23 Oct 2012

Thought Balloon: Placing A Personal Iron Curtain Around The Iron Man 3 trailer

(Please note that I discuss a few plot points from the original Iron Man and the Avengers movie in this article so if you are still remaining spoiler-free, just be aware...and also, why haven't you got around to watching them already??)

Nothing much to see here...thankfully!
Stewart R: May 3rd 2013. It'll be a big date for the Box Office next year and it's already marked on my mental calendar as an unmissable day where my evening is most definitely booked up. For that date marks the current general release date (subject to preview announcements of course) of Iron Man 3, Marvel's banker blockbuster for 2013 and the first Marvel film to be released after the high grade, money-raking behemoth that was Marvel's The Avengers this year. With Robert Downey Jr and the regular cast all set to return alongside newcomers to the franchise, Ben Kingsley, Guy Pierce and director Shane Black, it promises to be a barnstorming couple of hours viewing.

At this precise moment in time I know only the very bare minimum about the plot – the fact that it'll utilise Warren Ellis' Extremis storyline as a vague guide has been fairly well publicised – and there's a big part of me that is thinking that I may well keep it that way up until the night I sit down in the darkening cinema screen and watch the spectacle unfold before my eyes. Sounds like an easy plan to carry out, but in this social-media whirlwind climate it's hard enough to avoid hearing who won the Great British Bakeoff if you recorded it for later viewing just a few hours previous; you almost have to go dark and disconnect temporarily from Facebook, Twitter and any news websites to keep the sanctity of mystery preserved. When it comes to blockbuster cinematic efforts – and doubly so when it comes to comic book blockbusters it seems - you have at least three iterations of the picturehouse trailer, plus countless TV spots and embedded site adverts to keep from entering your eyes, ears and ultimately your brain over the half year period before actual release.

The Iron Man 3 trailer is set to go live on October 23rd, just a few hours from now, and yet there’s already been a preview of the preview thanks to Facebook ‘liking’ shenanigans and crafty promotional work by the Marvel/Disney machine to garner as much interest in its product for next year as it can. And don't get me wrong, I'd love to watch the trailer, and the teaser of the trailer as well, just to see all of the brief yet wondrous sights and get a taste of those delightfully gratuitous 'YES!' moments that make the hairs upon the back of your neck stand up to attention, all thrown together in a jumbled fashion with bombastic soundtrack so as to provide excitement and a thirst for the full experience without ruining the spectacle and narrative. There's just one problem...

In recent years it seems that movie trailers have leaned towards giving a great deal away in these 2, 3 and occasionally 4 minute bursts of temptation, presumably because the production and promotion companies want to maximise the potential audience come release day and don't want to run the risk of alienating those casual cinema-goers who may shy away if unsure about the premise. As a franchise gets into full swing, as Iron Man now finds itself, there comes the added temptation to prevent the story from appearing inaccessible to those who haven't seen previous chapters and aren't aware of the characters, in-jokes and previous trials that the protagonists have had to endure to reach this point in their lives. In some ways it's very reminiscent of Marvel and DC's permanent fixation with their 'new readers' principles; constantly rebooting, rebranding and renumbering their products to supposedly prevent the appearance of Berlin Wall levels of impenetrability which they fear afflicts their industry and stumps growth.

The most recent example of a cinematic trailer giving far too much away for me was seen in The Bourne Legacy - admittedly not a superhero flick - where I decided to close my eyes and plug my ears near to the two minute mark as I felt I was seeing far too much and wanted to hold some of the surprise back. Over the last decade or so I’ve found that I’ve developed a knack or skill for piecing together the tiny bites and slivers that movie production and marketing companies give us and find myself unconsciously trying to figure out the narrative order and just when those puzzle pieces are likely to fall into the runtime. That’s not helped of course by various websites stripping out all of the parts and analysing them cell by cell for what may be hidden within or what was difficult to catch first time around. True, it isn’t possible to deduce the plot from every trailer and Marvel certainly did a decent enough job with the likes of Iron Man, its first sequel and the Avengers trailer in terms of dishing out mouth-watering teasers without giving too much of the game away.

A great sequence, but did knowing about it beforehand lessen the impact?

That said, it was far too easy to pick out those elements from the final act of Avengers that were sown throughout the three different trailers and countless TV spots that surfaced in the months leading to release. As the minutes rolled on in the movie theatre and the credits drew near, I found myself starting to ask the question ‘so when is the Hulk going to catch Tony as he falls from the sky?’  That actually turned out to be something of an emotional tentpole to that last act, but I’ll never know if it would have had more impact if I hadn’t been waiting for it and second guessing the work put in by the hundreds of people whose names scrolled in front of me just moments later. I remember back in late 2007/early 2008 seeing the very first Iron Man teaser and then spending the next few months looking forward to the flight section where he tries to evade the two pursuing F22 Raptors. Essentially I was able to guess on the day of the viewing where it was likely to fall in the runtime, yet a part of me says that this shouldn’t really be the case and wonder how blown away I might have been had I no idea that that 9-minute action set-piece was going to unfold.

At this time I’m already nearing the arrival of Skyfall, the next chapter in the James Bond film franchise, having only seen a poster and the very briefest of flickbook scene snaps from some initial taster; I’ll be going into that cinema-screen spoiler-free with only my knowledge of general modern movie structure and essential Bond franchise elements to lead me. I’ll have no idea of what set-pieces might be involved, what glamorous locales might be used and even what the Bond girls look like this time around! It’s already making for an exciting wait while everyone else buzzes with the thrill from their partial knowledge. I loved Drive back in 2011 as I went to the cinema having pretty much no clue on what I was about to watch, similar could be said for the effects heavy Real Steel and there’s a big, fat part of me that wants that same thrill, that nervous anticipation when it comes to a film franchise that I truly love, based on a comic character that I truly love.

Writing for this blog, being as invested in my passion for the comic book world as I am, and spending many an hour during the week trawling through the waist-deep murk of information that forms the internet today, should make the challenge of getting all the way to May unspoiled by visions of Robert Downey Jr and Co. going through the wringer, or the latest iteration of that glorious suit, impossible. But you know what, I think I’m going to give it a proper go. Iron Man 3 is just going to be the film for me, no teasers, snapshots or trailers and I'm going to see what it’s like to have the blockbuster experience hit me in the face for only two hours rather than the potentially brain-taxing (yet enjoyable of course!) 7-8 months that could lay ahead. Shall we reconvene for May 4th 2013 and I’ll let you know if I think it was worth it?

1 comment:

walkeri said...

Nice article Stewart,and I would have to say that there is too much info about upcoming movies on the net that can spoil peoples enjoyment these days,and then we get people breaking down and analyzing trailers and any other news that comes out which i find boring and as for myself I don't watch trailers or bother reading anything on the net about a movie I'm going to watch.
When I was younger it was Starlog or Starburst magazine that gave me any info on a movie i was going to see but for me it was always walking past the cinema and seeing the posters on display that got me excited.