The decline and fall of the movie trailer

Monday February 05, 2007 @ 09:58 PM (UTC)

I am so sick of bad movie trailers that I could scream. Forget screaming, I’m almost to the point of sneaking into movie theaters and editing the trailer reels with shears and Scotch tape.

Recently, it seems that almost all movie trailers follow one of two truly horrible patterns:

Pattern the first: Actors and producers sitting around talking about why the movie is so ‘neat’ for three minutes, intercut with small pieces of actual movie. Directors, who can be assumed to have some ability to tell stories, albeit in pictures, occasionally appear; screenwriters, whom one might expect to be proficient in the use of words, never. The hodge-podge of inarticulate, faint praise leaves you eager to never see the movie in question and, further, to never again go to a movie theater, where these expanded trailers usually appear.

Pattern the second: The trailer begins by giving the setup, which for many plot-driven movies is a reasonable thing to do. It then proceeds to show you the first and second twists, along with the romantic subplot and pieces of truly inane dialogue that only exist to drive along the plot. Yes, it’s actually the 30-second version of the movie, a crappy and unflattering 30 seconds at that, and this type of trailer is the one I see most often. Why would anyone think this is a good way to sell a film? Movies that one wants to see for reasons entirely unrelated to plot and suspense do exist but by no means predominate, and this sort of stultifying exposition-ridden tension-drainer of a trailer is used for all genres.

Stop it, Hollywood. Whatever sleep-deprived, drug-addled cretins you have putting together these trailers, fire them. Hire a few 16-year-olds with average IQs. If this is the way you try to motivate the movie-going populace to go to movies, it’s a wonder that you are lying about the box office ‘slump’.


Technically the first category isn’t a trailer, it’s just marketing fluff. They’re shown in theaters, but only as part of the pre-movie digital advertising, not as part of the actual trailer reel prepended to the film. But yes, they are obnoxious and annoying.

In their defense, they could be doing the best with what they’ve got. I have never had the experience of seeing a half-assed trailer and then watching the movie and going, “wow, they really undersold that, it was so much better than the trailer!” Most of the time the trailer just adequately conveys the crappiness level of the movie and is probably designed to lure in the movie-goer that sees such a trailer and says to him or herself, “this movie looks average, but I really want to see that scene where he rides the motorcycle through the window again, that looks kickass!” Hollywood is very very cynical. Thus, the predominace of crappy movie trailers is probably just the inevitable result of the predominance of crappy movies.

The thing is that the trailers tend to be so crappy that I’m unlikely to be able to make the comparison.

I will ponder, I am sure that I’ve seen the bad overplotty trailers for good movies on at least an occasion or two.

I think the Pixar movies are a pretty good example of great movies having really crappy trailers. They eventually get better, closer to the release date, but I know the first few trailers to come out for their films really fail to sell them at all. I just cross my fingers and bank on the fact that it’s Pixar, so it has to be good!

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