It’s summer movie time! Hooray! Bring on the explosions! Summer blockbusters are a huge industry, and more and more, studios are releasing sequels, franchises, and reboots with already-established brands and audiences. And some of these franchises have been around for a long time. How do the studios choose to market these legacy franchises? Do they target the diehard fans or the uninitiated? Do they emphasize the nostalgia or the points of difference?
Avengers: Age of Ultron
The Marvel franchise is a powerhouse! The previous 10 movies basically were the marketing for this movie. I would have seen this movie even without a single ad. The campaign for Avengers 2 told us: 1) the whole cast is back, 2) there’s going to be some kick-ass new characters, and 3) it’s going to be more of the excitement we’ve come to expect. Which leads me to . . .
Ant-Man and Daredevil
Marvel is rapidly expanding its franchise universe, and each wildly successful movie doubles as an ad for the next movie. And as we learned from the phenomenal success of Guardians of the Galaxy, the Marvel brand is strong enough that it can feature little-known characters in their own successful stand-alone movies.
The focus of the marketing campaign for Ant-Man is to remind us that it’s a Marvel movie. Remember how much you loved Avengers? Yeah, come see this one too.
The new Netflix show Daredevil is using the same approach. Marvel has built such a strong, consistent brand that people are excited about whatever they release, confident that it will live up to the company’s previous hits.
Even though it features Marvel characters, Fantastic Four is actually a 20th Century Fox movie. The ads have a serious tone — differentiating this film from its goofier 2005 predecessor — but they look fairly generic, like the studio is hoping we forget that this isn’t actually a Marvel Studios picture.
Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
This new Mission: Impossible movie looks like more of the same. Same characters. Same awesome action sequences. Same plot more or less. (That Ethan Hunt is very loyal. How many times would you put up with being accused of treason before you found a new place of employment?) Why mess with a successful formula?
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Episode 7 may not be coming out until the end of the year, but anticipation has been building for months (if not years). We’ve all seen that teaser trailer that came out in April. That trailer doesn’t tell us much about the plot. But it does emphasize the nostalgia factor, from the classic music, to Mark Hamill’s voice-over, to Harrison Ford’s appearance at the end. Star Wars is such a beloved franchise, but the prequels were a huge disappointment, and the filmmakers want everyone to know that this time will be different.
Mad Max: Fury Road
I grew up watching a lot of epic action movies, but I had never seen any of the Mad Max movies until a few weeks ago. Talking to other people my age, my sense is that this franchise has a certain amount of mystic, but many millennials haven’t actually seen it. So instead of going for dewey nostalgia, the marketing is all about the movie’s intensity. The trailers look insane: crazy action, crazy costumes, and crazy sets. Fury Road is resurrecting the Mad Max franchise, and the studio is working hard to get everyone’s attention.
Unlike the secrecy surrounding Star Wars, each trailer that comes out for Terminator Genisys gives away another seemingly large plot point. The past has changed! John Connor is a terminator! People love the Terminator series, but the timeline never made that much sense, and things keep getting more and more ridiculous with each new movie. Genisys is going to be a Star Trek-style reboot of the franchise timeline, and the marketing is emphasizing that this movie is going to be more like the original and less like the hilariously serious Terminator Salvation.
Unlike some of the above action franchises, The Fast and the Furious movies revel in their ridiculousness. The trailer shows us there will be more crazy fight and car chase sequences, more zany one-liners, and more of our favorite action stars. The ads also contain a touch of nostalgia/sadness, since this was Paul Walker’s final movie before his death, but not so much that it feels inappropriate.
The ads for Jurassic World are playing up the fun, action, and visuals that made the original so popular. This one looks to be even more over-the-top with its genetically engineered killing machine Indominus Rex. And this:
And as a side note, how many times is this park going to have massive dinosaur-induced casualties before it is scrapped for good?