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A Stinger in the Tale: What’s the Point in a Teaser the Audience Don’t Get?

The Avengers was released on Friday in the UK and Ireland. It’s well worth a look, and it’s quite impressive how well director Joss Whedon managed to fuse these separate mythologies into one almost-cohesive film, even if it is a bit of a muddled mess at times. However, make sure that you remain in your seats as the credits role, as there’s a special surprise waiting for fans – just like at the end of Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger before it. It is a pretty big deal for comic book fans such as myself, those of us with a passing knowledge of the Marvel Comics canon. Still, I can’t help but wonder what more regular and casual movie-goers might make of it.

Running the (infinity) gauntlet...

Note: The teaser is obviously spoiled below. Also, I saw an early cut of the film, and there was no second stinger attached, as rumours have suggested might have been added late in the day. Based on those rumours, and the actors involved in the shoot, it’s more likely that scene was more accessible, but I still wonder what regular fans will make of the sequence that appears at the end of the first set of credits.

For those who don’t know, and don’t care about being spoiled, the teaser “in between” the end credits reveals a sinister character watching the events of the movie with a hint of curiosity, suddenly aware that human beings are worth his attention and his time. The character is Thanos. He was a comic book character created by writer Jim Starlin for The Invincible Iron Man, but who developed into a fairly massive bad guy in the Marvel Universe. He’s perhaps most famous as the antagonist of The Infinity Gauntlet, an epic and well-loved space saga featuring the team, although he’s also been at the centre of some of the more entertaining “cosmic” crossover events in recent times, like Annihilation and The Thanos Imperative. So, to fans of The Avengers, it’s a pretty big deal.

However, after seeing the character’s iconic face warp into something resembling a grin, my better half was more than a little confused. She politely leaned over to me, once the credits resumed, and asked, “Is that Hellboy? And why is he dressed like that?” It’s actually not a bad point of reference of a casual movie-goer who I’ve dragged along to more than her fair share of comic book movies, and she gets partial credit, like I do when I recognise the author of a classic quote, even if I have trouble narrowing it down to the book. To my better half, to my brother, to my family, to anybody who enjoys these films… they have absolutely no idea who Thanos is.

Bashing skrulls...

The teaser might as well say “there’s a purple dude with a weird chin and he’ll be causin’ trouble in about two years…” I can’t help but feel like these post-movie teasers are getting more and more oblique, and more and more exclusive. I would have thought that the goal would have been to amp up the anticipation as much as possible in the general movie-going population, rather than in just the nerdier elements. Anybody who recognised Thanos was probably already excited about the film, and I’ll freely admit to being happy that Marvel seems to be leaning towards an adaptation of a story I like, but it just seems like a rather half-hearted teaser.

Of course, all of this stems from Iron Man. I’m alone in considering it the weakest of the lead-in films, significantly weaker than its own sequel. However, that post-credits sequences was something else entirely. It was a game-changer, something that got even casual movie fans talking. My better half’s older brother told us to wait until the end of the credits, to let us in on the surprise. And, in that one short scene, Marvel set up a lot of what was coming. However, I think that scene worked for a lot of reasons that some of the more recent teasers have strayed away from.

Not a patch on Iron Man's ending...

People didn’t go wild about that scene because it introduced Nick Fury and broadened the movie continuity. Okay, maybe some fans did. To most viewers, however, those factors were a by-product of what made that scene cool. It was Samuel L. Jackson, showing up to put Iron Man on a team with a bunch of other cool heroes. Sure, maybe a lot of movie-goers wouldn’t be able to rhyme off lesser-known members of the team like Hank and Janet Pym, Black Widow, Hawkeye or even Thor, but the name “the Avengers” has a great deal of cache…

… and it was Samuel L. Jackson. The original B.A.M.F. himself. Showing up after the film had ended. It doesn’t matter that he was playing Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. He could have been playing Ant-Man or D-Man or any other obscure character and the crowd would have gone wild. Samuel L. Jackson showing up to sell you life insurance is cool. And his objective was obvious. He was recruiting Iron Man. For a team filled with people just as cool.

Dropping the hammer...

The teaser at the end of The Incredible Hulk worked off the same idea, and audiences could immediately understand it. Robert Downey Jr. shows up to talk about the Hulk. The premise is immediately obvious, even if you ignore the dialogue. At the very least, it promised that Iron Man and the Hulk would be united on-screen. What we got was a lot more than that, but the idea was fascinating enough that you didn’t need a working knowledge of comic book history to understand it.

This teaser at the end of The Avengers feels more like the teasers at the end of Thor or Iron Man 2. Iron Man 2 ends with a focus on Thor’s hammer. It cool for a fan of the character, but a lot of the more casual movie-goers I knew were a little confused. Obviously, in the wake of Thor and The Avengers, it makes more sense, but it just seemed a little out-of-context, and I know that a few people were quite upset at sitting through the trailer for that.

It's all connected...

The ending to Thor was slightly better in that respect, but still lost a lot of the impact of those initial two. It focused on a macguffin that would be introduced in Captain America, despite being recognisable to comic book fans. Again, my better half was less than enthused, while friends and family were a bit bewildered. However, to the credit of the writers, it did tie up at least on plot thread from its parent film – it revealed that Loki was alive and well, and did set him up as the antagonist of the big crossover.

There are rumours that the final post-credit sequence will involved Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey Jr., setting up a new Hulk film and Iron Man 3. There are even rumours that there was such a rush to sign Ben Kingsley as the villain in the third Iron Man film because they wanted to tease him here. In that case, it sounds like a lot stronger teaser for casual movie fans. Us nerds will think it’s cool that Thanos is showing up, but friends and family can look at the screen and go, “Ben Kingsley is in Iron Man 3?”

One Response

  1. I’ve never read a comic book but I think it’s cool if the fans get a teaser that only they will recognise. A big movie fan like me may not know everything about The Avengers but I’ll be interested to find out what the teaser is about and go look it up.

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