Even if you're suffering from superhero fatigue, there's always one tried and tested rule: a Beastie Boys song makes everything more exciting. We explore this marketing cheat code...
Like many, I have been suffering from superhero fatigue.
Not just from Marvel, but across the board.
As much as I have enjoyed some outings, I currently stand with the likes of Denis Villeneuve, Bong Joon-ho and David Fincher, who have all publicly criticized superhero movies and their lather-rinse-repeat templates. The best summation of the current state of affairs came from Fincher. During a recent French interview with Canal Plus, the filmmaker behind Se7en, Fight Club and Zodiac described the ubiquitous genre as “not a sandbox that has a lot of room left for exploring.”
However, something happened that I’m still grappling with.
I actually got excited about a superhero film again.
It happened when I finally sat down to watch the new trailer for the MCU’s 33rd feature film, The Marvels.
It’s a sequel to 2018’s broadly disappointing Captain Marvel, which introduced Brie Larson as the titular superhero. Other characters in this sequel directed by Nia DaCosta (Little Woods, Candyman) include Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan, from last year’s Disney+ series Ms. Marvel, and Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau from the show Wandavision.
This film wasn’t on my radar - hence me putting off watching the trailer. That and it taps into what my current Marvel malaise: the fact you need to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the previous instalments (including the TV shows) just to figure out what’s going on in an individual storyline. Gone are self-contained stories, replaced by endless call-backs and the need for a brain-melting revision session before each screening. Who has the time or the energy at this point? Just look at this year’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and you’ll see what I mean.
However, The Marvels trailer made me take stock. And while I thought I was back drinking the corporate Kool-Aid, it dawned on me. The reason I got excited wasn’t the promise of finding out how the ever-expanding multiverse narrative the MCU are currently locked into will evolve, but that the sap I am had been duped.
Well and truly musically duped. Because the choice of song in the trailer sparked excitement.
It’s ‘Intergalactic’ by the Beastie Boys.
Upon hearing this underrated classic from the equally underrated 1998 album ‘Hello Nasty’, gone was my resistance and my attempts to figure out what was going on with the plot about these three characters teaming up and trying to untangle their powers in space… or something. I just found myself singing along and getting unironically pumped up by the idea of watching a new Marvel adventure. Because of the Beastie Boys.
This got me thinking: Are the Beastie Boys the cheat code to making any marketing push flawless?
It certainly worked for The Marvels, as aside from the objectively promising kitten army scene (which looks delightful - skip to 1.38 in the trailer), the choice of such a tune worked its deceitful magic.
Beyond the fact that the catchy ‘Intergalactic’ is an appropriately titled song for a space adventure, it gives The Marvels some light-hearted and comedic vibes, akin to Guardians of the Galaxy - one of the superior Marvel instalments that had a cracking soundtrack. But it also works on another level, with the usage of the song functioning as a sly call-out to Brie Larson’s detractors.
You see, Larson has incurred the wrath of many a rabid Marvel fan over the years, who have commented that the actor comes off badly in interviews, plays a character that is too powerful to be interesting, and who needs to smile more on screen. Ah yes, that derogatory and perennially sexist mainstay.
Well, when Larson appears in the trailer, the song kicks off with the opening lyrics: “Well, now, don’t you tell me to smile / You stick around I’ll make it worth your while / My number’s beyond what you can dial / Maybe it’s because we’re so versatile”.
Surely that can’t be accidental.
Outstanding work to whoever picked the song, someone who clearly understands and appreciates the art of a good needle drop. The right music played at the right time in a trailer or in a film can elevate the images to iconic status. And as I’ve waxed lyrical previously, keeping your marketing funny means that a potential audience member is more likely to shell out for a ticket knowing that the marketing team have a sense of humour.
I can therefore conclude the following:
A) I’m not as immune to this tactic as I previously thought I was.
B) Much like the sirens singing their songs to sailors to crash them onto the rocks, the inclusion of a Beastie Boys track manages to bypass the critical lobe of those like myself who are fed up with the usual crash-bang-wallop of Marvel films. Not only does any track by the pioneering New York City hip-hop outfit immediately make every movie trailer better, it makes it advertising gold.
Here’s further proof.
Take their 1994 hit ‘Sabotage’.
Beyond being a banger and a timeless rebellion anthem, ‘Sabotage’ been used in countless trailers – from Star Trek Beyond to Minions: The Rise of Gru, and every time, it elevates the promo to greatness.
Then here’s the incontestable piece of evidence.
Take Solo, the utterly superfluous and dull as dishwater 2018 Star Wars prequel / Han Solo origin story.
Here’s the original trailer:
Hardly inspiring, is it?
Now consider this remix:
Proof that ‘Sabotage’ is possibly the greatest trailer song of all time.
But why is this track so damn effective?
Well, it manages to spice up otherwise bland trailers with its fail-proof instrumental build up that climaxes with riotous breakdown, driving the pace and visual choreography so that the action seems coordinated with its auditory bombast. The end result is a song that manages to promise less an action-filled flick and more of a blockbuster event.
Other bands can have the same effect – see: the ubiquity of Run The Jewels in trailers from 2017 to 2019, when countless movies from Suburbicon to Booksmart via Good Boys saw marketing teams go gaga for the track ‘Nobody Speak’ by DJ Shadow and Run The Jewels.
However, no band or artist has yet to equal or surpass the galvanizing and seemingly timeless cheat code effect of a Beastie Boys track.
The Marvels hits theatres on 10 November. That trio of superheroes will be hoping their success will be equally Intergalactic. But from the trailer alone, anything’s possible now the Beastie Boys have orchestrated their soundtrack magic once again.
You stick around I’ll make it worth your while, indeed.