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Trial and Trailer: The Perils of Publicity in the Internet Era

It is a cliché to suggest that trailers are spoiling movies.

Clint Eastwood was complaining about the trend more than a decade and a half ago, lamenting, “Half the time you go and watch a film, you see eight or 10 different trailers and you’ve seen the whole plot line. There’s really no reason to go see the film.” While film fans might look back nostalgically on classic trailers like Alien or Point Blank, the truth is that movie trailers have always been a bit of a haphazard artform. The trailer for Carrie is as spoilery as any modern trailer.

At the same time, there is a definite trend in contemporary trailers – especially for big blockbuster releases – to ensure that the audience knows exactly what they are going to get. This is most obvious in trailers like Alien: Covenant or Spider-Man: Homecoming, which go beyond spoiling the entire plot thread to spoiling big moments from the film; memorable cameos or distinctive sequences. When dealing with spectacle driven films like Kong: Skull Island, there is a conscious effort to load the trailer with spectacle, revealing monsters and set pieces.

To be fair, this is arguably more of a problem with big budget summer releases. These trailers typically belong to blockbusters that have to absolutely saturate the market in order to build hype, releasing trailers more than a half a year before release or even offering trailers for trailers. It is inevitable that this desire to effectively carpet-bomb the media landscape with footage will reveal far too much about the film in question, particularly for those who task themselves with keeping track of this information. The sparse understated trailers for smaller films like Get Out are a blessing.

It is interesting to wonder what drives these creative decisions, why studios are saturating the market with trailers that seem to lay out every beat ahead of time and which effectively promise every twist that will be delivered over the course of the narrative. There is a lot to be said for the joy of seeing a film blind, without knowing exactly what is coming and how it will be delivered. It seems reasonable to argue that the job of a trailer is to tease, to offer the viewer a hint of what is in store, instead of mapping out how they might spend two hours of their lives.

However, while these views are quite common on the internet and among film fans, it is interesting to wonder whether they reflect the opinions and taste of the mass audience. Is this increasing tendency towards spoiler-heavy trailers that plot out the entire arc of a film are driven by the tastes of audiences? Is this how the majority of viewers want their entertainment delivered, even if they would never frame it in those terms?

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Watch! New Man of Steel Trailer!

Warners have released another trailer for the upcoming Man of Steel. Most of the marketing has focused on Henry Cavill’s Superman, which makes sense for a number of reasons. Most obviously, this is his movie. Secondly, the film has to lift the pop culture stigma surrounding Superman. Third, the film seems to hinge on Superman’s character arc – which shouldn’t really be worth noting, but it’s nice to see Superman as more than a two-dimensional archetype.

The latest trailer, however, focuses on a part of the film I am actually really excited about. Michael Shannon is a superb actor, and I’m interested to see his take on Zod. Zod is a character who has had difficulty catching on in the comics, despite the fact that they seem to introduce a new version ever five years or so. The character just lives in the shadow of Terence Stamp, arguably providing the first truly iconic supervillain performance, and one which I’d argue holds up today.

Shannon doesn’t seem to be going for imitation, which is a good thing. I want to see his own stamp on the character. This trailer teases that quite well. I like that Zod is emphasising the “Superman as outsider” thing, and also that the movie seems to presenting Zod as an alien invader to Kal-El’s alien altruist. It’s a nice way to cast Superman’s character into contrast. Anyway, check it out below.

Just Not My Hype of Thing: Countdown to Teaser Trailers, Hype Build-Up and Other Pre-Release Concerns…

There is a tendency to romanticise the past, to engage in nostalgia for an era that never really was. Still, I can’t help but wonder if the internet has been a bit of a mixed blessing for movie fans looking forward to the next big Hollywood release. Sure, it’s full of commentaries and interviews and trailers. Occasionally, a film like Tron: Legacy or The Dark Knight will do something utterly wonderful to grab the attention of various film fans. However, it also feels, sometimes, that there’s a conscious attempt to push the hype machine into overdrive. I have no problem with anticipation, but I think making a teaser trailer for an actual trailer or even staging a countdown to a release date of a trailer might be a bit much, even to me.

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Trail me Lies, Trail me Sweet Little Lies: Hollywood Trailers, Omission of Facts and Downright Lies

Movie trailers are a fickle bunch. Some spoil movies by revealing crucial plot twists. But there’s arguably something far more sinister than an advertisement which innocently gives a plot twist or two away: the movie trailer which actively lies to the audience. It’s a very dodgy advertising strategy, but sadly one that movie studios seem to be quite comfortable resorting to.

Machete: A Romantic Comedy...

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Off the Beaten Trail(er): Trailers and Spoilers

Trailers are a bit of a double-edged sword. On one hand, they tease you with footage from that upcoming realise you’ve been anticipating (or can even get you excited about one you couldn’t care less for) – but that comes at a price. More often than not, trailers frequently spoil the film that they advertise. There are quick shots of action, but you can see something that doesn’t occur until more than half-way through the film, or a comedy which frequently includes its best laughs in the trailer. Of course, this makes sense – if you want to convince an audience to see a comedy, the trailer needs to make ’em laugh, so you include the really hilarious scenes; for an action movie, you want to tease what you have, so show them clips from the climax (usually larger than the other action scenes). So what are we supposed to do?

We actually need something like this...

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Trailer Park

I was delighted over the weekend to be asked to take part in a joint blog post with the rather wonderful Frank over at the Pompous Film Snob, outlining my favourite trailer and why. The article’s well worth a look and features some fantastic contributions. There’s a lovely selection right there. Anyway, he got me in the trailer frame of mind and I thought I’d maybe just post some of my favourite trailers for non-movie-things here, as a kind of a spin-off.

This post is rated "A" for awesome...

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Trailer Park Woes…

I used to love going to the cinema and watching the trailers. Teasing me with movies I hadn’t heard of yet, showing me my first look at movies I was anticipating all summer or perhaps reaffirming my faith in a movie I’d written off. It doesn’t matter that the trailers always lie (Sweeney Todd is a musical? Not according to the trailer) or they spoil too much (not sure if it’s possible to spoil a historical biopic, but Public Enemies had a trailer which ran until Dillinger escaped in Indiana, which is at least two-thirds the run time), but I loved ’em. And if one of those trailers stunk, I didn’t mind, because there were five or six more waiting for me. I don’t mind having twenty minutes of advertisements before a movie (as happened when I saw The Hangover), but I do mind if these ads are focused on selling my things I don’t really want or care about.

I want to see more of this...

I want to see more of this...

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