Trailers. They’re a bit shit aren’t they?
I like getting to the cinema early. I like finding my seat (particularly since most Cineworld patrons seem incapable of working out the seating system), getting comfy and watching the trailers. Now, this ritual has led to some issues over the years. I still involuntarily scream every time I hear Kevin Bacon’s name and you don’t want to see what happened the last time I walked past an EE store. (Seriously, those adverts were the bane of my life). But, I always enjoyed watching the trailers. As someone who goes to the cinema far too often, I actually do see most of the films I want to (it’s the wonders of being unemployed, you run out of things to do around 2 pm) and slowly this has led to me realising that this trailer watching tradition, is negatively affecting my cinema going.
Now, there are obvious examples of this. Bad comedies tend to put all their best jokes in the trailer. When I went to see Bad Neighbours, the high points of the film were already ruined, because I’d seen them two or three times already. It’s not just comedies that have this problem though. Ender’s Game, had one of the last shots from the film in theirs and most recently Cake, has almost the entire opening scene in the trailer. As the trailer had been on rotation for quite a while, it meant what should have been a powerful first glance at Jennifer Aniston’s wonderful performance, was instead more of a sigh and a feeling of ‘not this again’.
Now, not all trailers are shit. Every now and then one comes along that sells the film to you, but doesn’t ruin it. I really liked American Sniper’s trailer, which saw Bradley Cooper aiming down his sights at a child. It’s a short clip from the film, but one that instantly got across the central conflict in that piece of cinema. While who can forget the excitement of that Star Wars trailer from last year. As someone whose movie going education was based around a love of science fiction and Stars Wars in particular, it was literally fascinating. Poring over that short clip, searching for anything that suggested what exactly J.J. Abrams had cooked up. That is trailer making done right.
But for every good trailer, there are so many bad ones. Some of which choose to sell a completely different film to the one they have made. Anyone who saw the Inherent Vice trailer, would have been forgiven for thinking it was a knock about comedy. While there was some brilliant moments of physical comedy in that film, it’s not exactly surprising that there were a lot of walk outs. Because simple comedy that was not.
Then there are those that are just badly done. A good recent example of this is You’re Next, a brilliantly twisted horror from the mind of Adam Wingard. I remember sitting in a cinema next to a friend and whispering about how it looked like one of the most generic things ever put to film. In reality, it was a subtle and brilliant twist on a genre done a million times before. The trailer didn’t hint at that. How many people didn’t see the film because of that? I nearly didn’t. I heard from others it was worth perusing. Now, obviously this example has to draw the line. If you’re not careful, you risk going back to my first point, ruining a part of the film for someone because you’ve given the punch line away. But surely you can still find a way to sell the film, without ruining what it is.
I know fine well that most film makers aren’t involved in cutting their own trailers. It’s normally put together by those selling the movie and that’s often why they end up going doing these paths. They don’t care about spoiling things or depicting the wrong film. These just care about people buying tickets and you’ve got to assume it works. However, if they aren’t careful, it’s eventually going to get to the point where trailers turn away as many people as they attract, all because they’re a bit shit.