Of the ten movies advertised during the 2020 Super Bowl, only two of them made it to theaters while a third debuted on a streaming service (that’s not including the Wonder Woman 1984 Tide commercial). Disney also promoted its first three Marvel streaming series last year, and only one of those finally just arrived recently. So, I can understand if movie studios and even product partners were hesitant to bother with movie trailers and tie-in commercials during Super Bowl LV. But there were some, and few of the trailers made much of an impact while the movie-related ads followed tired trends.
Rather than splitting the 2021 Super Bowl movie trailers into “best” and “worst” categories, since they were few and mostly disappointing, here’s a ranking of them all from best to worst in terms of success at grabbing our attention and interest.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
The ad for Marvel Studios’ second Disney+ streaming series wins just for being Marvel Studios’ second Disney+ streaming series. We’re in the midst of WandaVision fever, and at the same time, a lot of fans are still starved for familiar Marvel action. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier looks a lot like a conventional piece of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Disney used its time during the game to focus on fight scenes and explosions. It looked bland in the TV spot, but it surely sparked awareness.
The full trailer online isn’t much better as far as seeming like more than a bickering buddy action comedy featuring two of the MCU’s mid-level characters (I might also still have a bad aftertaste in my mouth from the last Anthony Mackie sci-fi action movie) and then also some of its truly lesser characters (Sharon Carter). I don’t doubt the series will be better than its initial broad appeal marketing is selling it as. But after the cleverness of WandaVision, I’m not yet hopeful that it’ll do anything comparably worth talking about week to week.
Life in a Day 2020
A documentary advertised during the Super Bowl?!? This is too cool, and so what if the commercial ran before kickoff. It still counts. Google and YouTube debuted the feature over the weekend following its Sundance premiere, and they promoted it during the largest TV event of the year. That’s perfectly in tune with the collective experience at the heart of the Life in a Day films, which are crowd-sourced collaborative efforts compiling a montage of footage from regular folks all around the world shot on a single day.
This is a sequel of sorts to the original 2011 feature documentary Life in Day, and “director” Kevin Macdonald and producer Ridley Scott are back with a look at life everywhere on July 25, 2020. I haven’t watched the film yet, but YouTube shows at least a million views since Saturday. I wonder if the ad will give them another million or more. It did an okay job showcasing what the film is, I think. But I was honestly just shocked to see it advertised here in the first place.
Life in a Day 2020 is now streaming free on YouTube.
On the one hand, the promotion of a new M. Night Shymalan movie during the Super Bowl has its perks. Despite all the times the filmmaker fails to satisfy, we’ll always be curious about the next effort from the guy behind The Sixth Sense. And Universal knows it, based on the title card noting that this is from the writer/director of that 22-year-old movie. On the other hand, the commercial for Old is pretty poorly edited. The premise is kind of unclear. And while the spot ultimately sets up the strange idea that this beach aging everyone rapidly, that’s the big kicker, not whatever is causing it. I think they could have done better showing less, more slowly. But I admit there are some intriguing horror bits within the quick montage.
Old is due in theaters on July 23, 2021.
Cadillac: “Scissor Hands-Free”
I’m tired of companies targeting movie fans with nostalgia-based mini-sequels that are really just ads for cars and cable TV. But they’re often done really well, and while this one is no E.T. Xfinity commercial, it does have Timothée Chalamet as the son of Edward Scissorhands — Edgar Scissorhands — and that’s something. Never mind that it doesn’t fit with the narrative of Tim Burton’s 1991 movie and never mind that it’s probably still a bad idea for a guy with scissors for hands to drive a car, even one with hand-free mode, it’s nice to see Winona Ryder return as Kim. If only they’d managed to get Diane Wiest, the true MVP of Edward Scissorhands to make an appearance.
Raya and the Last Dragon
Disney’s next animated feature sounds amazing. Why the Super Bowl ad failed to convey that is beyond me. My kids were not excited by the spot, and nothing of wonder grabbed my attention either. Does it look great? Sure, in parts, but nothing in the commercial shows off anything greater than any other fantasy animated content out there. And some of it looks rather bland. If this is the first that a lot of people are hearing of and seeing Raya and the Last Dragon, especially the younger Super Bowl audience could use something a little fresher. I feel like I’m going to make my kids watch it, and that’s not good when this is another title that, unlike Soul, will cost Disney+ subscribers extra.
Raya and the Last Dragon hits theaters and Disney+ with Premier Access on March 5th.
The tenth Fast & Furious movie was teased during the last Super Bowl. Unfortunately, the movie still hasn’t come out. The excitement for the sequel is still there, but this spot is only really a reminder of its existence and of the pandemic’s disruption of blockbuster releases. It’s like, hey, look this movie is still going to come out someday (the ad only states that it’s “in theaters soon” and doesn’t even attach the current release date) and will be the usual nonsensical mayhem you love! That one shot of the car turning on its side and smashing through a building like physics are nothing, what is going on there? Who cares? Vin’s gonna crank it all the way up or whatever. And Charlize Theron has a bowl cut.
F9 might come out in theaters on May 28, 2021.
Uber Eats: “Wayne’s World & Cardi B’s Shameless Manipulation”
I’m not sure what Uber Eats is meaning by their Eat Local campaign. As opposed to traveling to a restaurant far away? Or having meals delivered by Amazon (do they do that now?). I get the sentiment of supporting local businesses including eateries, but the wording doesn’t work. Anyway, this ad specifically also doesn’t work. Even though I get the connection between the local public access television format and the concept of local food establishments, though the former is antiquated and so maybe not the best thing to align with a company trying to be modern. But even if you’re old enough to appreciate Wayne’s World and even the similarity between their approach here to the product placement shtick in the first movie, this ad feels half-assed and is depressingly void of laughs.
Disney: “Get Your Stream on With the Disney Bundle”
Paramount+: “Sweet Victory”
You’ve got millions of people watching the Super Bowl, and you want to steer them to your streaming service. What do you do? If you’re Disney, you promote the next Marvel series and the next Disney animated feature, but then you also put out a mediocre promotion of your bundle of Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+? Sure, but why does it only spotlight content that’s already available (including the Wanda vs. Vision shot from WandaVision was a good choice at least)? Why not also slip in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier stuff here to remind us of what we saw earlier in the game and of what we can look forward to in general?
At least the Disney bundle ad isn’t as laughably bad as the Paramount+ ad campaign celebrating various characters you can find on the rebranding of what was once CBS All Access. Beavis and Butthead, the girl from The Ring, Dora and the Paw Patrol pups, James Corden, and Snookie are supposed to get us excited for yet another streaming service? Poor Patrick Stewart. I get that streaming services are, for better and worse, mostly about existing content for subscribers (hence the big money going to shows like Friends and The Office), but none of these properties are that high in demand. And that this was all they had for the climax of a campaign that sounds good on paper but looks cheap and weird is peak failure for movie-related ads this year.