Something needs to be done about trailers/movie previews. I don’t think I can handle another potential movie going experienced being ruined by its trailers. Instead of teasing and building interest in a film, many have resulted to becoming the Cliff Notes for a 2 ½ hour film. Why waste money on a bad film if the best part of the film is the truncated two to three-minute form?
Before we attack those involved in making the trailers, let’s first clear some things up. Trailers are assembled long before the movie finishes filming. Many times, the trailer’s editing staff must assemble bits and pieces into a cohesive advertisement to get people in the cineplex. Major portions of the film have not been captured or had proper post-production effects rendered. Also, some of the portions that the assembly team use end up being scenes on the cutting room floor. So a great line or take from a comedy trailer made up not making it the completed film. This might be a blessing or a curse.
The Glass Case of Emotion
In the original Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy trailer, we got Ron screaming, “I’m in a glass case of emotion!” When the film hit theaters that summer, the line was noticeably absent. It has since been added to DVDs and Blu-ray, but that is just one example.
Some comedies will put an alternate take of dialogue, which can feel funny when you’ve seen a different version in the trailer multiple times. Look at gag reels for films like Tropic Thunder; sometimes a line gets three or four different deliveries. Granted, some worked more than others, but the process of filming a scene is easy to see.
This all aside, I’ve begun only watching the first half of many trailers outside of the theater. Two films last year played their cards way too soon, giving away a major Act II or Act III twist in the first half of a trailer. The Double and Dream House drove me so mad that I actively avoided them both. The Double is a cat-and-mouse espionage flick starring Richard Gere and Topher Grace. The trailer made me very interested in seeing film, detailing a CIA agent and a FBI agent trying to capture an assassin. Problem was, the trailer gave away who the assassin was and showed most of what appeared to be Act III action. I felt so cheated that someone dumbed down a film to the point I would have no surprises watching it. It was liking reading the most important chapter of a book first instead of starting at the beginning.
Dream House played out similarly. Starring the current James Bond, Daniel Craig, we followed a man investigating the supernatural history of his home. Instead of playing up the psychological thriller angle it seemed to aim for, the trailer put everything on the table. Any surprise or shock was gone when we found out what was really going on with Craig’s character. What looked like a decent horror show became a trailer that gave away everything except the ending. It disgusted and insulted me.
A great trailer can succeed and not blow a film’s load in two minutes. Look at Christopher Nolan’s Inception trailers. The film set things up, explained the premise in vague strokes, but sucked you in. It helped that the film was too complex and original to spoil. A noticeable exception to this atrocious method of selling audiences on films is last year’s Warrior. By looking at the trailer, it gives away the entire plot of the film. And yet, what the trailer doesn’t show (i.e. the finale) made the film actually endure and overcome its unfortunate trailer.
Great films and bad films alike deserve being discovered in their full form. I know the difficulty of summarizing something so succinctly, but its been done correctly for decades, so the excuses are null and void. If you’re making a Michael Bay and you have footage of an epic battle scene, include it. But make sure the film is not synopsized completely. These trailers need to keep in mind that the focus of a trailer is ideally limited to Act I with a spackling of later scenes without context. You can put “I drink your milkshake,” anywhere in a trailer for There Will Be Blood but don’t tell the entire story. That’s for the filmmakers to do. Leave the twist for paying patrons. Don’t give it away from free. It insults the intelligence of the moviegoers and can actually drive business away.
**Final note: Romantic comedies don’t apply. Even the less formulaic ones all get the same type of trailer. People see those for the concept, not the plot. They meet, they have a fight, they get back together. That isn’t a spoiler, that’s what seems to happen every time!