The Trouble with Trailers
Please forgive me, my more than honorable readers. I have no come to the word press to vent and praise films in quite a long time. After my initial viewing of the Dark Knight Rises I praised it in my previous blog post. I pointed out some flaws, but overall I still enjoyed it. But oh my word how over a month since can change a man.
Let’s try and forget the afterbirth that is the Dark Knight Rises and focus on today’s topic: problems with movie trailers. Hopefully this piece’s argument will wash away the odious stench of my last blog post.
Let me paint the picture for you. I am quite the painter. So you’re an enthusiastic movie goer. You like the trailers, you get to the movie nice and early. You sit down, the lights go down, and the trailers begin. That’s when a beauty like this comes up on screen:
Now you are so pumped to see that film! What happens to Tom Hanks? Are people on the island? What’s going to happen to him? What is this island? This trailer pefectly sets up the scenario for you, teases you just the right amount to the point where you are willing to buy a ticket, and you do not want to see anything else from this film, you are set to go.
(warning DO NOT read the following if you have never seen “Cast Away”)
Fast forward a couple of months with “Cast Away” set to hit screen soon. You keep going to movies when this time this trailer comes up:
What the fuck?!? Not only is the mystery of the island now completely spoiled for you, they show that Tom Hanks gets off the island. The central plot is not him dealing with life after making it off the island it’s about him surviving. Why do I want to see this movie now? You just spoiled the entire plot for me, the entire mystery and magic that surrounds the movie going experience.
This is a problem that has not just started. Older trailers for films such as “The French Connection” could be over three minutes long and show various scenes from the film. BUT even those trailers don’t give away the entire film.
Trailers such as this one still entice you to see the film. They give you brief plot & character synopsis but don’t say what the ending will be. We’re living now in this bubble of a film world where studios executives feel that an average movie goer won’t see the film unless they know it will have a happy ending (see Cast Away’s trailer). Now following this formula, trailers have gone past the happy ending plot giveaways and have now completely tried to mold the films to be something else.
A couple years back Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Greg Mottola came out with a film called “Paul.” This was the first trailer:
Through this trailer, the marketing team made you belive this film would be a dumbed down stoner comedy kind of in the vein of Superbad and other vulgar R-rated comedies. They completely left out the various film references, and the film’s more intelligent subject material. They “molded” the film to look like something it wasn’t in order to get more asses in the seats.
This trailer for the slowly-paced atmospheric film “Drive” led to a lawsuit by a woman claiming the film was falsely marketed to be a film closer to “The Fast and the Furious” or “The Transporter” than a film like “The Driver” or “Vanishing Point.” Now although this woman doesn’t seem like the brightest bulb in the shed upon an uneducated film goer watching that trailer cold it does seem more like a film that is action packed and fast paced.
So, why wouldn’t the companies rather make trailers that add more mystery and allure to the film instead of dumbing it down to reveal entire plots or make the film something that it is not? To them it’s for money.
But the best part of it all is that films such as “Drive” and “Paul” won’t be successful once word of mouth spreads that they aren’t what they appear to be while most of their target audience remain uneducated and uninformed about what the movie really is unless they were going to see it for themselves without a trailer.
Here’s a trailer for “Oz The Great and Powerful.”
Reminds you of anything? It’s getting to the point where major studios no longer care about expressing a film’s originality. To them, because of film like “Alice in Wonderland” made money they now force themselves to advertise this film like it is cut from the same cloth (style wise I mean). This not only discredits the film before it comes out but the people who worked on Oz like Sam Raimi. Do I know if the film is going to be a critical success? Not at all, but I feel like trailers such as these which try to make the film something that it isn’t is not fair to anyone involved and usually doesn’t lead to anything promising.
Instead of investing in the uniqueness of their projects, studios rely on familiarity to the stars/producers and/or the similarities to other films. With motives such as this being a consistent presence in the film business, it leaves people no other options than to either boycott the trailers or be forced to watch them and have the entire film spoiled for them.
Trailers aren’t mean to give away entire plots and let me know if the guy gets the girl at the end. They are to entice me, mystify me, and keep me guessing until the film is finally released. Even when a good teaser trailer is released (i.e. “The Master” “Looper”) they get bogged down and ruined by more trailers that are released or five minute clips or even trailers FOR the trailer. It’s all insane and it needs to stop.
But, it probably never will.
I leave you with this beauty of a teaser trailer produced for the the film “Terminator 2.”
As they always say now (and it’s usually never true but in this instance is) they don’t make ’em like the used to.