How can the trailers for Star Wars: Episode IX avoid the kind of fan backlash seen with The Last Jedi? Making a trailer is more of an art than it is an exact science, with studios carefully parsing every shot for potential impact, ensuring the trailer is as effective as possible and whets viewers' appetites.
That's especially the case with massive franchises like Marvel, DC, and of course Star Wars. These have committed fan-bases who pore over split-seconds of footage, attempting to work out what it means for the story and the franchise's overarching narrative. As such, studios have to strike a careful balance; on the one hand, they want to show enough to get people excited, but at the same time they also want to ensure spoilers are kept to an absolute minimum. A single slip can potentially result in the fanbase working out the film's entire plot.
But there's another side to this as well. Trailers actually shape the narrative that builds up around the film. A good trailer generates excitement, builds up a sense of anticipation, and gets certain subjects talked about. It essentially prepares the viewer for the experience of watching the actual film, cluing them in on what to expect. That's not always appreciated, and as a result trailers - even well-received ones - can backfire if they don't quite set the film up correctly. So how can Lucasfilm avoid that mistake?
- This Page: Star Wars: Episode IX Can't Be A Mystery Box
- Page 2: Did The Trailers For The Last Jedi Harm The Film?
What To Expect From Star Wars 9's Trailers
By now, Lucasfilm has settled into a steady routine when it comes to marketing a Christmas Star Wars release. Marketing will really kick off at this year's Star Wars Celebration in April, and can be expected to include a trailer drop. While there'll no doubt be a lot of Star Wars news at the event, Star Wars: Episode IX will be the centerpiece, with a panel to showcase new footage and details. The film will be in the thick of post-production by April, meaning there'll be a handful of finished shots (with completed visual effects). What's more, an April release will ensure the Episode IX trailer accompanies Avengers: Endgame, giving it maximum reach. Going by previous Lucasfilm trailers, don't expect a focus on the plot; the emphasis will be on the character journeys.
Assuming Lucasfilm follow what has become their usual pattern, this trailer drop will be followed by a behind-the-scenes reel that premieres at D23 and SDCC in July. A second trailer will release closer to the film, most likely in October when tickets become available. That's when the marketing campaign will kick up a notch, with Lucasfilm releasing a flurry of TV spots to help generate excitement and get people to purchase tickets.
Star Wars 9 Can't Be A Mystery Box
Unfortunately, Lucasfilm's marketing approach for the Sequel Trilogy has been what J.J. Abrams calls a "Mystery Box." This is an approach where the film is treated as a mystery, with the trailers and TV spots revealing as little about the plot as possible. The idea is that viewers get excited about the possibilities, and thus turn up to see how things really play out.
The best example was the marketing for Cloverfield, which kicked off with a strange teaser revealing a release date but not its title or stars. Viewers speculated it could be anything from a Lost spinoff to a reboot of Godzilla. But there are a lot of problems with the Mystery Box, and even for Abrams it seems to be seeing diminishing returns. The Force Awakens was essentially a Mystery Box wrapped up as an entire plot, and that caused major issues for the franchise down the line; it raised questions that Lucasfilm clearly hadn't decided on the answers to, and the resolution was all pushed back to The Last Jedi.
Star Wars: Episode IX simply cannot be a Mystery Box. Star Wars is a known commodity; audiences already have a good sense of what to expect when they walk in the doors. Besides which, in the case of Episode IX, the film is already weighed down with so much expectation. This movie has to justify the entire Sequel Trilogy, explaining why it's an essential part of the Skywalker Saga. It has to try to find a way of pulling a divided fanbase back together. And, adding even more pressure, it has to offer a poignant and heartfelt farewell to the late, great Carrie Fisher.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019