During my recent trip to the theatre to watch The Avengers I was reminded of something I’ve come to hate with modern movies. No it’s not the car commercials or those turn off your cell phone ads that no one listens to anyway, it’s modern movie trailers.
Truthfully I don’t think all trailers are horrible, what I’m talking about is what I’ll call the Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am trailer. These are the ones that are about a minute or two long and tell me almost nothing about the content of the film itself outside of how much of the production money went to special effects. The director’s name will usually appear, they’ll be a few quotes, usually in voice-over, and a lot of shots of people running and explosions. Actors might get named if we’re lucky and of course the title come ups at the end, but who are the characters really? What are they doing and why? If I don’t know what’s going on in the movie just from a few clips, why should I care enough to go to see the full project when it comes out?
I found this to be true of the new Dark Knight Rises trailer. Going just on that alone we have a character that should be Catwoman, a guy who wears a mask that is similar to the one in Batman Begins, that and the opening quote honestly made me wonder for an instant if they were advertising some re-release of Batman Begins and not The Dark Knight Rises. And Batman is mysterious and will apparently sacrifice something. Yay? Bring it on? Watching the trailers on YouTube I thought the second one was more informative and got me more interested than this last one. I honestly wasn’t sure how to feel after watching the trailer and I found the same feeling with The Amazing Spiderman trailer. Okay we have Spiderman swinging around the city, the costume looks cool I will give it that, and it looks like his trying out his web slingers so it might be an origin story, but then we have the voice-over talking about some big secret about Peter Parker’s parents that have pretty much been non-existent in canon so far. So is it an origin story? Or will it be some adventure with tiebacks to the past through Peter’s parents? I’m not intrigued by this trailer I’m just confused. Also the idea of potentially throwing a giant monkey wrench into the backstory of my favourite Marvel character with the mention that Peter getting bitten by the radioactive spider might not be an accident is off-putting too.
I know that this is often the first trailer and is also most often the shortest one and so you can’t show everything, but by the token of being the first one, or perhaps the only one certain audience members see depending on how often they go to the movies, it brings up the point that first impressions matter. If I’m not intrigued by the trailer why would I want to see the film? In fact the trailer was the very reason I avoided Star Trek 2009 for nearly a year when it came out. I wasn’t even a Trekkie yet when I saw the first trailer and even I knew that driving a car off a cliff, loud music, explosions and a bunch of reaction shots were not what Star Trek was about and I avoided the movie like the plague because I thought that first impression was so bad that the movie was sure to be awful.
Just because the trailer is short doesn’t mean it has to suck. Nor does it have to lie and be something it’s not to get people out to see it. Frankenweenie got a lot of information out in about the same amount of time and I was intrigued by that trailer. A boy’s dog dies and he brings him back to life in a retelling of the classic Frankenstein story. Hilarity appears to ensue afterwards. It looks interesting if a bit creepy, but then again it’s a Tim Burton film, if it’s not interesting but creepy the man isn’t doing his job. The point being I think is that that trailer struck the balance of what I like to see in trailers. We get to see the characters; we get introduced to at least some of the plot while still having some questions about the movie. The kid brought his dog back to life yes, but is it permanent? What will people think about this kid for doing that? Most importantly what will his parents think? I know some things but not everything and I want to learn more, the perfect mood to be in when the movie gets released because I’ll want to go and see it. For The Dark Knight Rises I won’t be going to see it because of the trailers, but because I think Nolan has developed a wonderful universe and character in his take on Batman, and has worked so that his movies ask questions with no easy answers and I want to see how he concludes all of that in the final instalment of his trilogy.
In closing I just want to see more about your movie in the trailers than the fact that people have fights and that stuff goes boom in it! I want to be intrigued not confused about the film's content. Is that so much to ask for?