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Why the Venom teaser did such a poor job selling the movie

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That could have been any action movie

A stand-alone Venom movie is by definition a monster movie, and you need to at least hint at the monster during a teaser for a monster movie. The Venom trailer failed to do so, but that’s the least of its sins.

A teaser should ideally get you excited about watching the movie; its entire job is to get you wanting more of whatever film it’s selling, even if that just means being willing to watch the full trailer when it’s released. But the only people excited about the movie after that teaser are people who already know Venom. It gave newcomers to the character zero reason to care and no idea about what the stakes of the film will be.

Who is the hero of that story? We see Tom Hardy the most, but that doesn’t tell us much. What is the obstacle that our hero will need to overcome? From the teaser, the answer seems to be general life problems and maybe a hint of anger. Who is the bad guy? We don’t know. Who is the victim in this movie? There may not be one. What does the hero stand to lose in the trailer? No clue. What do they stand to gain? No idea.

The audience is given no hook for the story, and no reason to care about these characters and what they’re going through. Tom Hardy looks like the star of every action movie, and you could turn this teaser into buildup for just about any story if you inserted a specific effects shot at the end. If Hardy jumped into a car in the final moments of the teaser, it could very well have been a teaser for a Fast and Furious film where he and the gang have to steal a mysterious case of ooze.

It’s a boring teaser that doesn’t spend enough time trying to connect with the audience, and that’s crucial for tentpole films these days. Venom fans are going to see the movie regardless, but teasers and trailers have to grab the person sitting next to the Venom fan. The marketing has to pull in people who don’t know the character. And that teaser did nothing to get them interested, outside of establishing that Tom Hardy will be in the movie.

Let’s look at a good teaser trailer for contrast. Watch the teaser for Sicario 2 below, and then we’ll discuss what it does well.

So who are the good guys? The police and the military. Who are the bad guys? The drug cartels. What are the stakes? We are introduced to a world of ongoing, targeted violence, so the stakes are life and death. Who is the villain? It’s suggested that it’s Benicio del Toro’s character, but you get the sense that this is a movie where there won’t be clear lines between the good and bad characters. The world of the movie is set up with admirable economy and restraint. Nothing major is given away, but the table is certainly set.

The Venom trailer, despite technically being for a superhero — or supervillain, in this case — movie, never shows us anything about that hero or villain. We don’t know what the symbiote is or what it does, outside of being goo in a container. Venom should be a character of violence and anger, a force of nature on the side of evil. The teaser doesn’t sell that concept at all, other than hinting at the “demon” inside people.

We don’t get any information that would get us excited about the film, or that would energize someone who doesn’t know about this character and his connection to Spider-Man. It looks like an editing exercise where the students weren’t given any details about the movie they were trying to sell.

The movie could be amazing, and we hope it is. But that teaser does a poor job of making us want to see more.