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Did Captain America Get It All Right?

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.


  • Ben

    I agree with this. When the first Cap trailer came out, I wasn’t psyched or impressed. It looked good enough, but it didn’t make me anticipate the film. But this new one totally got me – I got those “I gotta see this!” goosebumps! I’m now eagerly waiting for Cap to get released.

  • bbnetman

    Same here, I like this marketing model better.

  • Lackshmana

    I don’t know how a general audience will see this, but I feel like whenever a film based on an existing IP is announced, the first question fans ask is,”what are they gonna change?”

    With Cap, they have been dripping us answers to slowly eat away at our cynicism.

    Yes he will have a costume (one of the best I think they have ever done).

    Yes it will have the wings.

    Yes he will have the shield.

    Yes their will be Nazis.

    Yes he will throw the shield.

    No, they aren’t running away from being American.

    Each trailer peeled away more and more of the concerns that fans had about alterations to the iconic character and story.

    We still don’t know if the movie will do well, or even be any good, but I actually had the least hope for Captain America and after being fairly disappointed with the recent super hero flicks, I am fighting a pretty strong urge to get excited for this film.

  • Max

    Cap got the marketing on the dot.  Its teasing the character’s growth, but holding a lot of the meat back.  Cap’s trailers don’t feel like their summing up the entire movie in thirty seconds just the first half at most. 

  • Justin Cresswell

    I am 100% on board with everything I’ve seen from the promotions for this movie. Huge Cap fan for as long as I can remember. Looks and feels like a massive success.

  • Ian Craig

    I completely agree.
    Think of this: I imagine the Cap movie ends with a fight between Cap and the Red Skull (or at least something), but the trailers have shown absolutely none of this. The GL trailers, on the other hand, have shown a good deal of what I imgaine is the “big fight” between Hal and Paralax (I haven’t actually seen the movie yet, so I might be wrong). This makes me much more interested for Cap, while I’m seriously considering waiting for DVD with GL given the buzz I’ve heard.

  • Dave Morris

    I agree, the Cap trailers have given us a lot of the set-up and pointed up the character’s arc, but they’ve wisely not shown too much if anything of the third act. I was never a big Cap fan but I’m much keener to see this movie than GL.

  • Anonymous

    I’m a bigger fan of movie trailers holding things back, which was why I wasn’t so enamored with this last look.  This one, to my mind, laid out the entire film for you.  We see the beginning, middle, and end sections of the film.  Were it not for the fact that I hope Cap gets me over the heartbreak that was GL, I’d say I pretty much didn’t need to see it after that, much like one of the recent Planet of the Apes trailers.

  • Cactussam

    I think the perfect marketing was for a comic book movie, not Cap though. Dark Knight’s marketing was perfect and still left a lot of mystery with never seeing Two-Face (and not even Harvey Dent until the second full trailer that was with Iron Man.)

  • David

    I think the only thing that’s really preventing me from getting off-the-wall excited for this picture as I was for Green Lantern (and I wasn’t disappointed on that one) is that you know where it’s going. With the Avengers coming out next summer, my enthusiasm for this project is limited because it feels like more build-up for the actual movie you’re supposed to be excited for

  • Jacob

    He’ll actually have both shields in the movie. Which is even better.

  • Jacob

    While geeks will get everything in the trailer, there’s still going to be plenty of surprises for average movie goers. None of them going in will realize Cap won’t be walking away from the end of the story. It laid it all out for us, but we’re not really the intended audience here.

  • demoncat_4

    i agree that marvel must be on to something with the cap film by the way they did the trailers making fans really want to see cap go after the red skull who looks his nasty self. marvel may be on to something to get people to see movies the way they are doing the trailers.but one will have to wait to see if marvel had a good idea the way they promote cap when captian america hits.

  • O.

    The marketing does seem to be executed well but Red Skull could’ve been kept under wraps for longer, with just a glimpse of his true, ugly visage in one of the later trailers.

  • Jacob

    I’d’ve liked that too, but they needed his face known for posters. Just having Weaving’s ugly (but handsome in a villainous way) mug wouldn’t have gabbed enough attention.

