I assume you’ve seen the (legally) released version of the SDCC trailer for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice that played to a packed Hall H crowd on Saturday afternoon, but if not it’s right above this sentence. I was literally out to lunch until right before the trailer dropped online on Saturday, so I didn’t have time to offer more than a cursory bit of commentary on the 3.5-minute sizzle reel. The belabored saga of the Batman v Superman trailer launch campaign has been told and retold, but here’s the irony: The second trailer was successful in pretty much every way the initial teaser was not. And I would argue that it was only dropped online at the end of the DC Comics panel precisely because it was a far more successful sell than the cryptic and somewhat controversial teaser from April. Had it been the first offering, fans would have been a lot happier. And had it been the first offering and a Comic-Con premiere, we probably wouldn’t have gotten to see it legally at all.
Had this been the first real bit of footage we saw from the movie, Warner Bros./Time Warner Inc. likely wouldn’t have had to spend the last 2.5 months playing defense. And had this been the first look at the superhero sequel, Warner probably wouldn’t have felt the need to release it online at all. I wrote back in December about how I respected 20th Century Fox Fox for holding back on any The Fantastic Four footage until they were good-and-ready, as they were better off having no trailers than a poorly received initial sell. I, of course, invoked the sad tale of Green Lantern, which released a first terrible teaser for of unfinished effects shots and wonkily edited comic action and never recovered. In that case, the marketing campaign dropped a teaser solely because they wanted something to attach to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part I and paid dearly for it.
Now Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is not Green Lantern. Heck, I’m relatively confident stating that Batman v Superman will make more on its worldwide opening weekend than Green Lantern earned overall ($116m domestic/$219m worldwide). But with the caveat that I liked the first teaser for what it was (a generic “dark sequel” teaser with Batman as the scary new villain) and appreciated how many questions it offered, I won’t pretend that the trailer didn’t get hammered in terms of perception. The would-be teaser had so many rumored drop dates that I argued (tongue somewhat-in-cheek) that Warner should just never release a teaser and merely coast on the blog posts breathlessly discussing when the trailer might theoretically debut. We went from The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies to Super Bowl Sunday to Jupiter Ascending to Avengers: Age of Ultron to Mad Max: Fury Road to Avengers: Age of Ultron again.
In the end, the teaser was the polar opposite of the “give them what they want” Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer that debuted hours before the Dawn of Justice teaser was leaked online in poor bootleg quality. We will never know how the teaser would have played had it actually had its premiere with the IMAX event screening that was planned for that following Monday, or even if said teaser had been held three weeks later so it could debut in front of Mad Max: Fury Road away from the limelight of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and away from the hub-bub over Avengers 2. But at the end of the day, the decision was made to encourage the notion of a Marvel/DC rivalry and instead ran smack into Lucasfilm. The result was that the teaser trailer, a cryptic, sweeping, and downright confrontational bit of angry marketing, was not terribly well-received.
The marketing campaign for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ended up on the defensive going into Comic-Con. But this new trailer, too long to be shown in theaters, basically makes the same sell as the initial teaser while giving us what we wanted the first time around. It shows off Batman and Superman coming to blows, it teases Jesse Eisenberg’s quirky Lex Luthor, offers Holly Hunter as a major player in the game, gives us glimpses of pretty much every major new and old character (Lois Lane, Ma Kent, Mercy Mercy Graves, Perry White, Alfred, etc.) plus just enough of Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman to make my daughter squeal with glee. It also just plain looks great (Larry Fong is clearly having fun), and the sheer number of scenes set in well-lit interiors and/or during the day again shows that you can do super serious without vomiting blue and grey food coloring on the negative. It looks uber-serious to be sure to be sure, but more in the vein of a hilariously pretentious comic book rather than a stereotypical grimdark escapade. And it’s relatively spoiler-free to boot.
Yes, some of the action looks a bit cartoonish and a little like a video game cutscene, but that’s Zack Snyder for you and I will presume some of the effects are unfinished. But this sizzle reel has basically made the case for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice as, if not the most important comic book movie of our time, then surely one of the biggest and perhaps the most stupidly enjoyable in a “sit as close as you can handle on the largest IMAX screen you can find” kind of way. Had this been the first thing we had seen from the film, even secondhand from Comic Con attendees, I imagine we could have saved ourselves a lot of complaining and Warner Bros. a lot of arguably undue aggravation. This trailer, along with the Suicide Squad footage that I totally didn’t watch on a cruddy bootlegged version on my phone, makes the case for DC Comics movies existing on a different plane as the Marvel movies, not better or worse but different.
Slight digression, both sizzle reels were partially narrated by powerful women and both films had multiple prominent female characters throughout. The irony is that absent the fan desire to see something right “now” and/or the desire to attempt to piggyback on Marvel’s big superhero team-up sequel, the proverbial powers-that-be may well have exercised the appropriate patience and roared out of the gate with this footage instead of the earlier and less crowd pleasing teaser presumably to combat the new rule that a film that delays its trailer is a troubled one and/or to partake in more Marvel vs. DC melodrama. But this second trailer is as much of an improvement over the initial teaser as the second X-Men trailer was over the infamously lousy first teaser back in 2000. This trailer absolutely makes the sale and makes the case for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice being one of the great mega-blockbusters of 2016 and kickstarting the so-called DC Cinematic Universe in high style. Point being, I am a lot more excited to see this film than I was on Saturday morning.