I’ve started watching batches of new movie trailers every couple of weeks to see what’s upcoming in the movie world. My enjoyment of watching these trailers isn’t really watching the trailers themselves, but more so of how bad they might be. And watching the previews is my third favorite thing about going to a movie theater. Recently, however, I’ve seen problems with trailers, ranging from how they’re made to the footage plastered inside them.
I’m not saying that today’s movie trailers are horrible or the trailers of the past were better in some way. Those ‘past trailers’ were a product of the ‘narrator narrates over scenes that more or less tell you what the film’s about’ craze, which hasn’t held up well over the years.
The Big Four (Fox, Universal, WB, Disney) became much better with trailers in the 2000’s, when we swapped out voiceovers for a more ambiguous setup, sometimes leaving little to no information about the story whatsoever in the trailer. These became known as teaser trailers and they were really popular along with the main trailers and this continued until present day, with trailers as popular as ever.
I’ll divide my points up into multiple categories, one problem per category. Category one is the teaser trailer, or should I say, what’s become of the teaser trailer.
Like I said earlier, teaser trailers always featured shots of the primary cast, locations, maybe a fight scene or two and the film’s title, but they rarely lasted over ninety seconds. When done correctly they work wonderfully, such as Marvel’s recent Doctor Strange teaser. Although it was longer than most teasers (around two minutes), it still qualifies as a teaser because of the lack of information it revealed yet made me excited for the movie. That’s what a teaser is supposed to be and do, but the studios had a different idea.
A few years back, the studios decided to take the name ‘teaser trailer’ way too literally. Now, instead of real teaser trailers, we get ten second teasers for the main trailer called ‘teaser trailers’. Since when did the main, excuse me, first trailer become the feature film? It’s completely pointless. You don’t need a teaser for a three-minute long trailer, the fans are already hyped as it is! I don’t get what these so-called “teasers” are supposed to fulfill. Telling people about the trailer’s release date, perhaps? Couldn’t you just write it down in a press release?? In fact, that would be easier to do than ask the trailer-making company for a ten-second version!
Next point: the main trailer that the teaser is teasing isn’t the only trailer. Instead, the blockbusters usually run at least one more, if not two depending on the film. Do these get ten-second teasers? Nope. What I will give the 90’s trailers credit for is their first trailer was usually their last trailer, with TV spots being the exception. Now, especially in superhero films, we get three trailers, all revealing more about the movie! Why so many? Isn’t one or two good enough, or is it written into someone’s contract that there must be three main trailers for every major movie we’re doing? I’m betting the latter.
Besides, these days people wait for all three trailers to possibly, among other things, reveal one specific thing in the film be it plot point or character. A perfect example is the recent trailer for Captain America: Civil War, where everyone went nuts because they showed Spider-Man for five seconds at the end. What’s the big deal? Marvel should’ve kept the reveal a secret and not shown him in any trailer because we already knew Spider-Man would be in the movie! These studios have a hard time keeping secrets, especially in their trailers.
And that’s where the next part comes in: the trailer that spoils the movie. These are nothing new, trailers for Titanic and Terminator 2: Judgement Day (both James Cameron films) spoiled their respective movies, as did multiple films back in the ‘dark ages’ of trailers (1920’s-1980’s). However, both Terminator and Titanic turned out so well that people have since forgiven the respective trailer’s mistakes. Over the next few years, trailers tried pretty hard not to spoil the film in two minutes and mostly succeeded.
Recently, we’ve had problems. Avatar and Terminator: Salvation both became victims, although I hardly remember any major complaints about them. A more recent example was trailer #2 for Terminator: Genysis (boy, this franchise cannot catch a break), as viewers of the movie found out when it was released. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice had the same exact problem with its second trailer, causing many fans to go ballistic in either euphoria or rage upon seeing potential spoilers. That latter trailer became so reviled that Warner Bros. tried to make it up to people in a much better third trailer, but (again) it didn’t really help upon release.
Both online critics and superhero fans agreed that whoever saw the second trailer essentially saw the entire movie in both cases.
Another problem I have is the amount of clips released by the studio online leading up to a film’s release. This is more true with superhero films than anything else, but it’s still worth discussing. Trailers aren’t meant to give the audience full sequences from the film, but apparently the studio thinks people need more information so they release multiple 30-second clips. Avengers: Age of Ultron is my personal worst example, that movie had 18 clips released online in the weeks leading up to release day!
So what about the trailers themselves? First off, trailers now have their own cliches. This is nothing new, as I showed in the first paragraph, but recently I’ve found major similarities in certain types of trailers. One of my biggest is solo piano at the start of a romance/drama/anything dealing with children film. Not only can this be annoying, but after a while you start to think “really? Another one?” and you quit watching it seconds later.
Horror films have a noise problem too, that being the noise itself. We’ve become so over-reliant on jump scares that studios decided to throw them in the trailers too. I recently tried an experiment and turned the sound off of an ad for a upcoming horror film I watched and found that I could easily watch it. So now and again I’ll turn the volume off and watch a couple of horror trailers just to see if the footage actually scares me.
Yet another cliche of the drama/young adult trailer revolves around the sad, boy band song played over a montage. This has been used so often I nearly roll my eyes when I hear it start. Oh, and there’s the ‘going in for kiss but cut to something else just before kiss’ cliche. I’ve looked at a couple of the films where this occurs and sometimes the leads don’t kiss, like in Superman Returns between Lois and Clark.
Let’s see, I’ve left out the ‘one big shouting speech to end trailer’ cliche in drama films and the ‘hint at someone’s death’ cliche. What else could there be? Oh yeah, the Inception horn, aka ‘BWAAAHHHH!!’ Ever since Inception‘s excellent trailer music prominently featured this horn note, every single action/superhero/sci-fi film trailer has used this cliche in one or more ways. It’s either something you love or hate and I think it’s overused. Most cliche’s are; that’s why we call them cliche’s.
Of course, it’s all opinionated. You’re not forced by law to watch every trailer available for one movie and everyone has varying viewing habits. I watch trailers for films I’ll probably never see, and the same trailer multiple times for a film I will see. Heck, you don’t have to watch a single trailer for a film (although that’s very tough to do in this day and age)! Trailers are quite fascinating, people picking them apart sections, going frame-by-frame, dedicating whole online shows to them, and yet they still often surprise and entertain us.
There’s a lot wrong with them- but I don’t think I’d want trailers any different.