Comic-Con 2015 wrapped on Sunday in San Diego, concluding four days and nights of star-packed panels, outdoor events and screenings of footage and trailers for highly anticipated film and TV offerings. Of the films featured at the annual convention for all things blockbuster and pop culture-related, Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice had the most buzz going into Hall H, Comic-Con’s main stage. The panels accomplished their collective goal of sending fans into a near-deafening state of hysteria both in San Diego and online, but one film came out on top by sticking to the tried and tested mantra of the slow reveal.
The second day of Comic-Con 2015 brought the first major panel of the event for JJ Abrams’s first stab at the Star Wars franchise. True to rumours, Abrams brought fans a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the movie, before getting underway with an hour-long discussion that featured most of the movie’s major players, including returning franchise stars Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and, somewhat surprisingly, a very game and sincere Harrison Ford, who drew a standing ovation (a rarity at Comic-Con) upon his late entrance to Hall H.
The Star Wars Comic-Con reel was made immediately available upon the conclusion of the panel and has so far amassed more than 5m views on YouTube. The tangible aspect of the movie is the main focus of the tease. It goes to great lengths over its 3:42min running time to showcase the use of real sets and practical effects on The Force Awakens, over the onslaught of CGI that rendered the prequel trilogy so lifeless. The featurette’s angle is a strong one and connects with fans of the original trilogy in an incredibly poignant way. It also does a sly job of teasing Fisher’s new look as Leia and Simon Pegg’s mysterious involvement as a rumoured alien in the movie, without actually showing the actors in action.
The panel that followed was also a grand slam that benefited greatly from Ford’s participation. The actor, who once lobbied to have his character, Han Solo, killed off in The Return of the Jedi, appeared emotional when speaking about what returning to the franchise meant to him. “I was proud and grateful to once again be involved,” he said. Best of all, he gamely accompanied the crew to a surprise concert of John Williams’ music from Star Wars, a few hours later, for 6,000 lucky fans.
The behind-the-scenes reveal marks the latest coup in a resoundingly successful marketing strategy for The Force Awakens. Much like Paramount Pictures’ promotional approach for Abrams’s 2011 blockbuster, Super 8, the promos for Abrams’s new film are notable for what they tease, not what they give away. Despite the movie’s fast-approaching release date of 18 December, Abrams confirmed at the panel that the next trailer for his epic won’t arrive until the fall – an extended reveal that’s sure to send hype for the blockbuster further into overdrive.
Warner Bros has been taking an opposite approach to tout the impending release of their comic book behemoth, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the sequel to Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, which brings the two popular superheroes to the screen for the first time together. The film isn’t set to open until 25 March in the US, yet already the studio has debuted a two-minute mini-teaser – matching the length of most trailers – and, following its Comic-Con debut, an extended trailer that clocks in at close to five minutes. It features plenty of action and appearances from major players unseen until now, including Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) and main villain Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg).
The Comic-Con trailer is impressively mounted and resoundingly loud, but what it doesn’t appear to be is confident in its own product. By showcasing so much of the action close to a year before the full feature opens in cinemas, the promo does a disservice to fans by simply giving too much away.
The approach recalls the one taken by Sony months ahead of the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The studio was criticized for revealing too much in their teases and trailers for the sequel to Marc Webb’s reboot of the popular franchise. The footage led a fan to splice together a 25-minute cut of the movie, ahead of its release, that was cut entirely from promotional material for the blockbuster.
Given how Warner Bros has taken to the marketing for Batman v Superman, it’s only a matter of time before this film gets a similar treatment from a savvy fan.