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Think of it as “A Tale of Two Trailers.” Thursday saw the release of teasers for both Star Wars: The Force Awakens and, thanks to what appears to be a camera phone-aided leak, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Both are among the most eagerly-anticipated movies of the next twelve months, but that’s pretty much where the similarity ended. While The Force Awakens was met with a huge embrace, the response to Batman v Superman was a whole lot cooler — and crankier.
Although there were some positive comments about the leaked footage, many of them were definitely not. Fans complained about everything from Ben Affleck‘s Batman voice to the general tone of the trailer. They questioned the overall concept behind the movie: “Why do the superheroes even need to fight?” was a common question (ignoring the fact that hero on hero battle is a well-worn trope of the genre that hasn’t really been explored on the big screen yet). The griping went on and on. Everything that The Force Awakens seemed to do right, Batman v Superman seemed to do wrong.
The question is, of course, why that should be the case. Putting aside the obvious point that the BVS footage of the trailer was a camera phone’d version (clearly less impressive than the real thing), the amount of vitriol directed towards the Batman v Superman trailer seems to suggest that the trailer itself clearly missed its mark. But I’m not entirely convinced that’s the case. Besides one clunky line of dialogue, the trailer seems perfectly fine to me — certainly not notably terrible — even in a low quality, out of focus, bad sound quality format.
The “problem” with the Batman v Superman trailer may not be the trailer itself, but the fact that it’s a trailer for Batman v Superman, a premise that apparently many in the Internet community already dislikes. (Note that similar teasers for movies like Avengers: Age of Ultron didn’t receive this much criticism). Then there’s the fact that BVS is the sequel to the oft-criticized Man of Steel. It’s not surprising that the super fans that were so disappointed with Steel are quick to write off anything and everything to do with its sequel.
(To an extent, Terminator Genisys faces a similar struggle; at some point, it was collectively decided, in some corners of the Internet, that it was a movie that didn’t need to be made. And so every subsequent trailer has had to try harder to overcome audience apathy. The result of all this trying is that the big reveal is given away in a trailer three months before the movie hits theaters. Will BVS have to pull a similar stunt to turn fans around?)
By contrast, Star Wars: The Force Awakens had a far easier job: all it had to do was convince the audience that it was the Star Wars that they grew up with. In this spirit, the trailer is not only full of visual and audio callbacks to the original trilogy, but literally ends with arguably the most beloved character of that trilogy telling the audience “We’re home.” Ultimately, audiences know as much (or, really, as little) about The Force Awakens as they do BVS, but because the latter is building off of a base of goodwill as opposed to apathy or outright suspicion, the Force trailer was successful in a way that the BVS trailer can only dream of being.
Trailers, ultimately, are tricks; they’re something that exists to convince the audience that, hey, this movie is exactly what you want to see! Unfortunately, such tricks only work on audiences that are willing to be convinced, or at least open to persuasion. In Batman v Superman‘s case, that battle might have already been lost — or, at least, is hard enough to fight that one trailer isn’t going to do it for a vocal chunk of the online market. Trying to convince that particular audience otherwise over the next few months may end up being a superheroic feat of its own.
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