Marvel Studios and Warner Bros. have very different opinions on what makes a good superhero movie. To date, Marvel’s formula has worked out a lot better for them than Warner’s, but then again the WB is only now getting the ball rolling on their DC Cinematic Universe. On the topic of how successful Warner’s strategy will be, time is still going to tell.
What we can agree on is that Marvel knows how to work with their fans to create buzz around a new film, and that Warner Bros. doesn’t appear to like DC fans very much at all. When a grainy, mobile phone video of the first big trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron leaked last year, Marvel took to Twitter to address the matter:
They then released a high def version of that same trailer online for fans to enjoy and pore over. Hydra, of course, is the evil, secretive regime from Marvel’s comics and films and the tweet let fans know that Marvel understood that sometimes these things are beyond your control. It let the fans know that Marvel couldn’t bring themselves to be mad at anyone who was that excited to see even a few minutes of footage from a movie they were making.
Trailers leak from San Diego Comic-Con every year. This is because movie studios are okay with showing trailers for highly anticipated movies to a 7000-seat theatre full of excited fans and media, all bristling with video cameras, but are still somehow convinced that they have any modicum of control over that footage whatsoever beyond that. Fans are ravenous for that content because your marketing department whipped them into a frenzy. There’s no stopping the leaks. So it surprised no-one when a tinny, mobile phone video of the trailer for David Ayer’s upcoming Suicide Squad film appeared online after its Hall H debut. What was surprising was the way Warner Bros. responded to the leak. Here’s the statement the WB released on the matter:
“Warner Bros. Pictures and our anti-piracy team have worked tirelessly over the last 48 hours to contain the Suicide Squad footage that was pirated from Hall H on Saturday,” said Sue Kroll, president of worldwide marketing and international distribution for Warner Bros. Pictures. “We have been unable to achieve that goal. Today we will release the same footage that has been illegally circulating on the web, in the form it was created and high quality with which it was intended to be enjoyed. We regret this decision as it was our intention to keep the footage as a unique experience for the Comic Con crowd, but we cannot continue to allow the film to be represented by the poor quality of the pirated footage stolen from our presentation.”
Rather than shrug the leak off and build some rapport with fans the way Marvel did, Warner Bros. decided to embrace their inner Hydra and took their fans to task for the crime of being excited about a movie. The language they’re using is mind-blowingly myopic. “Illegally circulating.” “We regret this decision.” “Pirated footage stolen from our presentation.” If you would actually like people to go and see your movie, if you want them to fork over their hard-earned cash for a ticket, then maybe refrain from berating them like bratty, ill-behaved children.
You can’t control the way these things shake out, but you can control your tone and the way in which you conduct yourself in any fan interaction. Further, a trailer is still an ad. It’s an ad for a product you’re trying to sell. It’s not like you had the cure for fucking cancer and someone stole it from your office when you knocked off for the day. This kind of self-aggrandising bluster and sanctimonious finger-wagging at your fans makes you come off exactly the way most characters in your upcoming slate of superhero movies look – humourless and unlikeable, the antithesis of everything your competition stands for. Marvel understands that you’re excited and they’re pleased that you are. Warner Bros. is actually upset that you want what they’ve got.
What makes Warner Bros. reaction even more baffling is the overwhelmingly positive fan response to the Suicide Squad trailer. Ever since the first set photos began to show up online the film has had to swim against a tide of skepticism and negativity. Remember the collective psychotic break the internet suffered when Warner released the first picture of Jared Leto in character as the Joker? This was a huge win for Warner Bros. from a PR standpoint and then they made the bizarre decision to rain on their own parade, making damned sure their fans knew they weren’t happy about the manner in which we were pumped for their movie. The thing to do here was to steer into the curve, not pull the wheel as far as it will go in the other direction.
You’ve got a long way to go, Warner Bros. Take a moment to re-evaluate your priorities. Marvel, I’ll see you this weekend for Ant-Man.