Bryan Singer’s X-Men Tease is the Perfect Symbol for Modern Franchise Filmmaking

By  · Published on February 10th, 2015

Bryan Singer

Yesterday, Bryan Singer shared a picture of a door with the world. It was later eclipsed by bigger, more substantial superhero news, but let’s take a moment to consider Singer’s X-Men: Apocalypse tease as the perfect symbol for the way franchises are shared with their fans now.

While we do, think of how 2000 it is to be swimming in X-Men and Spider-Man movie news.

Here are my reasons for seeing this as wholly emblematic of franchise storytelling/marketing:

  1. It’s something we’ve seen before, imbued with the promise that it will be a different experience.
  2. It tells us absolutely nothing about the movie.
  3. It relies on an icon to create a since of excitement for something that doesn’t exist yet.
  4. It has built-in social media advertising. #Synergy
  5. It’s one part familiarity, one part hope.
  6. It’s promoting a movie that won’t be in theaters for over a year.

On the one hand, it’s hard to separate what we’ve come to recognize as years-off marketing for movies and the enthusiasm of their creators. Singer may simply want to share his energy about another upcoming X-Men outing with the world, and that’s not only fair, it should be encouraged. Our access to filmmakers and the pieces of production they choose to share is an invaluable resource for all of us who obsessively watch every Blu-ray featurette. Singer is one of those people ‐ a fan ‐ so it’s unsurprising when he gets all geeky about a famous wheelchair or a door or any other artifact from the fictional world he gets to shape/live in.

I’m also not saying that being emblematic of franchise filmmaking is all bad. Excitement is a good thing. Enthusiasm and anticipation are good things. Spending more time with characters we love is a good thing. Serialized storytelling is a good thing.

At the same time, there can be a sense of hollowness to some of it. Or a lot of it. Particularly when the movies themselves are crafted with the next entry (or next three) in mind. When a percentage of the focus is on using the movie itself as an advertisement for the next movie. When casting announcements for the next entry are made the Monday after the current entry hits theaters.

Or, worse, when big budget superhero movies all start to blur together, distinguishable only by the differently colored costumes.

X-Men has managed to weather the storm by understanding its team dynamic, injecting the series with fantastic new characters in each adventure and attempting to zoom in on the personal consequences of being different as a core theme. It’s actually the quality of Days of Future Past that made its pyramid-building post-credits sting (only understood by dedicated fans of the series and people who understood the muddied chanting well enough to Google it) seem ridiculous. Like an alien body part. A tonally different advertisement plugged in after the world is saved (again). Luckily it didn’t infect the movie itself, but it definitely made a statement about what people should be talking about in the parking lot.

So here’s this door. It’s old, but there’s going to be something new behind it.

Movie stuff at VanityFair, Thrillist, IndieWire, Film School Rejects, and The Broken Projector [email protected] | Writing short stories at Adventitious.