Super Bowl XLVIII TV Spots: Report Card

2014 Super Bowl Movie Trailers

Last year during Super Bowl XLVII, amidst the Ravens/49ers nail-biter, the third quarter blackout, and Beyonce’s scorcher of a half time show, Fast and Furious 6 made an indelible, high-octane impression with its out-of-control Super Bowl TV spot. Remember that car exploding out of the front of a moving plane? It was during that TV spot that anticipation for Fast 6 skyrocketed, and it was a moment that proved just how instrumental the Super Bowl can be for marketing the year’s upcoming blockbusters. Unfortunately, this year left much to be desired, not only in terms of the Seahawks’ blowout but also the lackluster TV spots. Just like the mercilessly boring game, most of the films advertised, from Noah to Transformers: Age of Extinction and The Amazing Spider-Man 2, blended into each other with a forgettable bombardment of CGI imagery and large scale destruction that we’ve all seen before many, many times. Heck, the Captain America: The Winter Soldier ad wasn’t even a TV Spot at all, it was a 30 second teaser for the film’s second full length trailer that dropped after the game. You know it was an unexpectedly timid evening when spots for The Muppets Most Wanted and Need For Speed out did any of the big budget blockbusters. Below is a quick report card for last night’s marketing blitz:

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Noah2014Poster.jpgNOAH (March 28th) – No film this year is as risky as Noah, a CGI-heavy biblical epic directed by Darren Aronofsky, best known for his dark, character heavy dramas Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, and Black Swan. With a reported $130 million price tag (though it’s certainly more given marketing costs), Noah is hoping to be the next religious-themed blockbuster a la The Passion of the Christ, which was similarly released in late winter 2004. The difference here is that Noah is going bonanza on the special effects, and the Super Bowl spot is more or less your typical blockbuster teaser, touting one big set piece (the animals boarding the ark) after another (a battle at the foot of the ark), after another (shining white objects – meteors? spirits? – hurdling towards earth), after another (the climactic flood). Also seen is the film’s noteworthy cast, including Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connolly, Ray Winstone, and Emma Watson. Paramount Pictures is clearly trying to make this an event (just look at the tagline), but biblical epics are a very tough sell, especially when being marketed as every mainstream blockbuster out there. Word has it that Aronofsky’s version delves into deep psychological issues when the family finds themselves stranded on the ark, which is right up his ally, while also using so much CGI that in some scenes only the actor’s face is real. There’s also been rumor of 8-foot tall unicorn-type beasts. Of course, none of this stuff is being hinted at in the Super Bowl ad, for all Paramount wants you to know is that this is a big, big blockbuster, which may be a problem when the final cut is way more out there than glossy spots like this suggest. GRADE: B-


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Muppets Most Wanted poster.jpgMUPPETS MOST WANTED (March 21st) – Does anyone else find these Muppet TV-spots to be ingeniously clever? Drawing directly from the theme of the first TV Spot, this new Super Bowl ad reaches for more nonsensical humor as it shows footage from the film with critic blurbs made up from fake twitter handles like @kevkoast315 raving, “Their R 2 Kermits?…Wut if theyre were 2 of me?…That would be cray cray.” These absurd critic blurbs are irreverently hilarious and are even funnier when you realize that the entire marketing behind Muppets Most Wanted thus far has been centered around sending up studios’ reliance on social media instead of actually selling anything from the movie, which is pretty genius considering The Muppet brand has a built in fan base that doesn’t need much convincing to pay for and see this sequel to 2011’s surprisingly great Muppet reboot. I’m enjoying the hell out of these ads; they’re going out of their way to provide some genuine comedy for 30 seconds rather than to straightforwardly advertise what is bound to be your typical family friendly sequel. GRADE: A-


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Need For Speed poster.jpgNEED FOR SPEED (March 14th) – Need For Speed is going to need some serious gas to race out of its humungous Fast and Furious shadow, but this incredibly sly, well-edited Super Bowl spot shows way more promise than the film’s full trailer. For a film called Need For Speed, this teaser appropriately zips by, quickly match cutting images of the film’s main drivers (Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, and Imogen Poots) and their flashy, beautifully photographed cars in high-speed, high-flying action. It’s got a rush-of-adrenaline feel to it and shows off a lot of practical stunt effects that suggest it’ll be, for better or for worse, a lot more grounded than the Fast films (there’s no car exploding out of the front of a moving airplane in this one). While it’s still a big of a surprise to see Breaking Bad Emmy-winner Paul in a studio blockbuster based off a highly popular video game franchise, if the film is as clever as this teaser, we could have a surprisingly fun new addition to the racing genre. GRADE: A-


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Transformers4 Teaser Poster.jpegTRANSFROMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION (June 27th): The fact that this new Transformers: Age of Extinction Super Bowl spot, which also acts as the film’s first trailer, induces chuckles and eye-rolls is a testament to how ridiculous and unneeded another entry is in this franchise after abysmal sequels Revenge of the Fallen and Dark of the Moon. Oh, Michael Bay! This just wouldn’t be a Transformers TV spot without tons of robots tirelessly smashing into each other (and slicing through cars, flying in space towards earth, flipping through the air while firing a gun – all things previous films have showcased), a beautiful actress over-acting such great lines like “Dad!”, and apocalyptically numbing destruction on a large scale. At least the similarly effects heavy Noah gets to use its big budget to create some new imagery; Age of Extinction is typical franchise fare with CGI that just reminds us how awesome the original was. At least this fourth go around has Mark Whalberg, always a welcome presence, especially when he’s in saving the world mode, and a last-second teaser reveal of a DINOBOT exploding onto the screen. Yes, the Dinobots are coming, and from this teaser that’s about the only thing in Age of Extinction worth getting mediocrely excited about. GRADE: C


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Spider-Man (left) and Electro (right) stand face-to-faceTHE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 (May 2nd): Another Super Bowl spot hitting the traditional blockbuster beats – pricy CGI, big action set pieces, large-scale destruction – but this one has to be the most confusing of them all. The decision to reboot the Spider-Man film franchise with The Amazing Spider-Man in 2012, just 5 years after Sam Raimi’s trilogy concluded with the infamous Spider-Man 3, yielded mixed results. The film made a decent sized dent at the worldwide box office even though the inspired cast, including Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, and Sally Field, couldn’t elevate a forgettable plot that called to mind Raimi’s original way too much. What’s baffling to me is that Spider Man 3 is infamous for over-stuffing three villains into the plot and that’s exactly what this new Super Bowl spot for Amazing Spider-Man 2 sets up, all the way up to the annoying “EnemiesUnite.Com” tagline. Why in the world is this new Spider-Man movie resorting back to Raimi’s? Do we really need Electro (Jaime Fox under extremely goofy looking CGI work), Rhino (looking way more mechanical than I remember him), and Green Goblin (wait, again?) in one movie? Wouldn’t you think anyone involved with this project would think twice before redoing the whole three-villain thing again?  It’s going to be hard for the Amazing Spider-Man universe to leave a mark when it keeps bringing back the images and story elements of Raimi’s original trilogy. The franchise is in the process of expanding, similar to the Marvel-universe, and it’s no secret Sony is stuffing villains into this one so the eventual Sinister Six can come into play, but none of that serves to give this sequel purpose in and of itself. This Super Bowl TV spot is more focused on laying the groundwork for the future movie universe than it is for getting us excited about how Amazing Spider Man 2 will actually expand and challenge the characters we love. GRADE: D


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Which films did Super Bowl XLVIII get you most excited for?

Article by Zack Sharf

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