Is the movie fraught with plot problems? Yes. Is it a bloated caricature of the very genre that Marvel created? Absolutely. Did I still kind of love it? You’re darn right I did. I expected to. What I didn’t expect was to walk out with a few good reminders of some of the most important marketing maxims I know.
More is less.
Avengers: Age of Ultron may be the most bloated film in movie history. When Oscar-nominee Don Cheadle can’t crack the top dozen names on the marquee, and the likes of Stellan Skarsgard and Julie Delpy barely make the top 25, you, my friends, have a bloated cast. However, those famous faces aren’t a service to the story, they’re a distraction. This didn’t happen all at once, of course. These characters made their way in through the myriad of franchises (Captain America, Iron Man, etc.) that feed into Avengers. And the same thing can happen if you lose focus with your brand. It’s easy to start tagging on special programs, sub-brands, and promotions that, over time, start to pull focus away from the primary story. When you create too many one-off stories, your audience no longer knows where to look.
Tell one story. Clearly.
If you asked me what Avengers: Age of Ultron was about, I guess I could kind of piece it together for you. But it would take me 10 minutes to lay it all out, and you’d be bored out of your skull by the time I was done. And sadly, you still wouldn’t really know what it was about. Great stories — be they the story of world-saving superheroes or a brand — can be summed up in a sentence or two. Tell one story, tell it clearly … and in the case of your brand, tell it over and over and over again.
Just because it looks good, doesn’t mean it’s great.
Avengers: Age of Ultron is serious eye candy. Beautiful people in unbelievable places doing incredible things. But that’s (mostly) where it stops. The gorgeous imagery can only carry it so far. And the same goes for a brand or a marketing campaign. Something that looks good and catches the eye is important, but if it’s not layered over the top of something with substance, it ultimately falls flat.
Give them what they want.
So with all of that said, I still enjoyed the movie. And that’s because, despite the bloated cast and Swiss-cheese plot, it was fun. This is a franchise that gives its audience exactly what it wants — world-dooming action, snappy one-liners, CGI eye candy, and the ever-present knowledge that good will triumph over evil. It was two hours of escapism that was, first and foremost, in service of me, not Marvel Studios. And that’s the last lesson I walked out of the theater with: You have to give your audience what they want and need before you can ask for anything in return. Make them laugh, make them think deeply, move them to tears … we’re human beings, after all. We want to feel something. And once we do, there’s little we won’t do to have that feeling again.