On October 20th 2016, Fox released the first trailer for James Mangold’s superhero masterpiece – Logan. At this point in time, the X-Men movie franchise had been running for over fifteen years, but the films were also beginning to deteriorate in terms of quality, narrative and consistency. The Wolverine solo movies alone were almost enough to kill the franchise where it stood, with X-Men Origins: Wolverine being one of the worst entries in the franchise’s run. Basically by this point, the X-Men films had become something of a joke, a never-ending cycle of films being pushed out by people who never truly cared for the source material to begin with.
So imagine the reaction the first Logan trailer got from hardcore comic fans when it first dropped. This trailer was unlike anything we had ever seen attached to the superhero genre – it wasn’t fun, epic or cartoonish. Instead it was slow, gritty and almost eerie in its composition. The first lingering shot of Hugh Jackman’s bleeding knuckles told the audience that this was not going to be the trailer they expected, however it did become the trailer they wanted.
The marketing for Logan is now remembered as some of the best for any superhero film, with that first trailer creating the hype the film needed to reach the level of success it did. Logan is a fantastic film, one that is beautifully balanced with Hugh Jackman’s raw performance, one that changed what superhero films could be, one that even got nominated for an Academy Award for its screenplay – making it the first superhero film to ever hold such an honour. But it was the trailer that originally influenced audiences to go see the film, and because of this, it appears that many subsequent studios and franchises are trying to use the same Logan formula to market their movies. And so we have to ask, how did Logan affect film marketing?
Recently, two trailers were released for Terminator: Dark Fate and Rambo: Last Blood. Although, arguably, both films are very different in terms of genre and tone, the respected trailers for each are far more similar than they may first appear. Before Logan, a majority of action film trailers were full of explosions, fast paced editing and usually loud, obnoxious music. Often taking full advantage of the fight scenes to draw in audience numbers. For example, we see this specific formula being used in the trailers for films such as The Expendables and even the first Wolverine movie. But now, things have changed. The visuals are slow and lingering, and they are often accompanied by haunting acoustic numbers. And why? Because Logan did it first, and the success of that trailer influenced other studios to try the same.
The Terminator trailer opens with a meandering shot of some speeding highway, while the Rambo trailer begins with a sprawling shot of pastoral America. These are not the typical opening shots used to advertise such white-knuckle genres and yet they do it in the hope of mimicking the success of Logan. In many ways, not only do these two films try to mimic the construction of Logan’s marketing, they also seemingly copy elements of Logan’s narrative.
Logan as a film marks a huge moment in the X-Men film series. It was the final appearance of the iconic character, with Jackman renouncing the role after the film’s release. In this film, we get a very different Wolverine to the one we have come to know and love. This Wolverine is not sexy, nor is he rugged and muscular – he’s old, haggard, and worn down by the world. And in the new Terminator trailer, we see the very same character type being reflected in the return of Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor, who is no longer a naïve young woman with big 80’s hair, but an emotionless warrior, having seemingly regressed further into battle-ready persona from Terminator 2.
In Logan, Wolverine must choose to protect a young mutant girl from the primary antagonistic forces, becoming a hero again after many years of solitude and misery. It is a hard choice to make because Wolverine has given up on the future, and this child represents just that. In Terminator, it appears that Sarah Connor must also make a similar decision, does she protect a fully grown cyborg and her human companion, or does she destroy the A.I, like she has done to all the others? From the trailer alone we can not only see parallels in these films’ marketing but also in their overriding stories.
Logan was also heavily attached to the subject of finality, with it being the final chapter of the character’s story. We see this being mirrored in the recent trailer for Rambo: Last Blood, whose title alone denotes a sense of an ending. I am not saying that this film will see the death of Rambo, nor am I saying it will be the last Rambo film to ever be made. But the marketing surrounding it hints at an upcoming finale, one very similar to that of a mutant with metal claws.
In the end, these films may not be the critical darling that Logan was, nor will they break new ground, but they are attempting to reach Logan’s success through their story and advertising. It is a common trend in Hollywood, that once something succeeds, it must be done again and again until audiences grow tired of what they have already seen. Right now the Logan train is still brand new and ready for the journey, but I’m sure that one day we will see a decline in this kind of film branding and marketing. One day, another film will come and completely rewrite all that we expect in terms of what a single film trailer can do. For now, all we can do is watch as other studios scramble to piece together their own Logan knockoffs – because it’s going to be a great time either way.