Film critic Matt Taylor looks at the recently released Avengers: Endgame trailer, and looks back at what makes Marvel trailers a cut above the rest

Third year English student and Film Editor with the capacity to geek
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Images by Marvel Studios

Marvel Studios really know how to make a good trailer. On Friday December 7th, they dropped the trailer for hugely anticipated sequel Avengers: Endgame (a title first revealed in the trailer itself), and it is a perfect example of how to make a film trailer for the modern, social media-going age.

But this isn’t really anything new for Marvel Studios – they’ve always been good at marketing their films. If we look at the trailers for their last few outings (Civil War and onwards), we have plenty of excellent trailers for excellent movies that (mostly) give very little away, but still build excitement, intrigue and anticipation. This is something that many modern studios don’t seem to understand.

A friend recently pointed out to me that if a ‘Final Trailer’ is released, then the film it concerns is likely to be poor, thus needing as much promotion as possible to get a decent box office return. Films such as Venom and even Avengers: Age of Ultron (which I think we can all admit now was massively subpar) follow this rule to a tee. But even without a ‘Final Trailer’, some studios just can’t get it right. This tends to come from bigger studios, and the biggest culprits are Sony and Warner Bros.

For some reason I still can’t fathom, Warner Bros decided to release a nearly six-minute long trailer for their upcoming DC flick Aquaman. Six minutes. Six! For a trailer! I watched it out of curiosity, and by the time it had finished, I felt like I had just watched the whole film. It featured clips from seemingly every action sequence, a good deal of exposition and world-building, and a handful of jokes to boot. As yet I haven’t seen Aquaman, so am unsure of how much there is left to be gained by actually purchasing a ticket, but based on past experiences I feel like there will be few surprises in store.

I had a similar feeling when watching the second trailer for Marvel’s own Spider-Man: Homecoming. As part of their deal with Sony, Marvel had creative control while Sony got distribution rights, meaning they had full control over the trailers. The first trailer they released was a good one, seeming to capture the spirit of the character while also pushing him in a new direction that we hadn’t seen before in a feature film. The second trailer undid all this. Spider-Man’s arc in Homecoming is that he has to discover his superhero identity without the aid of his super-powered suit. That’s his journey for the film, and it’s a solid one. It’s just a shame then that we’re explicitly told in the trailers that Tony Stark takes away Peter’s suit because of a botched mission, and he’s left to fight the Vulture in his homemade suit that’s basically a hoodie and a pair of bright blue joggers. Don’t get me wrong, I love Homecoming as much as the next film fan, but this infuriated me. I could not understand why the entire point of the movie was made so explicit in a trailer – I had and still have no idea.

This isn’t limited to just comic book movies either; plenty of films have had twists, reveals or plot details ruined by their trailers. There are so many. I’m talking about the likes of Contagion, GoldenEye, The Island, Terminator: Salvation, Terminator: Genisys, Cast Away, Spider-Man 3, Southpaw, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to name but a few. There is a common theme here of big-budget, studio-backed sequels wanting to make as much money as possible to justify their existence. Where that doesn’t apply, we’re talking about much smaller thrillers or dramas that just want an audience; and sadly have to spoil themselves in the hopes of selling tickets. It’s a travesty.

And that’s why the Marvel model of trailer-making is so good. I’m especially talking about Civil War, Infinity War, and Endgame here. In the cases of the former two, we were treated to two main trailers and a Superbowl TV spot, all of which gave very little away. The Civil War trailers made us assume that the airport fight would be the film’s climax – not so. Directors Antony and Joe Russo fooled us completely, instead opting for a much smaller, more personal final showdown that stands as one of the best end sequences of any modern action movie, and the trailers don’t even mention the character of Zemo, who ends up being key to the film’s events. A similar trick was pulled in Infinity War; we were given a brief outline of plot and background to our villain, a few character bits, and some shots of action sequences. We are actually given clips from nearly every action sequence in the film, but the way they are edited leaves us clueless as to how everything will fit together in the final film. And we definitely didn’t expect that ending.

Which brings me to Avengers: Endgame. The trailer is two minutes and 25 seconds long including logos and titles, and every second of it could be taken from the first ten minutes of this potentially three-hour film. There’s no plot in place here – we don’t even see Thanos properly – it’s all character work. The big focus is Tony’s hopelessness at being stuck alone in space and Steve’s fear of losing again. It is a marked U-turn from the Infinity War trailer, which treated us to a spectacle of action while teasing its villain – none of that is present here. Marvel knows that they have their audience – they don’t need to tell us the whole plot to get bums in seats – they will have them whatever happens. They know what we want, so all they want to do is to whet our appetites. Sure, they’ll give us a few tidbits here and there (Shuri got hit by Thanos’ snap, anyone? And how did Scott escape from the Quantum Realm?), but that’s just to keep us guessing. It’s been said that only three complete scripts exist for the film, and that is a testament as to how secretive Marvel want to be with this. They know what we want, and they just want to tease us. In a world full of spoilers, Marvel have perfected the art of the modern trailer.

Bring on the Endgame.