Everyone has known for a good long time that trailers are where all of the best moments in a movie are revealed. This summer was especially bad for this, with the trailers for movies such as “Star Trek: Into Darkness” and “Man of Steel” being particularly infamous. Now that we’ve had some distance from summer blockbuster season it’s time to delve in and see what needs to be fixed.
There are some recent trailers thst have been better at keeping the plot under wraps; but now, they spoil the great moments from the film. Think of the trailers for “Prometheus”. instead of revealing anything about the Engineers, they instead spoil all of the action scenes to the point that I knew exactly what was going to happen when I saw it in the theatre. Most of the trailer is made up of scenes from the last act, like the humans sacrificing their own ship, the huge alien ship falling from the sky, and the fact that Elizabeth has to cut something out of her stomach.
Think of the “Iron Man 3” trailers that gleefully revealed that there are 43 different Iron Man suits flying about. Or “The Dark Knight Rises” trailers which revealed that Bane knew who Batman was. Or the “Pacific Rim” trailers that showed the Jaeger using an oil ship as a baseball bat. Those are all fantastic moments in these films that were ruined beforehand. Now instead of knowing everything about the movie before we see it we know the particular moments, which lessens the tension since we know nothing bad will happen to particular characters since we’ve seen them do things from later in the movie. In “Prometheus” I knew Elizabeth would survive having a monster in her stomach because I’d seen her running around in a scene that hadn’t happened yet. Trailers these days are ruining the suspense and intensity that summer blockbusters are striving towards, and ruining our experience watching them.
The best solution I can think of is to have shorter trailers. I hate to keep picking on “Prometheus” since it has already been through the wringer enough, but the trailer posted above is more than three minutes in length. That’s way too long. Even a two minute trailer is too long these days. More films need to emulate the “Side Effects” way of doing things, where the second trailer was actually shorter than the first, and managed to keep every twist unspoiled, even the one in the first ten minutes.
There also need to be less trailers. “The Dark Knight Rises” had one teaser trailer and three full length trailers, each one showing more and more of the film. Combine that with all of the television promos that are created, and you have enough marketing material to ruin everything. Imagine if instead of twelve minutes of previews at the theatre for four films you instead saw four, maybe five minutes of teaser trailers. And instead of three or four main trailers you would only get two teaser trailers that didn’t spoil anything but managed to pique your curiosity.
Beyond the issue of length and frequency of movie trailers, there is a more pervasive problem. Trailers these days all look the same, and follow the same format. Even smart trailers, such as the “Looper” trailer, blur into one giant trailer. There’s usually a quiet start with ominous tones playing in the background, and from there the trailer gets more and more frantic until images are flying at you so fast you can barely comprehend them. Throw in some booming drums and dubstep, and you have the modern trailer.
Certainly all of these problems won’t go away quickly. There are a lot of smart trailer editors out there but they are stuck in a system that always requires more. Every trailer must have new stuff to keep the viewers attention, but they have gone too far. These days I only watch the teaser trailer and let other marketing do the work. Maybe in a few years the system will have come to its senses and we won’t have to suffer from knowing too much.