Most of us have experienced the disappointment of a movie not living up to the hype generated by its trailer. But have we now entered a phase when trailers wont live up to the viral marketing that came before them?
Consider Marvel’s upcoming Ant-Man film, based on the comic series of the same name featuring characters Hank Pym and Scott Lang, who use a super-powered suit to shrink down to insect size and engage in assorted acts of heroism. Set to be released on July 17th, Marvel debuted a teaser for the film online on January 2nd, to promote the debut of the full trailer on January 6th.
At 17 seconds the teaser is tiny to begin with, but Marvel added another layer of self-deprecation into the mix by making the teaser “ant-sized,” or, about the half the size of a typical desktop icon. For anyone who wondered about the wisdom of Marvel expanding its cinematic universe to include increasingly obscure heroes, like Ant-Man, from its catalog, the teaser was a welcome move. It’s plenty funny, and sends a message that says “Hey, we know a movie about Ant-Man is a little silly, but we still think this is gonna be awesome.”
Sure enough, the tongue-in-cheek teaser generated plenty of buzz on entertainment sites and social media. But then came the actual trailer on January 6th, and suddenly, Ant-Man wasn’t so funny anymore. Unlike the trailers for last year’s monster smash Guardians of the Galaxy, which leveraged the same wink & smile approach as the 17-second Ant-Man teaser (as well as over-the-top attitude and terrific music) to enormous success, the full Ant-Man trailer is all standard, self-serious, “hero’s journey” stuff.
Michael Douglas offers some boilerplate narration on second chances and being a hero, and characters run and fight. True to the film’s title, Paul Rudd shrinks and rides a flying ant, but the humor of the situation is drained by the trailer’s generic music and overly serious tone. Overall, very little is done to indicate this movie will add significantly to the shrunken-human narrative ground covered so well by Honey, I Shrunk the Kids 25 years ago, but, hey, that ant-suit sure looks cool.
The 17-second teaser was praised as a savvy move over at Forbes, while the full trailer received middling reception on industry fan-boy site Aint it Cool News, and even prompted Hollywood Reporter to wonder whether Ant-Man will be Marvel’s first major critical failure. Not, though, that any of the media feedback seems to have impacted either clip’s popularity. Both have racked up well over 6 million views on YouTube, and it’s likely that Ant-Man is well on its way to becoming another solid commercial hit for a studio that, so far, has churned out movies (and marketing) with a remarkably consistent level of quality.
As for what, if anything, the trailer’s rote quality says about the film itself, it’s probably too early to say. It’s a safe bet, though, that no matter how clever the marketing strategy for your film is, you should make sure your trailer is more interesting when you can actually see it, than when you can’t.