(Written for Filmoria)
“Write about whatever annoys you”, I was told. So, since it’s my turn on Filmoria’s Sunday Screen rota this week, I want to moan about trailers.
Trailers are like the film industry’s Marmite: you either love them, or you hate them. And it’s no surprise really, since the line between a good trailer and a bad one is so thin that they’re usually more likely to ruin a film for you completely than they are to intrigue you a decent amount.
And then there’s the trailer’s teaser, too; we’re given so much promotional footage to watch before a film’s release these days that they’re difficult to avoid, and not knowing whether they’re going to excite you for the film or ruin the plot from start to finish is impossible to predict.
But having good promotion is key in a film being successful, and it’s through trailers that production companies begin pulling in their audiences months in advance. This week alone we’ve had new trailers for Snowden, Creed, London Has Fallen, Secret In Their Eyes, Mistress America, and Masterminds, and I’m writing this article on a Wednesday, so by the time you’re reading this that amount is likely to have tripled, at least.
Trailers are what get us interested in a film in the first place. We might have read a piece of news telling us that a certain director is taking on a certain project, but it’s not until we see the trailer that we make up on our minds on whether it’s worth the cinema trip or not. But it’s far too often that trailers give too much away.
Take the recent release of the first trailer for Southpaw. I saw this trailer before watching Jurassic World at the cinema a couple of weeks ago, and came out thinking “Well, I might have only paid for one, but I got to see two films today.”
I’m sure we’ve all seen it by now, and I’m sure we can all agree that showing the death of one of the main characters is a huge disappointment. But what’s more painful is that it could have easily been avoided. All we needed from this trailer was the build up of Jake Gyllenhaal‘s character, and then only a hint of him being forced into making a big life decision. The ‘event’ that leads up to this decision should have been kept a surprise, and we should have been left with only knowing that Gyllenhaal has to choose between his family and his job for some unbeknownst reason.
I’m still super excited to see this film, but seeing Rachel McAdams‘ character die in the trailer means that there’s an important scene in the film, which could have been a huge shock, will instead have little impact, solely because of the films promotion, which is a huge shame.
And, of course, the same goes for the recently released Terminator: Genisys, whose trailer angered a lot of fans of the original franchise when it revealed that Jason Clarke‘s John Connor character had been transformed into a robot.
This plot twist could have been a great surprise, but giving it away before its release meant that there was very little else to look forward to. Although, after all of the bad reviews that I’ve been reading for the film, maybe giving away such a big spoiler was the only way they knew they would get people into the cinemas to see it.
Seeing a film when you haven’t seen any of the promotional footage beforehand can make the experience so much more enjoyable. Not knowing is – usually – a real benefit, and there are many of us that choose to avoid all trailers for this purpose.
But then you have the release of trailers such as Denis Villeneuve‘s Sicario, which got us all incredibly excited last month.
And imagine where you would be if, for an even bigger example, you were yet to see the trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
I know there are a handful of us that have put a genuine effort into not watching the trailer, just in case it does give too much away, but for those of us who have been dying to see footage from the anticipated sequel, we are now quaking with excitement because of how good it looks.
The trailer was actually the second most viewed trailer on YouTube in 2014, reaching 81 million views. Beating it to the top spot, quite shamefully, was the trailer for Fifty Shades of Grey which had 93 million views. Now, the term ‘spoiler’ isn’t an issue with this trailer since we all knew what the film was going to be about, so I can only presume that the trailer had so many watches because we were all intrigued into how bad it was going to be.
And as much as we were all dreading the release of this film, that is what trailers are for.
One of this year’s best promotional releases is for the trailer of the upcoming James Bond film, Spectre, as Tom Ward (@IngloriousTward) kindly reminded me of earlier.
This trailer is the perfect example of what amount of story a trailer should tell; it’s enough to get you thinking about how good the film is going to be, but it gives away no real information so that you can still try to figure out what’s going to happen for yourself.
You can argue that you if you haven’t seen the film yet then you won’t know what constitutes as a spoiler and what doesn’t, but look at these two examples below:
For a classic example of a trailer ruining a film, I’m going to use Cast Away. Watching this trailer for the first time years after seeing the film, I can’t believe that this was actually allowed. And again it could have been so easily avoided; all we needed to know was that Tom Hanks was deserted on an island, and then we could have eagerly wondered whether he got off it or not. But there was no chance of that with this trailer.
It wasn’t a particularly well received film, but the trailer for Dream House did the same, and it made me incredibly angry to see. Fortunately, I watched the film before seeing any of the trailers and I ended up actually quite enjoying it, but it’s no surprise that few people liked the film when they knew exactly what to expect.
There’s no point in me trying to avoid spoilers since the trailer really does give everything away, but basically Dream House follows a similar plot twist to Shutter Island. And imagine how horrified we would have been if Shutter Island gave away that spectacular ending away in its trailer!
But there are times when we think a trailer has given away, only to find that it in fact shows very little. For example, the trailer for The Dark Knight Rises caused a lot of bother when it was released, but then after seeing the film in full we realised that there was a whole other chapter to the story that was kept well under wraps. So we can still be nicely surprised.
And finally here’s a couple of examples of my favourite trailers:
Most recently, I have to give credit to the trailer for Mad Max: Fury Road.
I also love the trailer for Moonrise Kingdom. This is an example of not knowing how much a trailer has given away at the time, and whilst Moonrise Kingdom is the most twist-filled film, they do avoid spoiling what happens to the kids in the end. Again, it reveals just enough to show you that there’s a lot to look forward to, but it still has that element of surprise.
So would we be better with or without trailers? I don’t think there will ever be a time when they won’t be around, especially since every trailer even has its own teaser trailer at the minute, but do you think there should be limits on how much trailers can give away? And do you think that more control should be given to the directors themselves on what can or cannot be released?
Let me know what you think below, and tell me what your favourite and/or worst trailers are, as well.