The Super Bowl LV Movie Commercials

OK, but we can all still agree Tom Brady is the worst, right?

As the date of Super Bowl LV approached, there were a number of stories indicating Hollywood studios may not be throwing the game much support. Indeed, in a year where the number of overall commercials that were teasing their spots in advance – or releasing them in full – in advance of the game seemed to be low, studio advertising seemed to be following the trend.

The reality turned out to be slightly different. While the number of movie commercials was certainly lower than it has been in past years, there were more than appear to have been expected.

Reasons for the dearth of movie spots likely vary, but factoring heavily into studio considerations has to be that of the nine movies advertised during last year’s Superb Owl, six still haven’t come out. That’s in part because of the coronavirus theater closures and the insistence – on the part of the studios, filmmakers or both – that the movies go to theaters and not streaming. Of the remaining three, only two actually did get a traditional theatrical release, but only just under the pandemic wire. The other one – Disney’s Mulan remake – went to streaming via Disney+.

So what movies were advertised last night?

The Super Bowl LV Lineup

Nobody (Universal, 4/2/21): Bob Odenkirk as a criminal “auditor,” someone who comes in to clean up a mess someone else has left, may seem like an odd choice given it’s not a franchise or remake. But when you see that Universal is selling it as a slightly more comedic John Wick and consider Odenkirk’s profile is still high given his starring role in “Better Call Saul,” it makes a bit more sense.

Old (Universal, July): This is the first look at the new film from M. Night Shyamalan, who is enjoying a career and reputation resurgence, so Universal must have felt it had enough appeal to advertising during the game. It teases the usual Shyamalan mystery, clearly trying to get some word of mouth speculation and anticipation built up.

Raya and the Last Dragon (Disney, 3/5/21): Like Mulan, Disney will offer this Raya on Disney+ via “Premier Access,” meaning an additional fee on top of the standard subscription charge. I’m a little surprised, then, that the spot is so action focused and doesn’t offer more of a comedic pitch like the recent trailer.

F9 (Universal, 5/28/21): The only repeat from last year, F9 was one of the first movies to have its release date pushed an entire year, meaning unlike others it hasn’t gone through 13 cycles of “oh it’s coming out now…no, now…no, wait…”.

Coming 2 America (Amazon Studios, 3/5/21): The only pure-play streaming movie of those advertised, Amazon is looking for a return on the money it paid Paramount to acquire this film and so sells it using scenes and other gags that are likely familiar to fans of the first movie.

Without Remorse (Amazon Studios, 4/30/21): OK, not actually a full-blown movie commercial, but Amazon took advantage of Michael B. Jordan being in their commercial for Alexa (which oddly sexualizes technology in a way that we shouldn’t be wholly comfortable with) to also plug the Tom Clancy adaptation he stars in. The movie, another Paramount acquisition, got a new release date as well.

What Was Missing?

With just five movies making the cut, and knowing the struggles studios have had with release dates, it’s hard not to read into which titles were notable by their absence from the ad lineup.

No Marvel: You might think if Marvel Studios/Disney believed Black Widow was actually sticking to its early May release date, a commercial would have run. Instead, the only Marvel property to be advertised was the upcoming “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” Disney+ series. That decision may also represent producer Kevin Feige’s recent focus on series over movies, but still…

No HBO: This is actually the most surprising of the omissions. HBO has been releasing a number of commercials and other promos in the last two months to raise awareness and interest in the fact that HBO Max will stream Warner Bros.’ entire 2021 lineup day-and-date with theatrical release. So to not see a commercial here that touts the release of titles like The Suicide Squad, Godzilla vs. Kong and others – in addition to the rest of the service’s catalog, seems like a missed opportunity, especially after the success of Wonder Woman 1984 on the platform.

No Netflix: Similarly, Netflix made headlines recently when it announced it would release a new feature film every week of 2021. Given the…fungible…nature of studio release dates over the last 11 months, such reliability coupled with ease of access could have been a great boost to subscriber numbers. That’s especially true when you consider some of those movies are big-budget action films and comedies starring Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds and others in addition to the usual mid-tier dramas and tear-jerking romances.