It’s fair to say that Marvel Studios are riding high at the moment, with superhero mash-up Avengers: Infinity War breaking all sorts of box office records earlier this year and still dominating the cultural conversation to this day.
However, they’re facing a significant obstacle when approaching next spring’s untitled follow-up Avengers 4 – the trailers.
More specifically, we’re talking about any trailers they’ll have to air for the upcoming Spider-Man: Far From Home, which is released after Avengers 4 (in July 2019) but is currently set to release its first trailer before Avengers 4 comes out. If it does, the trailer will presumably undermine the end of Avengers: Infinity War – where Thanos (Josh Brolin) uses the power of the Infinity Stones to wipe out half the population of the universe, making Spidey and many other heroes crumble into dust – by showing Spider-Man (Tom Holland) alive and well before Avengers 4 is even in cinemas.
After all, by Marvel’s usual standards the trailer is bound to appear before Avengers 4’s release – Ant-Man and the Wasp, which was released in July THIS year, debuted its first teaser in January – and while Far From Home’s very existence already slightly spoils the drama of Avengers 4, introducing actual footage of Tom Holland’s Peter Parker back on the scene before his resurrection has been dramatically earned is a step further.
Look, let’s be honest – nobody believes that all the heroes Thanos snapped out of existence are really dead. We all know Black Panther hasn’t shuffled off this mortal coil, and that Doctor Strange hasn’t joined the choir invisible. They are not ex-Guardians of the Galaxy. And with Spider-Man: Far From Home openly filming at this very moment, it’s doubtful that anyone is seriously in doubt as to the webslinger’s bright future post-Avengers 4.
But having footage of him zipping around, fighting baddies and generally living it up shown to millions months before we’ve seen the struggles the Avengers will go through to bring him back? Well, that doesn’t quite strike the right tone. Plus, a lot more people will see a trailer than are currently following the rather dry news of a film’s ongoing production, even for a franchise as popular as Spider-Man.
Even if Marvel tried to argue that Far From Home could be some sort of prequel to Infinity War, like Ant-Man and the Wasp was (which was set a while before Thanos’ first attacks), it would be a weird juxtaposition to see him alive and well before gearing up for a film about the Avengers dealing with his and many others’ loss. At worst, it might even put some people off seeing Avengers 4, convinced that they already know what happens because they’ve seen Spider-Man back in action.
So what’s Marvel’s solution? Well, it’s simple – don’t show a trailer for Spider-Man: Far From Home until Avengers 4 is already out. And while this might sound like a drastic and self-defeating way to market a film, there’s some evidence that they’re trying out this approach already.
Cast your mind back to earlier this year, when the frequent cry from many a fan was why Marvel’s parent company Disney STILL hadn’t released a trailer for Solo: A Star Wars Story just a few months away from its release.
Sure, production was troubled – with the firing of directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller – but Disney also appeared to have a strategy: delay the press on Solo so as to not draw focus from 2017’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which was still in cinemas early in 2018 – and they eventually brought out the trailer in February, just three months before the film’s release.
The success of that move is questionable – Solo ended up being one of the worst-performing Star Wars films, and seems to have effectively cancelled a few other planned spin-offs – but it shows how Disney are willing to experiment with marketing campaigns to maximise the success of their biggest properties.
Also, the gap between Avengers 4’s release and Spider-Man: Far From Home’s is just under three months, only a slightly smaller gap than the gap between Solo’s first teaser and the film’s actual release. The precedent is there!
And then there’s Captain Marvel. By all rights, Brie Larson’s upcoming superhero movie should have had a trailer by now, given that 2018’s Black Panther – which arguably needed less introduction than Captain Marvel after Chadwick Boseman’s titular hero was featured in Captain America: Civil War, and had the same February release date – unveiled its first teaser the June before its release.
For some reason, Captain Marvel has been held back for much longer – and it’s not hard to imagine the decision was taken so as not to distract from Ant-Man and the Wasp’s theatrical run and the DVD release of Infinity War. So why wouldn’t Marvel use this technique again and delay Spider-Man: Far From Home’s trailer to avoid any negative buzz around Avengers 4?
Well, there is one obvious reason – like Solo, Spider-Man: Far From Home could suffer from a delayed marketing campaign, and make less money due to the film not being in the public consciousness for long enough. But if it stopped casual viewers being turned off from seeing Avengers 4, maybe this would be worth the risk for Marvel and Disney.
Just think about it. What’s more important to Marvel – making Avengers 4 as big a success as possible, or the fortunes of a spin-off franchise that isn’t one of its biggest players (Spider-Man Homecoming cracked the top 10 of MCU box office receipts, but made less from the most recent Iron Man, Captain America and Guardians of the Galaxy movies, as well as all the Avengers films and Black Panther)?
Sure, holding back a Spider-Man teaser for months just on the offchance it puts a few fans off might seem extreme, but these are uncharted waters. Never before has a studio had multiple big-budget movies, all sharing the same continuity, debuting throughout the year with overlapping promotional campaigns. If the situation is new, who’s to say Marvel won’t try a new solution to match it?
Ultimately, we won’t know what Marvel and Disney are or have been planning (or whether Solo has changed that strategy) until a few months from now – but in the grand scheme of things, it wouldn’t be too surprising to find out that Spidey’s latest adventure gets kept under wraps for a little bit longer than usual.
Sure, we all know he’ll survive – but wouldn’t it be nice to all just pretend together for a little while longer?