Monday, 16 June 2014

Trailer Trash...Again (VOR #17)

This post contains spoilers for The Amazing Spider-man 2

Okay, so I know I've had a good whinge about this topic in the past, but I feel like it needs going over again because no-one in Hollywood is listening to this one solitary Internet blogger, goddammit!

Trailers - love 'em or hate 'em, they form the backbone of movie promotion, with the unveiling of a fresh trailer being the make or break moment when audiences proclaim to the person sitting next to them; "Ooh, I want to see this". Nowadays, trailers are a big thing; look no further than the mini-meltdown Twitter underwent when Marvel unveiled the first full length trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy, or the debate surrounding the trailer for Christopher Nolan's Interstellar. It's a big event, with some trailers even getting trailers of their own. Yeah, ridiculous ain't it?

However, I've (still) got a bone to pick with trailers, and I'll give you three guesses what it is...

Now, I'm going to assume you said something along the lines of "that they show way too much of the movie, potentially ruining endings and dropping massive spoilers?" and move swiftly onward. A thousand points to you. This growing tendency for a studio to cram too much info into a trailer is becoming a real issue, with a couple of examples really sticking out from the last few months.

This is the last shot of both the trailer and final cut for
Amazing Spider-man 2. Uh, spoiler alert much?
The top offender in the area of 'too much info' is without a doubt The Amazing Spider-man 2. As much as I loved the film, I could've gotten away with writing my review two months prior and saved myself the ticket price, such was the amount of story they gave away in a THREE AND A HALF MINUTE LONG TRAILER. Ain't nobody got time for that. I could literally have a bath in that amount of time, not sit watching a bloody trailer for a movie that I was going to see regardless.

Oh, and while we're on the topic of Amazing Spider-man 2, here's another issue; there were whole scenes and lines of dialogue in the trailer that simply never appeared in the movie! Now, I understand that things get left on the cutting room floor in the editing process, but the problem here runs deeper. Included in the trailer were scenes and dialogue that didn't make any narrative sense after seeing film. Harry literally asks his dying father "What about Peter?", despite having not met him for over a decade at that point. They weren't just cut out, they were filmed especially for the trailer and, in actual fact, mislead the audience into thinking something wrong about the film. Shame on you, Sony. It's nonsense like this that turn people off.

Don't worry Gwen, Shailene Woodley will be along to
mend Peter's broken heart in the next one.
Not only that, but the film pretty much gives away the entire ending; we see Gwen dangling in the clock tower, Goblin and Spidey duelling above her, Gwen falling towards the ground, Spidey web-shooting down towards her and finally Peter sobbing in horror at the base of the same clock tower. Hmm, I'm no genius, but you don't have to read the comics or be well-versed in Spidey lore to put the pieces together on that one.

Whilst not a massive bombshell, I'd also group Godzilla into this blacklist of bad trailers for giving away the whole 'let them fight' aspect of the film in that final trailer. Up until then, the studio had been doing a great job of keeping plot details underwraps, so why reveal it so close to the release date? I can understand that it might attract more people to see the film, but it was unnecessary and gave away one of the best aspects of the plot.

However, possibly the worst offender is a whole genre; comedy. There's solid form for the common complaint of "they showed all the funny parts in the trailer" amongst movie goers. A Million Ways to Die in The West? Yeah, and they crammed 999,999 of them into the trailer. Bad Neighbours? Barely a unexpected laugh in there. Don't even get me started on the disappointment of Anchorman 2.

So, what's the solution? Just avoid trailers all together? Yeah, with weekly trips to movies, good luck with that. That's like scrolling through Twitter right after 'Game of Thrones' and not expecting to see millions of spoilers...

Doug Liman's Edge of Tomorrow offered a welcome
surprise this summer
On the flipside of this argument are films like Edge of Tomorrow, which (intentionally or not) disguised its key plot elements in the promotional material. The film came as a big surprise, with many audiences and reviewers praising the complexity and layering hidden within a film that otherwise had appeared simplistic. The clever twists and turns were strictly kept underwraps, and high critical praise has suitably followed. The result was one of the most surprising, original and entertaining blockbusters this summer, one of the best in years.

Another example is Christopher Nolan's upcoming sci-fi adventure Interstellar. The first teaser gave us only a hint into the tone of the film, whilst the latest trailer has held back on showing us too much of any actual interstellar travel. Most of the footage is reportedly drawn from the film's opening 15-20 minutes, further deepening that sense of mystery and intrigue Nolan is known cherishing so much on his projects.

And it's for this reason that I'm so glad JJ Abrams is at the helm of Star Wars Episode VII; the guy loves secrets. From Cloverfield, to Super 8, 'Lost' and Star Trek, he relishes keeping things a secret, and this is good news for fans who don't want the next foray to a galaxy far far away to be spoiled by some dumb trailer.

These examples prove that clever trailers that don't give away every crucial plot point are possible, and really not that hard to put together. Maybe it's just me, but I like having something to look forward to. I like the anticipation and the build-up for a film I'm excited for, whether it is something big-budget like X-Men or a lot smaller. You can be damn sure that I'll be glued to the screen when the first trailer for Star Wars Episode VII is posted. I just wish that more studios placed subtlety over anything else. Some of the best trailers in the past (Watchmen springs to mind) have done exactly that, giving away nothing but an overall sense of tone.

Trailers can be the make or break moment for a movie - get it right, and you'll send Twitter into a tailspin of priceless PR and word-of-mouth. It's such a shame then, that so many fail to grasp the concept of 'less is more'.

Thanks for reading my latest opinion column; you can find past entries by clicking through here. Stay tuned over the next few weeks for the latest movie reviews and opinion pieces!


  1. Valid points here!

    Personally, I LOVE trailers. In fact, I probably love them more than the movie itself. A trailer can quickly make or break a film for me, and there's just something very exciting about that. When a trailer is good, I'm immediately hooked (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Godzilla, Guardians of the Galaxy, Gravity, The Kings of Summer... just to name a few recently successful pitches). However, I do hate when a trailer blows the storyline in 2.5 minutes. There is a reason that Nolan and Abrams are two of my favorites, and it has a lot to do with the surprising nature of their work (a result of the aforementioned secretive trailers).

    1. Awesome comment, thanks Tanner! Don't get me wrong, I love a good trailer too - like I said, the trailers for Guardians of the Galaxy, Interstellar and plenty of others have been awesome. I'm glad someone agrees with me on overexposure though, there's nothing worse than watching a film and knowing exactly where it is going to go because of a trailer.

      I have faith that Abrams will keep his cards close to his chest on Star Wars - if he manages to handle the promos in the same way as Super 8, I'll be absolutely stoked. Those were some wonderfully put together trailers :)



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