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Releasing trailers late in the game, keeping things under wraps as long as possible and staying out of the spotlight to let older siblings shine: Is it possible that Marvel’s Captain America: The First Avenger will turn out to be the model of the superhero movie that perfected promotion for the genre?
Maybe it’s just me, but for some reason Captain America feels like the anti-Green Lantern in terms of promotion in a way in which I wouldn’t have expected; while both movies debut little over a month apart, Green Lantern was all about giving you as much as possible as early as possible, debuting the first image of the hero in costume almost a year before the movie’s release, as opposed to Captain America doing so six months later (Both, however, gave the exclusive to Entertainment Weekly — some things, it seems, transcend approaches to marketing). Similarly, the trailers for Green Lantern seemed designed to dazzle with special effects and colors as opposed to really giving any idea of the plot beyond “Ryan Reynolds is comedy screw-up who gets magic ring, things explode,” whereas each of Cap‘s three trailers have focused on the – for want of a better term – emotional journey the character has to go through to become the eponymous hero, with all the derring-do afterward implied more than shown. The difference is marked, and telling in terms of the confidence the two studios had in their product, Cap‘s relaxed “Yeah, this is what we’re doing, you should come see” against Lantern‘s “OHMYGODHAVEYOUSEENTHISAIEE”; one is inviting, the other desperate.
There’s actually something odd about the feeling of still learning new things, or seeing new visuals, about a big blockbuster movie this close to its release; it seems so counter to the way these things are generally sold to us, with the “important” images and plot points signposted way, way in advance so as to already have that feeling of inevitability and nostalgia by the time the movie actually gets released (The Onion’s joke about the marketing of Green Lantern is astonishingly on the nose, in this respect). But it’s a refreshing, wonderful change: I found myself happily surprised to watch this latest Captain America trailer and thinking “Yeah, that looks better than the last trailer, which looked better than the teaser. I think I’d enjoy this movie.”
It’s possible that the timing was entirely accidental, the result of having to wait for Thor to prime viewers and arrive in theaters, but even so: This would be a great model for genre movies to consider, in terms of future promotion – It’s not as secretive as, say, Super 8, but if there’s one piece of conventional wisdom that that particular movie overturned, it’s that you have to show everything to lure audiences into the theater. Consider Captain America as a more reasonable version of the JJ Abrams model, where the tease gets some payoff before the movie’s release, but still remains important as a tease; maybe, the success — if Cap is a success — of these two movies might convince studios that less is more and later can be better when it comes to trailers and promotion in the future.
…Of course, if Captain America flops, I fully expect more movies to give the entire game away in the first full trailer and then just move scenes around for each new trailer, as per Pirates of The Caribbean, Transformers: Dark Of The Moon and almost every other big release this year. On the plus side, that generally means the trailers save you the cost of actually having to go and see the movies themselves.