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The Best And Worst 2020 Super Bowl Trailers And TV Spots

As expected, Hollywood's major studios brought out the big guns for 2020's Super Bowl. The cavalcade of trailers were — with one notable exception — tasked with stuffing a lot of story into a 30-second run time, and given the insanely high cost of advertising during the biggest sporting event of the year, each and every one of those seconds had to count. 

As also expected, some of the TV spots we saw during Sunday's big game did a better job of getting us psyched than others. This isn't necessarily to say that each of the movies and TV shows these trailers were advertising won't be awesome, but there are a few keys to an effective Super Bowl ad which advertisers ignore at their own peril — immediate engagement, strong visuals, and the efficient communication of plot points usually being among them.

If you're going to color outside those lines, so to speak, you'd better have a super-strong editing team on board — because spending millions upon millions of dollars putting up a confusing mess for the biggest television audience of the year is a pretty good way to put your movie in a hole before it even opens. With this in mind, let's take a look at the best and worst movie and TV trailers from the 2020 Super Bowl.

Best: Marvel's Expanding Universe

Disney+ didn't have a heck of a lot of work to do in order to get the MCU faithful pumped for the upcoming series Falcon and the Winter Soldier, WandaVision, and Loki; that audience is pretty much going to be on board with anything Marvel Studios produces. As it turned out, though, the 30-second spot advertising all three series was an absolute editing masterclass — one which not only managed to pack in a ton of provocative imagery, but which also managed to convey a few key plot points for each show along the way.

Sure, the editing was lightning-paced, but that only means that viewers will catch something different every time they watch it. As for those plot points, holy crap: Sam Wilson practicing with Captain America's shield! Wanda and Vision time-skipping throughout multiple eras of the television sitcom! Loki in what looks like a prison jumpsuit, threatening to "burn this place to the ground!" It doesn't get much more provocative, and we've also got to express our appreciation for the spot's cosmologically correct "The Universe is Expanding" tagline.

The potential audience for these shows was already snapping at the line, and now they — who are we kidding, we — are hooked. Each series looks absolutely brilliant in its own special way, and frankly, it'd be silly to expect anything less from Marvel Studios at this point.

Worst: Top Gun: Maverick's spot was poorly edited

By contrast, the 30-second spot for the upcoming Top Gun: Maverick was sort of a reverse-masterclass in how not to efficiently put together a brief trailer. Sure, the voiceovers of various characters are there to clue us in to s few plot points: Tom Cruise's Pete "Maverick" Mitchell is facing a conflict with the son of a former colleague, he may be facing a court-martial, and the end of his career may result. But rather than feeling compelled to re-watch the trailer just so you can catch all of the delicious little tidbits it might offer, you kind of need to — in order to hear what most of those voiceovers are even saying, over the rumbling of Maverick's jet engines.

Previous trailers for Maverick have already given us plenty of high-flying action, so in a spot with the ostensible goal of filling in audiences on the movie's plot in a short time, it's a little counter-productive to drown everything out with that near-continuous roar, and to avoid actually showing many character interactions in favor of constantly cutting to Maverick just piloting up a storm. Belated sequels to flicks from the '80s and '90s haven't been doing terribly well at the box office of late — we're looking at you, Terminator: Dark Fate — and if Maverick wants to get butts in theater seats, its advertising campaign should be doing a better job letting those potential audiences in on why they should care about it.

Best: A Quiet Place Part II's spot grabs your attention

The majority of the TV spot for the horror sequel A Quiet Place Part II is a deft remixing of scenes from the previous trailer, but check this out: remember what we said about grabbing the audience's attention? The Super Bowl trailer for the flick did that in its first few seconds. Did it ever.

First, we were treated to the sight of John Krasinski's Lee, alive and well, purposefully striding down the street in a world which we know is just about to be overrun by those sight-impaired alien beasties. Then, just as we were appreciating that flashbacks would allow us to spend a little more time with that awesome character in A Quiet Place Part II, a friendly yet harried police officer's response to Lee's query as to what the hell is going on was interrupted in truly startling fashion.

The remainder of the spot didn't really give us anything that the flick's first trailer didn't, but that didn't exactly matter, because it took the rest of its run time for our hearts to slow down. A Quiet Place was one of the best horror flicks of 2018, and its many fans were never going to need a heck of a lot of convincing to buy their tickets for its sequel — but opening the TV spot for A Quiet Place Part II with a pure jolt of adrenaline was a pretty damn great strategy for letting us know that this movie is going to be just as relentlessly terrifying as the first.

Worst: Minions: The Rise of Gru's trailer had an annoying voiceover

The Despicable Me series, which includes the 2015 spin-off Minions, is serviceable enough family entertainment. We know what we're going to get: spotless animation, well-developed characters, and sight gags galore, all of which is on display in the trailer for Minions: The Rise of Gru. In fact, the spot is perfectly fine — so long as you watch it on mute. Its narrator, who seems to have been ported over from a commercial for a monster truck rally, spends the entire run time faux-humorously psyching you up for all of the things you should get ready for in the movie — a conceit which gets goes from mildly amusing to annoying to infuriating, all in 30 seconds.

Animation house Illumination knows what the audience wants from these films, and we have no doubt that Minions: The Rise of Gru will be just fine. Pro tip, though: if you're going to spend ridiculous gobs of money on a Super Bowl ad, you'd do well to make sure that half your audience won't be looking for something to put right the heck through the TV by the time said ad is halfway over. 

Best: Mulan's final trailer simply rocks

Disney's live-action Mulan, a remake of the 1998 animated classic, is taking a very different tack than last year's billion dollar-grossing reimaginings of Aladdin and The Lion King; while the bones of the story are very much the same, there will be no wisecracking talking dragon, no singing and dancing, and apparently a dearth of slapstick humor in this remake. This might seem like a risky proposition, and maybe it is — but risk taking can be a very good thing, and in the case of the live-action Mulan, it's starting to look more and more like a positively inspired creative choice.

Thanks to Mickey's deep pockets, the Mouse House was able to go all out with a full two-minute trailer for Mulan during the Super Bowl — and in our humble opinion, this too was a risky but very wise move. The spot showcases the steely charisma of star Yifei Liu in the title role, the terrifying presence of Li Gong's evil witch Xian Lang, and the absolutely bonkers battle and action set pieces we can expect from the flick. Moreover, it establishes that Mulan 2020 will be a film that takes itself quite seriously — and that director Niki Caro, who helmed the Oscar-nominated dramas Whale Rider and North Country, was one heck of a choice for the job.

Worst: F9's TV spot is just a series of car crashes

If there's one franchise that knows exactly what its audience wants and expects from each entry, it's the Fast and Furious movies. The series might have the most scattershot titling convention in film history (and we submit that even for diehard fans, F9 might invoke nothing so much as a function key), but fans will always line up to buy what the F and F flicks are selling: adrenaline, testosterone, and impossible stunts, most of them involving extremely fast cars.

As such, the TV spot for F9 really didn't need to try very hard, and well, it didn't. It opens with the voiceover of Vin Diesel's Dom Toretto, who intones, "If we do this, we risk everything." Those are the only seven words of dialogue the trailer deigns to give us. The remaining 25 seconds of run time is dedicated to nothing but guns, tough-guy-and-girl posturing, and oh, so many car crashes. We're not saying this was a poor marketing strategy; heck, it probably had fans jumping out of their seats, pumping their fists (and maybe hopping in their cars to do a few donuts). If you were looking to actually get an idea what the flick's story will entail, though — or really, any details other than that Toretto and crew have to "do this," it will be very risky, and car crashes will be involved — then you were out of luck.