When Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice released last weekend, I was shocked. I thought the film had been out for months. It had to have been after a year and a half of advertising. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is a member of a growing list of films that begin advertising long before their debuts. Film-makers take every opportunity they have to build hype with the public and have every right to but when these advertisements kill movie excitement, overwhelm the film’s story, and sacrifice art for hype, there is a problem. It is one that is distracting and misleading loyal viewers.
When thrilling glimpses at Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Captain America: Civil War rolled up on my television screen for the first time, I surged with adrenaline, with a typical fanboy need to see my favorite characters on the big screen. But, after seeing the same commercial hundreds of times, day after day, week after week, month after month, my wild heartbeat steadied and my body cooled down. I wasn’t excited anymore. The films that I would have given an arm to see months ago seemed like distant memories before I had a chance to see a single scene. Strange as it is, movie advertisements are making the movies they represent irrelevant. Deadpool was a breath of fresh air. Rushed ahead of the rest of the Marvel movie lineup at the behest of giddy fans, Deadpool didn’t have a chance to unfurl a year-long advertising campaign. It had a month or so to ensnare viewers and became a smash hit. It made sure viewers knew of its existence but didn’t berate them about seeing it. Movie trailers shouldn’t feel like a mom bugging her kids to do the chores; they are meant to mobilize viewers to swarm theatres.
Deadpool had success because it didn’t overwhelm the film’s story. Too often, do I find myself more invested in a thirty second clip of a movie than the film itself. Why? Film-makers seem to be more interested in starting a conversation before anyone sees their work than crafting a quality story. It is what happened to Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. It received lackluster ratings, a 3.7 out of 5, but conquered the box office with $52.4 million in sales because of the advertisements pitting two of DC Comics’ most beloved characters against one another. The film was more about the hype than the story.
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is not the only casualty of this new trend. Huntsman: Winter’s War recently grabbed a slot in the onslaught of movie advertisements. As I find myself falling into the fantastical commercials, I’m left to remember a similar film a few years ago: Snow White and the Huntsman. Charlize Theron is again a fierce and feared queen, invoking the storybook words “mirror, mirror on the wall; who is the fairest of them all,” but I hope the film is not again advertised a year before its debut. I hope it will be worth my time after months of anticipation.
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Captain America: Civil War, Snow White and the Huntsman; they are all symptoms of the growing trade of quality storytelling for hype. These films spend months and thousands on thousands of dollars making sure their trailers roll up on our television screens, and for what? To make sure even a lackluster film can rack up millions in sales? To disappoint loyal viewers? To drive themselves into irrelevancy? At that rate, what’s all the hype?