'Avengers: Endgame' and the Art of the Spoiler-Free Trailer

One of the most compelling things about the promotion of Avengers: Endgame so far is how little the trailers reveal about the actual movie itself. With the release of Thursday's second full trailer — technically, the third trailer, considering the Super Bowl spot that featured almost as much new footage and arguably more information as the second official trailer — it’s worth admiring how little is known about the next Avengers movie with a little over a month to go before release.

A significant portion of the new Endgame trailer is made up of clips from other movies, in an attempt to remind the audience of the stakes of the new movie — those stakes, apparently, are, “Everyone is traumatized and not just from the Thanos thing,” given the shots of Steve Rogers with Sharon Carter’s casket. This helps with the secrecy, of course, but it also heightens the audience’s emotional connection with the movie without actually having to say anything new about the movie itself. Like the Captain Marvel TV spot which also featured clips of earlier Marvel movies, it’s, “You liked that? You’ll like this!” logic, with the extra punch of, “This is the final chapter!” thrown in for free.

Perhaps that’s all that’s necessary. After all, reservations about the self-consciously dour determinative tone of promotion to date aside, the Endgame trailers work, demonstrating that trailers don’t need to reveal a movie’s big spectacular moment in order to get the audience pumped up. (Take note, Dark Phoenix, which spoiled Mystique’s death months ahead of release in its second trailer.)

After all, think of what has been revealed in the trailers to date:
— Ant-Man and Rocket join the Avengers
— Nebula makes it to Earth somehow
— Hawkeye is back, and he has a bad haircut
— Black Widow’s hair goes back to red at some point
— Everyone has new generic costumes at some point
— No, really, Captain America has really, really bad PTSD, for real

That’s … nothing, really. That’s information that could, conceivably, have been related in a poster (with the exception of Steve Rogers’ fragile mental state, although I strongly suspect that’ll end up being played more as “grimly committed to making things right” instead of “clearly traumatized and in need of therapy” in the movie itself). That’s a genuinely impressive level of secrecy to have maintained through two (really, three) trailers.

Sure, there have been leaks and speculation and rumors from the usual sources — Heat Vision included, on the speculative front, if not the other two — but nothing has been confirmed, and the high level of secrecy surrounding the official promotion means that nothing even feels particularly likely, never mind confirmed. Audiences are, essentially, going into Endgame blind with less than two months to go, which feels almost unheard of.

Back in December, I suggested — only partially tongue in cheek — that Marvel not release any trailer for the fourth Avengers movie, because it seemed impossible to not disappoint fans who had built impossibly high expectations about the conclusion of the Infinity War storyline. I was underestimating the studio, as it turned out; we’re two (three) trailers in, and Endgame has been appropriately teased without saying almost anything at all about the movie itself, therefore upsetting no one.

With the release of the movie just six weeks out at this point, what are the odds we’ll actually make it to the movie’s debut in theater without having a major plot point spoiled by promotion?

Avengers: Endgame will arrive in theaters April 26.