The Last Jedi is going to be the biggest box office smash of the year. As such, you can expect Disney to put out a ton of marketing material to promote their prestige release. But, if you take the advice of Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker himself) and The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson, you should avoid any promotional material for Star Wars: Episode VIII at all.
Check out this pair of recent tweets where they both discourage fans from checking out any more trailers or commercials.
— @HamillHimself (@HamillHimself) August 10, 2017
This begs the question: is this the right course of action for fans? And how hard is it going to be to avoid all of the marketing?
It’s true that trailers, TV spots, and all other sources of advertising are going to show fans important parts of the film. Granted, this doesn’t usually mean that a huge plot spoiler will be revealed, but they often end up revealing moments that would be better experienced within the context of the movie. Or, they are exciting moments that don’t spoil a plot point but feel less impacting when they are simply part of an ad.
Strangely, two examples of this come from Hulk in the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. In the trailer for The Avengers, Iron Man is falling from the sky and Hulk leaps up to grab him. It’s a fantastic moment that would have been amazing to see in the theater instead of on my laptop screen. More recently, the latest Thor: Ragnarok trailer gave us our first sequence of Hulk talking. That’s a huge development for the character in this film universe, and to showcase it in a trailer will make the revelation of his speech less… well, revelatory.
A similar thing is probably going to happen with The Last Jedi. There will be a powerful shot or sequence that the marketing department can’t help but utilize, and it will be something that we much rather would have seen for the first time on the big screen. If you want to save yourself from such early glimpses, you probably want to follow Mark and Rian’s advice.
Selling You, Not Telling You
We also need to keep in mind that advertising materials have one goal: sell you on the product. It’s actually inconsequential to them if the way they sell you a movie is honestly reflective of the finished product. The movie you see in trailers is not always the movie you get in the theater.
Look at Gareth Edwards’s Godzilla. The initial trailer painted a film that was eerie, grim, foreboding, and very much in tune with the tone of the original 1954 film. However, the eventual movie didn’t really reflect that tone at all. In fact, it was a fairly straightforward action/giant monster movie with little to no real grimness (except for the color palette) to be found.
We all have an idea of what a Star Wars movie means to us as far as tone, approach, and attitude. If the marketing of The Last Jedi plays on that but then offers up something different, fans might feel cheated or lied to. In truth, it’s not the marketing team’s fault. They need to sell audiences on Star Wars and they’ll do whatever that takes. If that means misrepresenting the film, then so be it. If the movie is good, people won’t even mention the marketing. Another reason to agree with Mark and Rian. you won’t remember the commercials once you’ve seen the movie and liked it. But if you don’t enjoy The Last Jedi, you’ll point to the marketing as being untruthful. So why even bother?
The Worst Kept Secret of Modern Trailers
The big thing about modern marketing with big effects films is something studios don’t like to mention: you’re seeing unfinished effects. Even the shiniest moment in a trailer is going to continually be scrutinized over by digital artists. Trailers for huge event films are often made while the film is still in production, and there will still be lots of post-production polish brought to every scene you see in a trailer.
Not to mention the growing use of footage that you won’t see at all in the movie. To stay in the world of Star Wars, just look at the immense differences between the footage in trailers for Rogue One and the actual scenes used in the film. The trailer shot of an AT-ACT shooting directly into the camera was my favorite shot of the film… until it turned out it wasn’t in the film. We’ve seen the same thing happen with Spider-Man: Homecoming and a shot of Spidey and Iron Man zooming through New York. It was a shot made specifically for the trailer.
Modern trailers and marketing are not always true representations of what will actually be in the finished film. They might use alternate takes or angles for a trailer and then do something different in the movie. If you see something in The Last Jedi marketing that you absolutely love and it ends up not being in the movie, you’re probably going to be upset. So, why even attach yourself to that material at all? Simply judge the finished film on its own and not on promo scenes.
Can You Avoid All This Marketing?
As you can tell, I mostly agree with Mark and Rian. If you’re already sold on The Last Jedi, why waste your time being sold on it even more? Well, in this day and age, it’s tough to avoid these kinds of materials. For someone like me, I have to watch these things as part of my job. But what about the casual fan? Can they avoid this stuff?
Yes, but it takes a combination of willpower, dedication, and a willingness to be left out of the conversation. Marketing a film is about creating discussion and fervor for an upcoming movie. If you are okay with not being a part of that cultural dialogue, then avoiding advertising for The Last Jedi comes down to your own vigilance. You’ll have to resist the urge to watch that new trailer or clip. You’ll have to scroll past your friends’ posts on social media when they inevitably geek out over the newest set photo or promo pic. It will be up to you to actively stay away from this content.
At the end of the day, what matters is when you walk into the theater. You should leave everything you know and feel outside of those doors and take in the movie on its own. That’s tougher to do in this day and age, but it’s not an impossible task. I strive to do just that when I see a film and it’s given me a better appreciation for many movies.
But, if you love parsing over every bit of pre-release content, that’s cool as well. Being a fan means loving something in your own special way. Whatever you decide to do, judge The Last Jedi as the movie it is and not the movie you see when you watch a trailer or a TV spot.