Avengers: Infinity War – A Study in When Intentionally Misleading Marketing is Okay
Avengers: Infinity War
has been out for almost a month, so does that mean it's fine to openly discuss spoilers? After all, the movie's shocking ending twist has already made the rounds as a low-effort meme (something dissolving and 'I don't feel so good', comedy gold right there).
Okay, fine. SPOILER WARNING
- The following article is full of major plot details from Avengers: Infinity War
. If you still haven't seen it, then: 1) go do that, because it's awesome and 2) maybe don't read this. You have been warned.
from here on out.
Avengers: Infinity War
racked up a pretty brutal body count - Loki, Heimdall, Gamora, Vision - even before Thanos wiped out half the universe with a snap of his fingers. Even though they had to contend with the inconceivably-terrible-at-keeping-secrets Tom Holland and Mark Ruffalo, Marvel still managed to keep a lid on the movie's biggest secrets all the way until release.
One of the ways they did it is by straight up lying in the trailers for the movie.
To be fair, trailers that don't fully reflect the finished movie is fairly common, especially with big blockbuster releases. Certain scenes or lines of dialogue that are shown in a trailer might be slightly altered or even removed in the final cut. The folks making the trailers also have to work with whatever special effects are finished/look good enough for people to see.
Reshoots, both minor and major are also a factor. Movies like Justice League
and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
end up missing a lot of what was shown in the trailers because of changes in creative direction behind-the-scenes.
However, this article is about wilful deception and intentional misdirection in trailers. Marvel has a track record with that, what with cutting the Captain America: Civil War
trailer in a way that makes it look like Bucky is the one that shot down War Machine, or by digitally removing Spider-Man from shots of the airport fight - but Avengers: Infinity War
is easily the most egregious example of this we've seen from them yet.
The Infinity War
trailers edit shots of Thanos to make it look like he never has more than two Infinity Stones at any given point. Even shots from the movie's final fight, during which the big purple guy almost had the full set, have been altered so that he looks he's only a third of the way there.
The Iron Spider suit's mechanical legs are also edited out from shots in which they're on full display in the movie. Thor is shown having an eyepatch in scenes after Rocket gave him a spare mechanical eye.
The first trailer's big money shot of the team running towards the camera was never meant to be in the movie. It was created solely for the marketing
. The second trailer trying to make it look like Tony and Gamora are talking to each other - they never even meet in the movie - seems almost quaint in comparison to a lie that big.
The trailers do accurately convey the high stakes and grand scale of Marvel's blockbuster epic, but they're also full of deliberate misinformation. This was all done to keep the movie's plot details shrouded in secrecy, a task the studio was so committed to that they kept giving the actors fake and/or partial scripts - and it worked.
successfully sold itself without really giving anything away. It's making a killing at the box office and critics and audiences seem to like it quite a bit. It openly lied in its trailers and nobody really cares. Nobody is angrily demanding the release of a secret director's cut that has all the missing bits.
The key to this success was the misdirection was very carefully planned and executed. The trailers, despite being full of red herrings and deception, remained faithful to the movie's overall tone and feel, effectively conveyed the main plot and showed off most of the principal characters.
It wasn't a lie that made you feel cheated, it was a lie that protected the element of surprise.
Intentionally misleading marketing is bad when it's motivated by greed or desperation. When a studio either knows it has a stinker on its hands or just lacks confidence it the movie it's trying to push, it might decide to do whatever it takes to sell those tickets.
Marvel knew Avengers: Infinity War
was predestined to be a major cinematic event. Audiences the world over didn't need a lot of convincing to jump on the hype train, so the studio could afford to not just hold back on spoilers, but manipulate the footage in the marketing as well.
This kind of move requires a high level of confidence in the movie being sold. If the final product doesn't deliver the goods, people won't be so forgiving of the lies in the trailer. If you can pull it off, great - you've managed to do an effective marketing campaign without giving away the whole plot- but you better be damn sure you've got a hit on your hands.