Case in point, the first bit of marketing that was a complete misdirection was in the number of Infinity Stones Thanos had in his possession throughout the film. In the trailers, we saw the Mad Titan add the blue Space Stone to his Gauntlet, right next to the purple Power Stone. And that was it. As far as we were concerned, those were the two gems the villain used to pull a moon out of its orbit, and to attack Captain America. This number of gems made us question the end of the film, and of the likelihood of Thanos truly coming through with collecting all six stones.
But as we all saw, Thanos quickly comes in possession of the Reality and Soul Stones, and some time later the Time Stone. These colored gems were deliberately removed from the shots we saw of Thanos in the trailers, most likely in a bid to keep the experience of the audience intact. For once, it didn't matter whether you had watched the trailers or if you had deliberately kept yourself in the dark -- everyone was in the same boat.
This wasn't the only aspect of the movie changed for the trailers. We also saw Thor wearing an eye patch while activating the forges of Nidavellir, when we now know that he had a new eye courtesy of Rocket Raccoon. Also, the Incredible Hulk, who for the better part of the film is completely missing, was seen fighting alongside the Avengers in the battle of Wakanda in the movie's trailers. Even the final epic shot of the first trailer, depicting the Avengers and Wakandans running towards danger, was apparenty only shot for marketing purposes, because it's nowhere to be seen in the film.
This isn't even mentioning the mechanical arms of the Iron Spider's suit, or shots of Vision without the Mind Stone on his forehead. Why keep all of this hidden?
Well, Marvel and Disney know that in this day and age of social media, spoilers and fan theories run rampant and spread like wildfire. Not only did they realize this fact, they counted on it. Marvel and Disney allowed fans to run with those theories for years, only to pull the rug out from under us. They didn't just want to mislead us, they wanted us to think we knew everything, only for us to experience true surprise and shock as we experienced the movie, our theories proven wrong at every turn.
But there is no ill will harbored towards Marvel for this deception. Actually, we salute their dedication to secrecy. Even those who think they know everything about a movie genuinely appreciate being surprised. This isn't a Star Trek: Into Darkness situation, where fans were constantly told that Benedict Cumberbatch's mysterious character was most certainly not going to be Khan, only for him to revealed as, yes, Khan. In that case, the twist didn't work because the audience was plainly lied to in the subject of something they already knew, on some level, to be true. The lie built anticipation for something else, and when it didn't deliver, the response was... flat.
Marvel just played with our expectations. The studio made us look left while it was scheming on the right. By the time we realized what Marvel was up to, the trick had succeeded, and we were left reeling from every twist and turn that went down in Infinity War. Even when it was said that the movie had a definite ending, we believed it. We had no reason not to. But now, we also understand that it was all done in order to have the ending of the film be a genuine gut punch -- which it totally is. Misdirection for the sake of surprise is acceptable when it works, because in those instances, it's like a magic trick.
Marvel delivered us a product that was unprecedented. Of course, the only way for it to succeed the way it did was for its marketing to be equally unprecedented. The studio knows that it thrives because of its fans, and it didn't wish to alienate or insult its biggest supporters. Instead, it conceived a dubious, Machiavellian plan to ensure that these very fans would experience the movie like everyone else would: With surprise, awe, excitement and sadness.
Now, let's see you do it again for Avengers 4.
Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, Avengers: Infinity War stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Olsen, Tom Holland, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chadwick Boseman, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Tom Hiddleston, and Josh Brolin. The film is in theaters now.