Samuel Brace on Batman v Superman, mystery and over promotion…
Mystery is a great thing. Mystery is often the seed of both wonder and the desire to understand. What we don’t know, what we haven’t figured out, is what leads us to learn more. This mystery, this lack of knowledge, is the very thing that drives us to turn up. When we’ve seen all the cards, once the mystery is revealed — even just a little — that desire to know, the excitement of the revelation, isn’t quite as powerful, sometimes it keeps us away completely. We as people, have an unrelenting desire to consume knowledge. We are determined to know that which we don’t. After all, mysteries are there to be solved. When it comes to film or fiction in general, there is no greater incentive to show up than the allure of the nebulous eventually becoming definite. Take the films of Christopher Nolan for example. Often a mystery is created surrounding the release of his latest creation; the cards are angled away from us. This creates that desire in us to figure out the mystery. It drives us in vast numbers, eager with anticipation for the veil to be lifted. Without that haze throughout a film’s promotion, that desire, that most profitable of notions, simply doesn’t occur.
To garner and attain the utmost passion from a potential audience, surely creating that sense of wonder, that sense of the unknown, is the surest way to reap the highest rewards from your product. Ultimately, a film is a product, it is there to make money, it’s very life depends on it. So, surrounding your product, your film, with that wonder, will gather the numbers you need to be successful. Moving away from the fiscal, as we’ve mentioned, there is no greater payoff thematically then when the mystery is revealed to us. Being tricked, being outsmarted by a master storyteller is something we are oft to find impressive — just think of the adoration for the films of David Lynch. Promotion and marketing for films in 2016, do not hold much stock in the mysterious however. Barring very few exceptions, big movies often go down the opposite path; the path to instant knowledge — clarity of direction has become king. This trend has occurred not by accident but according to social climate. The majority of audiences, the ones likely to show up opening weekend to see the biggest and loudest of movies, doesn’t hold much stock in knowledge yet to be known. They want their pay off now. They want their answers now. They want everything now, now, now. This is both why and how films like Batman v Superman come to gun us all down with their promotional material, leaving the ones that survive to limp tiredly into cinemas to receive their final blows.
Batman v Superman isn’t like the majority of other films however. Batman v Superman, by its very nature will drive people to see it. The movie is a big deal, the desire for people to say that they have seen it because everyone else will have, is enough to quell the flames of over promotion. The desire for people to see this film because of what it is, will always outweigh those that value the mystery, of those that would rather the asinine number of trailers and teasers would hold something back, that would prefer if they didn’t shit the movies contents down our throats, weeks before release, and hope we’ll turn up anyway. The more you see of something, the less you want to see it, that’s just the way things work. Well, at least it used to. Culture changes, generations acquire new sensibilities, but surely fatigue is still a truth to be respected. Imagine a world where Batman v Superman released a single poster a year from release, a single trailer six months out, and then one teaser to be proliferated online and on TV in the final weeks. Imagine that world and imagine how much more excited and intrigued you would be to see this film. Imagine all the questions you would have and the desire you would feel for those questions to be answered. Imagine a world where the only way to answer those questions for sure, would be to show up at a screening and to see for yourself. God, it would be exciting. The mystery of not knowing a film’s entire contents before seeing the finished product… what an intriguing notion… what a revelation it would be.
This generation, a generation I am a part of, will disagree with this sentiment however. They want to know everything and they don’t have the patience to wait. But… is this entirely true? There are examples to the contrary, Star Wars: The Force Awakens for one, it got a little bit much towards the end but for the longest time restraint was shown, mystery surrounded its plot, yet anticipation was rife because we simply didn’t know what was going to happen. Yes, we don’t know exactly, beat for beat, what BvS will have in store for us, but the barrage of footage we already have has filled in many of the blank spaces and quite frankly quashed that glorious feeling of excitement to know what we do not. The easy answer is to not watch the trailers, to avoid the adverts, to avert your gaze from press releases. But that’s not quite so easy when it’s your business to know about these things and when film is a great passion of yours. No one is forcing you or me to pay attention, but now that I’ve seen too much, I need convincing that what I’ve seen isn’t indicative of the final product.
I want to be consumed by anticipation to see this film, I love Batman dearly, I always have, the chance to see him once more brought to life in my most favourite of mediums is almost enough for me. Almost. But the more I see, the more I dislike. Not only from the position that I’ve seen too much, that I know too much, but from a creative stand point too. I am now turned off almost entirely by the content seen, for many reasons — none of which are pertinent to this topic — but the point being that if there wasn’t so much to see, so many shortcuts to knowledge, my qualms would not have been discovered until I was already in my seat.
You will see Batman v Superman. You will see films like it in the future. Regardless of marketing, of the film feeding its audience unnecessary spoilers for its own film, you will go and see these movies. This fight is one that will be lost but the larger battle is surely worth fighting. Over promotion is not good for anyone. Sure, marketing is important, but films like Star Wars, like BvS, will get people to turn up in remarkable numbers regardless of how much they feed them before hand. People will see these movies just because of what they are. So studios can get away with showing a little restraint, they can get away with playing along with the mystery, by not revealing all the cards in their hand. The money will be there for these movies. Do you really believe people wouldn’t turn up to a movie called Batman v Superman if there was only one trailer, one teaser and a poster? Of course you don’t and of course they would. Neil Armstrong once said, “Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis for mans desire to understand”. He would know I guess. I’ll still see BvS, I want to see this film, much like you, based on what it innately is, for me it’s not quite a hill worth dying on. But that overwhelming desire is gone for me now and oh how I wish it wasn’t so. Oh how I wish we would learn.