A Tale of Two Trailers (and two companies): Justice League vs Spider-man: Homecoming
The past week has been a big one for fans of superhero films. Two of the biggest films of the year – Justice League and Spider-Man: Homecoming – both released trailers, giving us a look at what are almost certainly going to be two of the top 10 highest-grossing films of the year (maybe even top five or better), as well as giving us a look at the competing visions of the studios behind each film.
While technically Spider-Man is a Sony film and not a product of Marvel Studios, this is very much a Marvel Studios film. When Sony decided to reboot Spider-Man (again), it went to Marvel Studios for help. Sony kept the distribution rights and footed the bill (and with it the potential financial rewards), while Marvel received a huge amount of creative control and got the rights to use the character in other MCU films. So while this is a Sony film, it is very much part of the MCU and fits with that vision.
With Justice League, however, there is no ambiguity. The film is a lynchpin of WB’s DC films, and it’s directed and produced by Zack Snyder – and his visual stylings are unmistakable. That makes Justice League a defining film for the DCEU.
To be fair, neither trailer is great. They both have moments that stand out and will appeal to their fanbases, but on their own they both fail to really impress for different reasons. Still, trailers aren’t always a good indication of how well received a film will actually be, and in this case the trailers do a decent job of highlighting the visions of each studio. For better and worse.
One thing about this trailer is that it almost needs a spoiler warning.
While it does seem very much like a Marvel Studios film in tone and visual style (and guest stars), the trailer is ridiculously detailed – maybe too much so. That’s not an uncommon problem with MCU films, but this one tells pretty much all the major plot points for the entire movie, and what isn’t explicitly shown is easily guessed. So if you plan to see the movie and want to be surprised, be warned.
As for the trailer itself, it’s filled with humor and humanity. Spider-Man is a kid, but one that takes on a huge amount of responsibility. That is all very much present in the trailer, including Spider-Man’s hubris that forces him to become the type of hero that risks it all to prove himself.
For a film about a guy that received superpowers from a radioactive spider, it seems to be a heavily character driven movie. That’s very much in keeping with the sensibilities of previous MCU films. It also shows that it builds on the shared universe without having to over-emphasize it. It’s just there, as exemplified by the Captain America nod (which would have been a fun surprise that the trailers ruin for no discernable reason). That may actually be an overreaction from Sony, which may be desperate to remind viewers that this Spidey is part of the MCU machine, but that’s a guess.
It’s also visually bright, filled with color. There are barely even any clouds in the sky. Everyday is a perfect day in the MCU, unless there needs to be a storm for story purposes. The action also shows a much larger field of view, which creates a better look at the movements of the fast moving, superpowered characters, but it also means there’s an even heavier emphasis on CGI than in the Justice League trailer. And that’s saying something.
The trailer of Justice League seems to have been at least somewhat in reaction to the criticisms of Batman v Superman (and Suicide Squad, namely that the previous films were devoid of humor. The trailer seems to emphasize that angle with a few well-placed lines of dialogue, but it still has that unmistakable Snyder look.
Visually, the film is dark – another Snyder staple. But more than that, it seems bland at times. Sure, it’s neat to see Batman and Aquaman take on what are presumably parademons, but it’s weird that the fate of the world seems to be decided in an abandoned section of a nondescript town on a vacant street.
It’s sort of like the film was processed through several Instagram filters. The music is also very Snyder-esque, with an updated take on a classic song, remade in a way that is a little bit angry. It’s a “hardcore” take on a familiar hit.
While it might be more a reflection of the trailer than the film, it also looks like the characters are larger than life. That’s another staple of Snyder’s films – characters have less personality and are more archetypal. Among other issues that creates, it also makes them far less unique. The Marvel film teamups can get away with this a bit more since they spend more time introducing characters across multiple movies, but compare the two trailers and decide which character or characters seem to have more personality.
On the plus side, the Justice League trailer is much less revealing than the Spider-Man trailer. Although fans probably know that the film focuses on Steppenwolf of Apokolips – and that Superman will almost certainly return – the clip doesn’t even hint at either of those points. Of course, the movie isn’t out until November, so there may be plenty of time for more revealing trailers to come.
Putting aside the different visions of the studios, neither trailer is particularly good as far as trailers go.
There is an art to making a solid trailer that is independent of the movie itself. In some ways, it isn’t all that different from a music video. You have a limited time to convey a message and generate an emotional response, and you have an existing set of guidelines to work within. Compare both the Spider-Man: Homecoming and Justice League trailers with, for example, the first full Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 trailer, which tells us very little about the movie but is entertaining in its own right.
Regardless, the two recently released trailers are fairly indicative of their movies, as they should be. If you are excited for one or both films after seeing the trailers, all the better, but either way you should have a good idea what to expect.