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The Best Comic Book Movie Trailers of All Time

With the trailers for The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises pumping up audiences for this summer’s crop of comic book movies, it’s a good time to look back at some of the trailers from years past that had fans buzzing months in advance of a film’s release.

While the movies didn’t always live up to the hype, these trailers successfully pumped up fans through their brilliant mix of music, special effects, and unforgettable characters.

batman 1989.jpg

OK,
so maybe this isn’t the flashiest trailer in motion picture history.
(It doesn’t even include much of the dramatic Danny Elfman music or
peppy Prince songs featured on the soundtrack.) But when fans got their first look at the trailer
with a grim and gritty Batman, they understandably went batty. From the
use of a simple logo on movie posters to its mysterious, action-packed
trailer, the promotion for Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman forever
changed how blockbuster movies are marketed. Place this trailer in the
context of the mega-hype surrounding the first Batman movie, and you’ll
get an idea of the excitement that greeted the clips of the Batwing
soaring through Gotham and Jack Nicholson’s Joker wondering where Batman
gets his “wonderful toys.” 


To
fully appreciate the impact this trailer had, you have to put yourself 
in the mindset of comic book fans in 1994. Outside of the Tim Burton
Batman movies, we didn’t have much in the way of comic book flicks, let
alone one which featured a violent, gothic sensibility. (Alec Baldwin as
The Shadow doesn’t count.) The Crow‘s mix of superhero
revenge story and tragic romance was a game-changer,  and the trailer
showcased both the movie’s stark production design and the late Brandon
Lee’s brilliantly haunting performance. Also, if you want to know what
1994 was like, take a gander at the TV spots which prominently featured a Stone Temple Pilots song from the movie’s hit alternative rock soundtrack. 

Spiderman-Kiss.jpg

Now that the trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man
has fans fired up about mechanical web=shooters and what the Lizard
looks like, it’s interesting to remember the 2002 trailer that
introduced the world to Peter Parker. It’s a bit forgotten now, but the first teaser trailer for Spider-Man
was actually a mini-movie that featured a bank heist and Spidey
dangling a helicopter on his web that was affixed between the Twin
Towers. (Sony pulled the teaser following the September 11 attacks.) But
it was the full-length trailer
— which introduced Peter, Mary Jane, and Green Goblin and featured the
iconic upside-down kiss — that really showed fans that Spider-Man
could swing on the big screen. While The Amazing Spider-Man looks fun, it’s hard to top the excitement of that first trailer. 

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While X-Men kicked off the golden age of Marvel Comics movies, it was 2002’s X2: X-Men United that set the template for future comic book movie sequels. And the thrilling trailer
showed that director Bryan Singer was making sure everything was bigger
for the sequel. The stakes were bigger, with the government now hunting
mutants. The special effects were grander, thanks to new characters
like Nightcrawler and Deathstrike. Heck, even Wolverine’s hair seemed
bigger. Expanding on the far more modest X-Men, the X2
trailer offered fans peeks at Iceman and Rogue’s relationship, the
growing tension between Magneto and Professor X, and Jean Grey’s gradual
loss of control. All this, plus Wolverine meets a cat. What else can
you ask for in a trailer? 

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Featuring
an all-star star cast, a stark black-and-white look that only offered
occasional bursts of color, and a throbbing rock score courtesy of
Cells’ “The Servant,” the Sin City trailer announced its presence
like a gunshot rattling through a back alley. The mix of tough-guy
dialogue and rapidly cut shots that build to a crescendo served as a
template for future comic book movies that wanted to show that they
didn’t play by the usual goody-goody superhero rules. (See Watchmen, Kick-Ass,
etc.) While light on plot details, the visceral trailer got people
talking and led to a box office smash. Here’s hoping that Robert
Rodriguez and Frank Miller can deliver as good a trailer when they
finally get around to making Sin City 2
Want to instantly get chills? Watch the teaser trailer for Superman Returns, the 2006 reboot/sequel/154-minute homage to 1978’s Superman.
Mixing snippets of Marlon Brando’s decades-old narration with John
Williams’s stirring score, the trailer evokes the grandeur of Richard
Donner’s original movies. (More than a few fans got misty-eyed during
Brando’s monologue.) The second trailer (which you can see at the review
above) offered actual plot details, as well as peeks at Kevin Spacey’s
Lex Luthor and Kate Bosworth’s Lois Lane. Unfortunately the trailers
proved to be too prescient, as many fans felt the film failed to be more
than a long homage to the days when Christopher Reeve wore the
red-and-blue costume. 

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When the first teaser trailer for 300
debuted at the 2006 San Diego Comic-Con, the buzz was deafening. For
the first time, a movie had managed to transplant the artwork and style
of its comic book source material to the big screen without making it
seem cheesy or visually inert. Director Zack Snyder offered a trailer
ripe with visually sumptuous tableaus and Gerard Butler bellowing the
now-famous line, “This is Sparta!” The amped-up, macho trailer set the
tone for future Snyder films, proving that he’s a director who works
best in small doses. And since audiences are usually mixed on the actual
movies, perhaps producing killer trailers is Snyder’s real calling. 

Watchmen-125.jpg

Aka,
“Zack Snyder strikes again.” Once again Snyder appeared to do the near
impossible by translating Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s acclaimed
graphic novel that had thwarted many a filmmaker on its long road to the
big screen. Much like with his trailer for 300, Snyder let the visuals tell the story here,
offering quick cuts of scenes lifted almost verbatim from the comic,
all set to the grindingly apocalyptic strains of the Smashing Pumpkins
song “The Beginning Is the End Is the Beginning.” We get glimpses of Dr.
Manhattan’s transformation, the OwlShip epically rising out of the
water, and more before Rorschach delivers the kicker line, “The world
will look up and shout, ‘Save us,’ and I’ll whisper, ‘No.’ ” (X-Men
this wasn’t.) The second trailer, featured in the link above, offered
more plot details, set to epic music by Philip Glass and Muse. Of
course, reaction to the actual movie itself was decidedly mixed. But for
a brief moment, it looked like Snyder had actually managed to adapt a
famously unadaptable work. 

Coming
on the heels of a brilliantly creepy viral marketing campaign that set
up Heath Ledger’s Joker as an anarchist terrorist and introduced his
catchphrase (“Why So Serious?”), the breathtaking full-length trailer
for The Dark Knight set an appropriately epic tone. Whatever
skepticism fans had over the casting of Ledger was thrown out the window
when Joker and his terrifying cackle were introduced. Building on the
setup of Batman Begins, The Dark Knight
trailer plunges us into a Gotham teetering on the edge thanks to an
insane madman. New characters (Harvey Dent) are introduced, while old
favorites like Alfred pop up to give Bruce Wayne moral support. All
this, plus a creepy score that pulsates in the background. It was such
an effective trailer, Christopher Nolan basically made it a second time
for The Dark Knight Rises.

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