  • Richardcasey

    Surely the reason for Green Lantern’s bigger push was because there was less awareness of that character, sure not by much, but i’d bet money on the fact that more people have at least HEARD of Captain America than Green Lantern.

  • Tommy Marx

    I am interested in seeing Captain America. But David hit the nail on the head. It really does feel more like a “let’s get the origin story over with so we can deal with the real adventure” than an actual movie. Maybe it’s because of the unnecessary “First Avenger” subtitle, or maybe it’s because I don’t understand the need to introduce a hero from WWII, but I am not as excited about this movie as I might have been, even with Chris Evans in the title role.

  • 0bsessions

    They actually released a promo clip showing Two Face (The scene in the bar) a full month prior to release and the fact it’d happen was pretty obvious from other promo material (Harvey getting doused in gas on one side of his face made it in). Additionally, leaks of Two Face’s look and involvement came out when the toy line was announced.

  • Old comic lovin’ dude

    Trailers are contingent on what film makers have available to release to the public.  Green Lantern’s special effects & CGI were running behind AND most of the movie is special effects.  CA is mostly stunts w/CGI, making for reasonable deadlines to finish film making and having the entire marketing department see the move BEFORE advertising it.  That’s something WB’s people didn’t get the chance to do.  LOOK, I’ve worked in Hollywood.  To Hollywood, comic book movies are just ANOTHER action movie.  Don’t think so much.  It’s a freakin’ comic book.  All fans, like you AND ME, should just be HAPPY that these movies ARE even BEING MADE.  I NEVER thought I’d see CA, let alone THOR or GL.  ENJOY it, b/c the movie going public eventually gets bored and these things go away… except for BATMAN.  He’ll always be around.  

  • Cameron

    I’m getting tired of movie trailers giving away everything in 3 minutes. I want to be surprised. It’s not such a big deal with Captain America, because I know the story already (and from everything I’m seeing, the story is INCREDIBLY true to the comic), but I appreciate that they are holding back, giving us just enough to know that it’s going to rock, but also saving some of that rocking for the movie itself. 

    One of the best movie trailers in recent memory was for a movie that I normally wouldn’t have any intention of seeing ever: The Devil Wears Prada. It was an anti-trailer, in that it didn’t have tons of clips from the film, but rather one interesting scene from the movie that gave the viewer a small taste of the characters and plot. I was hoping that it would set a trend.

  • Anonymous

         Looking back, the marketing behind Captain America seemed more calculated and in control than Green Lantern did because they gave you enough to get you excited for this movie in each trailer/teaser while also picking up the slack on two important front. Getting both fans and regular people interested in this character and showing why Chris Evans is a good choice for bringing captain america by showing his range.

  • Rene

    As origin stories go, I think Captain America has a very good one that could easily become a kick-ass period action movie. So I was afraid they’d find a way to screw it up. I’m very happy that it seems like they didn’t.

  • bc_scrubs

    The Cap marketing has worked a treat and even for a huge Cap fan like myself the build up of the trailers has been great and revealed more of te story not the next bunch of shots of stuff blowing up ™. Also I’ve found every time I started thinking I hadn’t seen anything on the Cap movie for awhile a new set of photos or the next trailer would arrive, itwas never to long between drinks more like I just realised I was thirsty and the bartender was ready preparing or delvering my drink. Really well done. My best mate who isn’t a Cap fan but has been watching the progress of the movie and has been interested but not excited is hooked after the latest trailer.

  • ekballei

    You might as well as signed off ‘Make Mine Marvel’.

    There was nothing wrong with GL’s marketing. They made a movie. They wanted people to see the movie. They spent a lot of money advertising it. That’s Hollywood. Calling it ‘desperate’ is moot, and unfair.

