movie was focused around selling LEGO-ized versions of the Dark Knight, the toy company has provided support for the more…serious…cinematic takes on DC’s stable of heroes.

There were LEGO versions of the character posters for 2015’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice came out as well as for 2017’s Justice League and that same year’s Wonder Woman.

batman v superman lego

Apple even got in on the fun, putting out LEGO recreations of the posters for the first four Batman movies – the ones released between 1989 and 1997 – to help promote the home video debut of The LEGO Batman Movie.

LEGO’s promotional activities for these and other movies doesn’t end at the occasional poster, of course. This year saw a life-size LEGO recreation of the Millennium Falcon cockpit from Solo at San Diego Comic-Con. The annual convention also frequently features full-size sculptures of heroes and villains from that year’s big super hero movie, including Thanos, Wonder Woman, Captain America and others. SDCC attendees can also usually buy exclusive movie-tie in sets at the company’s booth.

There was also an official LEGO version of the Solo trailer released earlier this year as part of the hype cycle for that movie and a minifig recreation of the first promotional photo for Rogue One. On social media LEGO also has some fun with its preferred franchise partners, sharing a GIF from Spider-Man: Homecoming, reacting to the trailer for the new Fantastic Beasts movie and more.

So here’s to 40 years of the ubiquitous minifig. You’ve been stepped on in the middle of the night by many a barefooted parent, but you’ve also provided some fun movie marketing moments.

The Best Marvel Cinematic Universe Plane Jump Scenes

A couple weeks ago Paramount launched a massive campaign for Mission: Impossible – Fallout centered around Tom Cruise’s willingness and ability to do his own stunt work. One of the key sequences featured in the campaign was his HALO jump, something that was used on the IMAX poster, was the subject of a number of featurettes and more.

Watching Cruise and the rest of the cast and crew endlessly talk about how he engaged in several jumps to get all the shots necessary for the film – efforts he was joined in by the requisite technical crew – got me thinking about other notable “jumping out of a perfectly good airplane” moments on film. Specifically, I started thinking about how that device has been one used a number of times in various entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

That’s a niche subset, of course, as plenty of other action/adventure movies have similar scenes. But Marvel Studios loves having its characters engage in a little skydiving, so here are four such moments from the first 10 years of the MCU.

Iron Man 2

Tony Stark doesn’t do subtle and that includes making an entrance at the revived Stark Expo. So when he wants to get everyone’s attention he jumps out the back of a cargo plane and flies down, dodging (mostly) the fireworks being set off below until he finally makes the super hero landing on stage amid a line of dancing girls in Iron Man outfits.

The scene is notable for a couple reasons. First, it shows how brash Stark has become in the years since outing himself as the hero. Second, the trailer shows Pepper Potts dramatically kissing the Iron Man helmet before throwing it out the back, sending Tony out to retrieve it. That’s not how it plays out in the film, though, as he just jumps with helmet on after a bit of flirtation with Pepper.

Captain America: Winter Soldier

By the time of The Winter Soldier, Cap has already established himself as a hero in the modern age and found a purpose through working with SHIELD. Joining a strike team that includes Black Widow to rescue a ship that’s been taken hostage by terrorists at sea, Cap of course leads from the front, diving – sans parachute – into the ocean to stealthily board the ship and prepare the way for the rest of the team.

There is, of course, the dialogue between two other team members about whether or not he was wearing a parachute when he jumped that establishes how tough Cap is. But it’s his exchange with Widow before jumping that really stands out for me as it helps establish *who* the character is. Talking about his love life, or lack thereof, is everyday workplace banter and it shows that Natasha is what might be called his “work wife.” The exchange displays how even extraordinary people sometimes have ordinary conversations and lives that have to be fit in and round their adventures.

The Incredible Hulk

With Abomination rampaging through Harlem, Bruce Banner has finally convinced the military that’s long been hunting and trying to control him that he can be useful. So they fly him toward the chaos. Still in human form, he intentionally falls out of the craft, assuming the adrenaline spike from doing so will trigger the transformation into the Hulk, something that doesn’t go quite as planned, but it all turns out alright in the end.

One of the main themes with the Hulk is that the change into the creature is often outside of Banner’s control. In the movie he’s spent years trying to keep it from happening and regretting when it does. Now he *wants* to change and can’t, something that will come up in later movies. It also sets the stage for Banner’s line in The Avengers about having tried to kill himself, only to have “the other guy” emerge and survive.

Black Panther

Over the course of the movie we see time and again what kind of man, king and hero T’Challa is. Right at the outset it’s established he’s not only conquered his fear but he’s done so in part thanks to his belief in the technology and skills of those around him. That’s why when he’s about to raid a convey of human traffickers he doesn’t hesitate to be spit out the bottom of the plane he’s in, falling (again without parachute) toward the ground still able to disperse other weapons and ultimately land where he needed to be.

What’s great about this is that, as I said, he’s completely confident in the way he’s leaving the aircraft, showing no fear and no concern about his fate. That winds up being in stark contrast to how he freezes when he comes face to face with his ex-girlfriend, who’s been undercover as a victim of the traffickers and who isn’t as grateful as he expected for the rescue.

What did I miss? Which one is your favorite?

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