Every movie that comes out now, WILL have a trailer. That being said, are the very things these trailers are meant to achieve (hype for the movie), becoming more of a movie summary leaving nothing to chance (and about the movie untold) and in the end ruining the movie. Most movies now have 3 full trailers by the time they premier. The exact number your meant to see depends on where you live, but everyone has the internet so we all see all anyway. So I wanted to explore the idea of if trailers are actually killing movies, and why. I’m going to discuss it in a few different points for ease of writing and reading.
1: What should a trailer be\do?
In my opinion a trailer is meant to peak the interest of an audience, while also giving a very general overview of the films plot, or at least the hook. That means that over the course of 2 to 3 full trailers (not counting teasers here), I should know a few things. I should know who is in the movie. I should know loosely what the movie is about, and/or why I should care about it. There should be some kind of hook that grabs my attention and is built upon in subsequent iterations of the trailers. And MOST importantly, I should be left with some questions and wanting more. If a trailer can accomplish all of these then in my opinion it is successful. A really good example of this, were the trailer for Godzilla. They showed just enough to cover all the bases, and no matter what you think of the movie I’m sure you can look at those trailers all day.
2: What do bad trailers do?
Bad trailers however, for one reason or the other, use way too much of the actual plot development points and key moments in the film in the trailer. Now, this does great hype and interest, BUT this is due to the fact that when people see the trailer, they then expect there to be much more undiscovered substance in the film….and when there isn’t….welll…the amazing spiderman 2 happens. After the utter BOMBARDMENT that was the marketing complain for that movie, many audiences were upset to find that they had both already seen the actually end of the movie (him fighting rhino) as well as most all of the plot devices used throughout. Not to mention a glaring lack of footage seen in the trailers and not in the actual film (but that’s a separate point). In the case of a comedy, a bad trailer would have shown most of the best jokes, leaving u a bit under-laughed when screening time comes around. A bad trailer may also mislead you in a way that you don’t like. Many movie trailers are meant to mislead the audience yes, and when done properly, it allows for the great surprise and suspense. However, when handled incorrectly, it leaves the viewer feeling tricked rather than treated, and all will agree with me when I say “No es bueno” (I don’t speak Spanish if not evidence enough by that).
3: What rules should there be for trailers?
Now, when I say “rules” here what exactly do I mean? As mentioned above, sometimes movies use footage in trailers, that then finds itself on the cutting room floor some release time, or was altered to avoid spoilers. And example of the latter can be seen in the trailers for Captain America: The Winter Soldier when the cap’ is seen free diving towards to ocean (an empty ocean), but when the scene appears in the movie, there is actually a big boat there. In the trailer, that boat would have done nothing to draw intrigue or peak interest, but we would have known that part of his mission dealt with that boat, so leaving it out made for a pleasant surprise. Now some of you may ask, is it really right that they should show us a scene ( one of interest no less) and then simply remove that entire scene from the movie? Well, yes and no. No its not right, when it feels like false advertising, because then it’s the same as if you bought a cut price ipad, only to open your package and find a nicely beveled floor tile instead. You paid good money (no matter how little) for that ipad and you were swindled, and many viewers fell the same with comes to this issue. However, there are truly numerous instances where the scene that was shown was shown either because it made a definitive statement that the trailer needed, but the film didn’t (because a trailer has 2 minutes to say it and the film has 100), or during the editing process that goes on way past the time the first trailer comes out that scene had to be cut entirely from the movie. Sometimes comedies use jokes solely for trailers, and keep what they think are the real ringers for the movie itself. The movie Neighbors did this to great effect.
4: How many trailers should a movie have?
As mentioned before, some movies go into super overdrive mode when it comes to marketing. The Budget for the marketing campaign for TASM2 reached nearly US $200 MILLION, that is INSANE. Now don’t get me wrong, a movie can have a marketing budget like that AND make money still, the problem is that when it takes you 200 million to make the movie, and then 200 million more to market, you’re putting yourself in a position where you have to make around 750 million dollars to NOT be a financial flop. That’s a tonne of money, for any movie to make, let alone one that ended up being disappointing and thus the cash flow it saw from the opening weekend quickly dried up. So how many trailers should a movie really have? Well in earnest it shouldn’t pass 3. That means it should have an introductory first trailer. A second trailer, that is the real meat of the marketing. And finally a third and final trailer that is only slightly different in terms of content from the second trailer. This gives the impression of an entire new fancy trailer while still keeping its cards to its chest. The most recent X-Men DOFP did this perfectly. After its first trailer, it dropped a stunnnning trailer detailing the world in which we would see these characters, it gave us just enough plot and it was done. Then not long before the release of the movie, we got trailer 3 that didn’t expose much more, but refreshed itself to be new enough to generate more hype. Teaser trailers and tv spots is really another science all to itself, but also when done well, work great. We just don’t need to see a damn tv spot every commercial break ( SPIDERMAN!).
So all in all what we are seeing is that even though more and more companies are dropping the ball on movie trailers, some still seem to know what they are doing. I really hope the troubles seen by movies like TASM 2 will make companies a bit more gun shy about throwing caution and money to the wind with their marketing. LESS IS MORE movie people, don’t forget that.