I haven’t seen the Rogue One trailer, and that’s not without wanting to. I really want to. I even wrote this with my Kylo Ren shirt on. I have accidentally seen gifs and thumbnails of the teaser all over the internet. I mean, how could I not? It’s STAR WARS! But I don’t want to watch the teaser. I don’t want to see any of the footage. I don’t say this to aggrandize myself, but rather to stress an awful truth in the medium of film today. Trailers suck. Like, so bad.
Let’s start off by saying my problems aren’t new. In fact, people have been complaining about trailers for as long as there have been trailers; and I used to love them despite these problems. But I’ve finally hit a wall. I can’t do it any more. Trailers are ruining the movies too much these days and Batman V Superman was the last straw. Remember when that trailer got released and the world responded “TOO MUCH”? Well, despite the PR work at Warner Bros., it turns out the audience was right. It makes me glad I put my money down on seeing that film and watching the extended trailer play out for a butt-numbing 150 minutes. It isn’t just DC. I’m not going to run a DC bashing piece. Let’s talk the other side: Marvel.
When Marvel got the rights to Spider-man, it was said that he could appear but not be in any marketing materials (to be fair: there are no posters or toys featuring the famous web slinger as of yet). However, many of us expected that rule to extend to trailers. There’s something truly exciting about walking into a movie knowing a fan favourite character was going to make his grand debut in one of the world’s biggest cinematic franchises, and that promise alone had a ticket sold. So imagine my disbelief when he showed up in the latest trailer. “NOPE,” I told myself. I am saving this reveal for the cinema. Well, guess how long that lasted? Everything was “SPIDERMAN, SPIDERMAN, SPIDERMAN!” His brief cameo adorned all the film sites and a fan favourite Sydney based cinema even uses his new look as their display picture on Facebook. Marvel films have become a little tedious in structure. First we see the previous movie’s mid credits/final credits tag that hints and excites for next movie. Then the trailer for next movie reveals main plot. The second trailer shows major battle and emotional scenes. TV spots reveal the stuff in between the action scenes. Then we go to see the movie and be surprised only by the final credits tag… Repeat, repeat, repeat. And this really sucks.
Let’s talk Fox now. One of the year’s biggest surprises and biggest hits was Deadpool. Ryan Reynolds’ passion project of the past decade wipes the slate clean from the Origins debacle and provides an exciting start to a new adult comic figure. Too bad the great jokes were already in the trailers that were everywhere. Now this time, I can be mad at Fox for leaving nothing to the audience, however I have to be mad at myself for being part of that hype machine because Fox did something that other companies can learn from. Their advertising was fantastic. Online advertising showed an R rated version of Alfred Hitchcock’s famous Psycho trailer, selling us the movie with words and tone. Don’t show us the money shots. I could have avoided the major trailer and been sold purely on these digital shorts, and I don’t doubt that I would have found Deadpool more enjoyable purely because I went in fresh. Like I said: this is on both of us, and it’s definitely a major reason for not watching trailers any more.
Quick note, friend to friend here: avoid the Huntsman Winter’s War or The Jungle Book trailers if at all possible. Actually you know what, just avoid trailers altogether.
“Now hold up,” I hear you all think with your fingers hovering over the keyboard. The actual idea of a trailer isn’t going away. Yes, you are right. However, as my mother once said when I saw a wild and mangy looking cat in the bushes that I wanted to pat, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. When the Civil War trailer dropped last year, it created the record for most views in a single day on Youtube. So of course Marvel would sit there and think to themselves, “well, if it ain’t broke…” So you want to be surprised? You want to walk into a cinema with a true sense of wonder? Well it may seem impossible but we can decide not to click on the link. We can decide not to share. And when trailers no longer need thorough 30 minute break-downs of every shot, we allow ourselves to have a fresh experience that only movies can – and should – give.
You see, one of the year’s best films in my mind came completely by surprise: 10 Cloverfield Lane. A movie that surprised everyone by simply existing in the first place. Two months before release, a trailer suddenly drops. Says it will release in two months and the trailer shows footage that barely gives the game away. For the first time in a long time, a trailer shows only Act 1 scenes. So when I saw the movie and 25 minutes had past and I had seen the entire trailer, the rest of the movie became an amazing, tense surprise that had me gripped. I didn’t know what could happen to the characters. It’s not like a certain Marvel movie a few years back that teased a death but included later scenes with them in it to make me realise that they were going to be fine once I saw the actual movie. This was a movie that I couldn’t prepare myself for. And I loved it.
I know I am fighting a beast that can’t be slayed here, and I will continue to be tagged in new trailer posts by friends asking my thoughts on the newest money shot that a major studio has concocted. This article isn’t meant to make any viewer of a trailer feel bad, either. If this is your fandom, and this is what you thrive on, then sure: inhale the media associated with it. But this is a call out. Leave some surprises for your fans. Let’s be honest: they are going anyway. And you know what? If you can’t sell your movie based on act one like 10 Cloverfield Lane did? Well a shoddy spoilerific trailer is the least of your problems.
That Rogue One trailer was mighty tempting though…