The most frequent question I heard from those of you who stopped me at WonderCon or who sent me e-mails in the days after the event was “Why didn’t Warner Bros. show new ‘Man Of Steel’ footage during the panel?”
Obviously, Warner Bros. marketing doesn’t run their decision-making by me for approval, so I can’t answer that question conclusively. I can, however, guess based on the reactions I’ve heard from people who have seen Zack Snyder’s Superman movie, and it seems to me that Warner Bros. didn’t bring new footage to screen because, frankly, they don’t have to.
The most dangerous thing to do with a giant blockbuster in today’s media landscape is to jam it down the throat of the audience to the point where they learn to hate the film before they ever lay eyes on it. Sometimes, it’s the only option that the studio has, and when they know a movie doesn’t work, that’s when they kick into overdrive. When a movie has a pre-release awareness as automatic as a new Superman movie and they feel like the film completely works, that’s when they get to lay back a bit and let the actual anticipation of the audience do the work for them.
In this case, they seem to have great faith that what they’ve done will excite lifelong Superman fans and win new audiences over as well. The most interesting thing about this new commercial that aired during the NCAA Championships tonight is just how little there is about it that I would call “new.” This is the same basic footage we’ve been seeing since the first teaser, and it all focuses on the one big idea that seems to drive this reboot: what would the world do if Superman actually appeared? Would we welcome him as a hero? Or would we freak out at the inherent threat of a super-powered alien?
By centering the campaign on an idea instead of a villain, it makes this feel different than most superhero films already. And by emphasizing character over action (and word is there is plenty of action, some of it truly epic), it makes this feel like a real film and not just another empty CGI spectacle.
So the reason I think Warner brought “The Conjuring” and “Pacific Rim” to the WonderCon was because they believe in those films and they know that those are originals, movies that don’t come with the automatic cultural weight of a Superman movie, and that they could generate conversation with a great presentation. As a quick look around the Internet right now will prove, even a “Man Of Steel” trailer that features nothing new is enough to cause excited posts everywhere. People are ready to see what Snyder and Nolan have done, and they’re excited to see what Henry Cavill does as the character. At this point, if they didn’t show us anything new between now and release, I still think they’d have theaters packed on opening day.
So why give anything else away if you don’t have to?
“Man Of Steel” takes flight on June 14, 2013.