The trailer for Avengers 2 ” LEAKED “ yesterday and I…have words…..Art of the Trailer.
I hate this trailer. I hate THIS trailer. It has nothing to do with the subject matter; it has nothing to do with the timing, pace, or narrative teasing of the trailer. I like those things. I hate this trailer because it is one thing above all else: Pretentious.
This trailer takes a property – a comic book adaptation about heroes banding together to defeat a villain – and sells it as if it was American Sniper, a serious narrative reflecting real horrors faced by people everyday. I’m deeply worried that the superhero genre is caught up in the limelight of pop culture, assuming it means something profound and timeless that will alter the lives of people everywhere. Its not. Its a fun adventure story that entertains us for a time and reminds us of some of our ideals. Its a genre of popcorn flicks at their finest – mindless fun. But ever since the Dark Knight Trilogy, both fans and Producers alike have been speaking of these stories as if they are something more akin to the work of Godard, Kurosawa, Shakespeare, or John Irving.
Not five hours after the release, we are already seeing posts like this: “Here’s The Disney Easter Egg You Probably Missed” and “‘Avengers: Age Of Ultron’ Gets “Dark Sequel” Teaser Trailer“. The gimmick of taking a song, slowing it down, setting it in minor key, and making it creepy is nothing revelatory: cf – Maleficent, Gears of War, 50 Shades of Grey, Great Gatsby, Assassin’s Creed. What makes it worse is the fact that the titular villain quotes the song in the trailer! How much more on the nose can you get!?!?! For a teaser trailer, it doesn’t make me work to try to understand what I am going to see. Its going to be a movie about a robot tired of taking orders a-la iRobot, Terminator, The Matrix, 2001: A Space Odyssey, etc. The slow mix doesn’t make it cool; it makes it blunt, reminding us that this is Disney trying to be edgy. I fully expect them to announce the Monstro movie, with a bent like Moby Dick, any day now.
Most notably, what annoys me most about Disney/Marvel trying to sell me Avengers 2 as a psychologically complex flick is that the genre itself is predicated on NOT having consequences! In any comic book story in the major Marvel or DC universes, if a character ever arrives at the point of deep social, psychological, or spiritual change, if not by the end of the comic then at the start of the next, the creators invoke a massive reset button – sending the character back to the beginning. Kill a main character? Drop them in the Lazarus Pit and bring them right back! Disband a group of heros? Start a spinoff let the main story go on as if that dissolution never happened. Invoke a dimensional/Time Travel/Multiverse plot device and nothing matters!
What makes a narrative have stakes is when its characters experience consequences that last forever. The superhero genre has all but expunged this from their stories, sticking characters in their proper places whenever they stray too far. Thus, while we can have fascinating new glimpses into a character study of these storied heroes with things like The Dark Knight or Superman: Red Sun, but we go into a superhero movie consciously knowing two things: 1) the bad guy will lose/the good guys will triumph, and 2) that no matter what they go through, our heroes will be the same old good guys we know and love.
This trailer sells something overly serious for its genre which by definition makes it pretentious:
pre·ten·tious adj. \pri-ˈten(t)-shəs\:
having or showing the unpleasant quality of people who want to be regarded as more impressive, successful, or important than they really are
This film will not alter peoples lives in eternally important ways. No one will find God because of Age of Ultron. Not because God is unable to use such mortal devices, but because no one comes to this kind of film looking for the answers to life. They come because the chairs are comfortable, the overpriced snacks still taste wonderful, the company could not be better, and the movie will be a cozy romp that will thrill and exhilarate without demanding anything of them. People who want to be challenged go to see Only Lovers Left Alive or The Act of Killing, not a blockbuster action adventure movie from Disney/Marvel.
The advice here for the marketing team is simple: focus on the characters we like, exposit the villain we’ve never seen before in a manner which doesn’t put him on the same level as Auto from Wall-E, and tell us we are going to enjoy ourselves at your movie. Don’t try to tell me my soul will be forever changed by this, or that I will suddenly understand how the world works. Just sell me your schlock and then step out of the way as billions around the globe and I queue up for advance tickets. Thank you.