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.

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.

Who’s Not at SDCC

Some Big Upcoming Movies Aren’t At San Diego Comic-Con This Year

Those attending San Diego Comic-Con this year will not lack for promotional and publicity stunts for some major movies hitting theaters in the near future. Bumblebee, Fantastic Beasts 2, Glass and plenty of others will have some combination of Hall H panels, events outside the convention center and other activities to try and make an impression on the hundreds of thousands of people in attendance, all of whom try to cross the light rail tracks at the same time throughout the day.

While the lineup will still be substantial there are going to be some heavy-hitters notable for their absence. There’s always the possibility a studio or two will pull a surprise appearance out of their bag of tricks, but at this point a last-minute announcement might raise more questions than it answers. Here are some of the big-name franchises and movies that aren’t going to be braving what’s expected to be blazing hot temperatures in San Diego this year.

No More Mutants

Fox has a few promotions planned to promote the home video release of Deadpool 2, including a star-studded panel and later screening of the “Super Duper $@%!#& Cut” that’s hitting DVD and Blu-ray in the near future.

deadpool 2 pic 2

Missing, though, are the next two movies in the studio’s X-Men franchise, New Mutants and X-Men: Dark Phoenix. The former was originally scheduled for release this past April before it was moved to February 2019 and then all the way to August of next year. That shift has reportedly been to allow for reshoots to play up the horror elements of the story, which is the tone struck in the first trailer released back in October 2017.

Dark Phoenix was also pushed back, though not as significantly, from November of this year to February of 2019 to accommodate reshoots. Still, the bump means the movie is seven months out from Comic-Con and not four, so a formal launch of the marketing might be a bit premature. There’s a slight chance director Simon Kinberg could show off a sizzle reel or something else, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Mr. Marvel, I Don’t Feel So Well

Marvel Studios not having a big presence at SDCC is…well…big. They’ve used Comic-Con to create hype for almost all its previous movies at some level or another over the last 10+ years, including debuting the full cast of the first Avengers movie to the Hall H crowd in 2010 and more. There’s sure to be some representation – props and such – at the Marvel Comics booth on the show floor, but that will likely be it.

Infinity War Trailer 2 Header

That’s in large part because Marvel isn’t ready to unveil more details around what happens to the MCU post-Infinity War just yet. They’re sure to face a group of fans who want answers about what happens to their favorite characters after Thanos snapped his fingers and know how next year’s Captain Marvel will play into things. Plus, they haven’t announced the title for Avengers 4 yet, so they don’t really have all the much to show. This is a case where more damage can be done by someone’s offhand remark than by maintaining silence so better to skip the event completely.

It’s Not Wise to Upset A Wookie

Along those same lines – and also related to corporate owner Disney – the Star Wars franchise is largely taking a break from San Diego this year, at least in terms of promoting new material.

solo pic 6

Solo: A Star Wars Story sat out SDCC 2017 because the publicity and marketing cycle for that movie hadn’t started yet. Lucasfilm was still in the midst of promotion The Last Jedi, and the Solo campaign wouldn’t start until February of this year, just three months before it hit theaters so it wouldn’t interfere or overlap with that of TLJ.

This year the studio 1) Doesn’t want to hear it from disgruntled fans who were upset either by Solo or The Last Jedi and 2) Isn’t quite ready to start the promotions for Episode IX, which doesn’t come out until December 2019.

It’s not sitting out the convention completely, though. It’s bringing a life-size replica of the Millennium Falcon cockpit from Solo to its booth on the show floor and hosting panel celebrating the 10th anniversary of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the TV series that quickly went on to become a fan-favorite.

Again, there are sure to be at least a few surprises that happen. That’s always the case with San Diego Comic-Con. But at the moment it looks like some of the entertainment world’s biggest names and franchises will be following along on Twitter just like the rest of us.

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