The Art of the Marvel Teaser Trailer

'Ant-Man and the Wasp' marks the studio's 20th first-look since the world glimpsed Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark.
Courtesy of Photofest; Courtesy of Marvel Studios
'Iron Man,' 'Ant-Man and the Wasp' and 'Captain America: Winter Soldier'

Tuesday's teaser for Ant-Man and the Wasp is a milestone moment for Marvel Studios and its fans.

Not only is it ringing in the Disney-owned studio's 10th anniversary in style, it marks the 20th teaser trailer since the studio launched with 2008's Iron Man. But how does the teaser stand up to the first glimpses of the previous 19 movies? Here’s your chance to find out, by revisiting the original trailers of each of the many Marvel movies to date.

Iron Man (2008)

The one that started it all — and the tone of Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark is immediately obvious, even if the actual antagonist of the movie (or the plot, for that matter) is left more to the imagination.

The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Which is the bigger surprise? That Modern Family’s Ty Burrell has such an important role in the trailer’s opening, or that the Hulk gets less screen time than the Abomination in this first trailer?

Iron Man 2 (2010)

Playing up the “Hey, it’s Robert Downey Jr. again!” aspect, there’s something almost old-fashioned about this trailer, which manages to downplay the impulse to tease the Black Widow reveal in a way that feels almost unimaginable today.

Thor (2011)

In retrospect, this looks as much like a trailer for a Syfy original movie than a Marvel blockbuster; comparing this to the teaser for Thor: Ragnarok makes the case for this series being the one that evolved the most across three movies.

Captain America (2011)

As with Thor, this plays out far more generically than people might remember Marvel movies being. If it wasn’t for the all-too-brief glimpses of Cap in costume, this could be any number of action movies, down to the “I don’t know if I can do this” dialogue from our hero.

The Avengers (2012)

We’re getting closer to the platonic ideal of a Marvel trailer here, with the blockbuster action scenes given a punchline with the Tony Stark/Bruce Banner exchange at the end. But we’re not quite there yet …

Iron Man 3 (2013)

And after Avengers, we get what might be the darkest Marvel teaser to date — it might work for the idea of a traumatized Tony Stark, but it doesn’t make for the most inviting trailer.

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Again, there’s the post-logo tag that we’ve come to expect, featuring a moment of fan service, while the rest of the trailer reminds everyone why they’ve probably forgotten The Dark World ever existed.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Is the Black Widow/Cap conversation before they jump out of a plane meant to echo the trailer for Iron Man 2, or is it just a strange coincidence? Worth noting: We have the corny humor, we have the post-logo tag. We’ve reached peak Marvel trailer.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

The teaser that launched countless “Marvel is trying something new!” think pieces, and it’s easy to see why: The tone is more comedic, the colors brighter than anything we’ve seen since the first Iron Man, and it’s the first teaser that doesn’t seem scared of its source material.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

From the sublime to the … Well, runner-up to Iron Man 3 in terms of self-consciously grim teasers, if nothing else, but it’s lightened by the ridiculous music choice and James Spader’s wonderful voiceover work.

Ant-Man (2015)

Ant-Man remains perhaps the biggest misfire in terms of tone in the Marvel trailer portfolio; for a movie that’s arguably more comic than any other from the studio bar Guardians of the Galaxy, this is a remarkably dour teaser.

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Featuring more cameos than you can shake a stick at, Civil War’s teaser does everything it’s supposed to, especially with the final image of the trailer being almost parodic in terms of summarizing the movie’s appeal: It’s the one where superheroes punch each other.

Doctor Strange (2016)

More of a tone poem retelling of his origin than a tease of the rest of the movie — it’s essentially a monologue from Tilda Swinton in its second half — this nonetheless sells the movie well, and comes complete with a post-logo tag aimed directly as comic fans. Who else would recognize that window?

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

For the first time since Iron Man 2, the teaser for the second Guardians is little more than a “Remember your favorites? They’re back!” reel, eschewing any plot hint in favor of playing up how cute Baby Groot is. Hey, it worked …!

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Almost a remix of old teaser tropes, in that it mixes the “almost no costumed action” of the first Iron Man and Captain America teasers — along with Doctor Strange, for that matter — with the “Your superhero boys! Together!” of Avengers and Captain America: Civil War, but those tropes got reused for a reason.

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

It’s tempting to call this the most successful Marvel teaser of them all, not just because the jokes land, but because it’s such an statement of intent, and because the makeover for the Thor movies worked quite so well.

Black Panther (2018)

Following from Ragnarok, another sign that Marvel was widening its palette in terms of aesthetic came in the Black Panther teaser, which promises a movie unlike anything the studio has released before in a smart, meta-textual way: Two white guys talking before the teaser explodes into music and visuals more immediate and contemporary than the studio had managed so far.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Of course, it’s not all trying new things, as the Infinity War teaser showed. This is classic Marvel with a boost, trying to ramp up the scope on the old-school in terms of cast size, if nothing else. Fans who want the old stuff: here it is, in spades.

Ant-Man (2018)

And here's No. 20. How soon until Captain Marvel makes it 21?

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