  • Drew Melbourne

    Are you familiar with Captain America? He’s a hero from WWII. If you’re going to say “I don’t understand the need to introduce a hero from WWII”, you might as well say “I don’t understand the need to introduce a hero from Asgard” or “I don’t understand the need to introduce a hero who turns green when he gets mad.” Those are the Marvel characters. Personally, I have high hopes for this movie. Joe Johnston’s not a perfect director by any means, but his Rocketeer is fantastic, and I hope this film plays to those same strengths…

  • Chandler

    A lot of people my age who grew up with the Justice League cartoon and not the comics kept saying “I thought Green Lantern was black…”

  • Ortiz

    Totally agree with most of the comments, the first trailer was kinda ‘Meh’, but it keeps getting better and better, it has the two shields, the costume looks good, Red Skull looks nice, it has nazis, etc. even the title, remember it was ‘The First Avenger: Captain America’, probably because of the anti-american feeling, but now it is ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’, that’s a lot of improvement, I’m not from USA, so I was well aware about those ‘feelings’, but I don’t see them around, at least not around me. High hopes for this movie.


  • T. AKA Ricky Raw

    This article misses the obvious reasons why Captain America’s marketing may have been better than Green Lanterns: because Captain America is most likely a far better movie, therefore there is much more good raw material to cut commercials from. From what I hear of Green Lantern, Hal Jordan is unlikeable for most of the movie, and is in fact the most unlikeable person in the movie, and there is very little action until the end, and Hal does not much heroic and spends a lot of time whining about fear and accepting his destiny. And that’s pretty much what the marketing showed! From how the movie was described to me, it doesn’t seem like many inspiring commercials could have been cut from that cookie cutter footage. Also, Hector Hammond is not a cool looking villain.

    On the other hand, from the interviews I read about Captain America, there’s not this whole “I’m scared, I’m not ready to step up and accept responsibility” reluctant superhero cliched crap that Green Lantern has. Steve Rogers is depicted as being brave and heroic and good even BEFORE he gets his power. In fact, that’s the whole reason he gets selected. And there is supposed to be a decent amount of action. Hence of course it’s easier to make better commercials to market it with since you have better raw material to work with and rearrange.

    What Captain America hopefully did right was make a better movie than Green Lantern, and once that happened making a better commercial out of that movie came easy.

  • Jmcreer

    The fact that you openly admit you haven’t seen GL, yet are comparing it Cap, which you also haven’t seen makes your post as substantial as a McMillan article.  Well done, and watch out McMillan – someone’s after your job : )

  • RunnerX13

    I feel like people think that these comic book movies were produced by Hal Jordan and Steve Rogers.  GL was a perfect example of over studio involvement killing the movie.

  • T. AKA Ricky Raw

    I don’t know how good Captain America is, but in general Captain America is more compelling than Green Lantern to begin with, just like most Marvel concepts are in comparison to DC concepts, so I was already more biased in that direction. Combine it with the fact that GL was using a lot of Geoff Johns ideas (strike 1), was written by the creators of No Ordinary Family and a guy who wrote for Heroes (strike 2) and all the commercial clips for GL were crappy and uninspiring while all the commercial clips for Captain America were awesome and heroic (Cap is shown as heroic even BEFORE getting his powers while Green Lantern is shown still being reluctant and fearful AFTER getting them) (strike 3)

    Given all of that, one doesn’t need to have a crystal ball to see Captain America would be a better movie. It may not be a great movie, it may not even be very good. I won’t know thatuntil I see it. But will it be better than GL? I’d bet my life on it.

  • T. AKA Ricky Raw

    Come on. The writers of No Ordinary Family and Heroes were involved, and input was given by Geoff Johns. Did the studio really need to get involved to ruin this? The names Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim and Geoff (Rainbow Skittles Corps Willpower Is An Emotion) Johns were enough of a sign. According to most sources, the studio involvement actually worked to make the movie less awful than it originally was.

  • Paul

             I liked the overall plot of the movie;    But, when Hydra develops and uses ray guns
     instead of traditional weapons, which was right with the time, it made the movie a little
     to out there.      Would have been better, if Captain America, and team were trying to
     prevent Hydra from developing the A-Bomb before the U.S. did.     The flying wing was
     right though.     The Horton brothers had planned to build one for Hitler.     The guns that
     Hydra should have had might have been the new rifles that Hitler rejected near the end
     of the war, that fired semi, and full automatic.

  • Paul

            The idea the Hydra was going to get rid of Hitler was a good one too.
            Red scull should have had some Jewish scientists working for him, with the
     promise that he would depose Hitler, and free the Jews in the camps, and return 
     their rights, which he of course wouldn’t do.