WARNING: The following contains obnoxious opinions, language and potential spoilers!
The enveloping darkness is suddenly broken by a bright green light that says “The Following Preview has been Approved for All Audiences”. What followed was a loud booming voice that said things like “A man on the edge” or “Their world, destroyed...” and almost always the phrase “Coming this Summer”. Then you saw some familiar actors, a few gunshots or explosions, some quippy lines of dialogue and finally a giant title popped up with an age rating and that was that. Only about 60 seconds of film or less for a 90 minute movie. Not too bad, but that was the 90’s.
Today, trailers are bigger, longer, and come with their own previews. A random screening in theaters has been replaced with YouTube debuts, Late Nite talk show premiers and Superbowl Spots. It’s like studios have a big wheel they spin to decide where you will watch their big reveal. Will it be on Kimmel? Monday Night Football? Hell, lets drop one during Good Morning America, people will get up for it. Then they hype them up with “Something big is coming” Tweets from directors, ominous countdowns and previews of the trailer itself. You read that right, a trailer preview. Like 3 days before a big blockbuster trailer will be revealed to the world, they drop a brief glimpse of that trailer for reasons I still can’t figure out to save my life. A few samples of footage you will watch all over again when the full trailer comes out. And that isn’t the only problem. I fear that the modern movie preview has the potential to ruin the movie it’s telling you about. Let’s say the next big movie you love is dropping a first trailer any minute. Where you choose to watch it does not matter, you will be pestered no matter what.
If you take the YouTube route, you’ve probably noticed that right before the trailer starts, there’s a 3 second clip of that very trailer right in front of it, and then the title pops up and underneath it it says “Trailer Debut” or something like that. That’s because many of these trailers get used as YouTube ads that will interrupt other humans’ favorite How to Cook The Ultimate Pizza videos that they’re so obsessed with. The reason they do this to you is that when you inevitably click that skip button, you’ve already been forced to view some material. They hope that a seed has been planted in your brain and that those brief moments of film will make you go “Man, I gotta see Justice League”, even though you’ve never seen a comic book film in your life and could care less. It works on them maybe 2% of the time, and for the fans, it is possibly the most tedious and unnecessary thing you could do.
Let’s say you’re the mega-fan. YouTube is still not fast enough. You gotta see this shit the exact millisecond that it drops so you can tell everyone how you got to see it first and that you are in the elite nerd ranks of Bat-Super-Spider-Man-Wars (Me. I do this. I am a loser). So you tune into a talk show that you never watch ever because its too boring or the host is annoying or it’s too political (Also a thing I do). There’s no getting around it, you will have to watch the whole episode, commercials and all. Satellite can’t help you either. Only way to skip commercials is to fall behind on the live broadcast, at that is unacceptable to the mega nerd that you have become. They won’t put it right at the end, because people will expect that and tune in 10 minutes before the end of the show, which gains them no ratings. They won’t put it at the beginning either, because you’ll watch it and immediately run to YouTube and watch it 8 more times. That leaves a good 40 minutes of air space for them to stick it. So there you are, stuck watching Jimmy Conan O’Kimmel whine about Senator What's-His-Face for 10 minutes before watching him delve into a series of boring-as-shit diatribes with the cast of Game of Thrones (THE MOST OVERHYPED SHOW ON TELEVISION). TBS or whoever get their beloved ratings for the night, and you’ve wasted an evening.
And then there’s America’s Game. The Patriots Bowl...oops Superbowl, that’s what it’s called. You used to watch it all the time, but you don’t really wanna watch this year because it's the 6th or 7th time that the Patriots have cheated their way into the limelight. Even if they lose, which brings you great joy, you’re bummed because you wanted Minnesota V Jacksonville because it was different and new. You’ll still have that miserable game on though, because half of the commercial spots have been bought up by movie executives hoping to sell you on Transformers 14 or Marvel *Generic Sequel Title Here* or maybe something you actually want like a Netflix preview. Regardless, you gotta sit through a 4 hour event for these because there’s no warning on when they will drop. Most of the time, they debut when you’re in the bathroom and you gotta find them on YouTube later. Even if you do see them, it’s rarely anything dynamic. Just a glorified footage tease to hype you for a movie that’s nowhere near done but the studio demanded to be given something to show during the game.
Every route is bothersome, but you endure because that’s how we have been programmed by these studios, they want us chomping at the bit for any sighting of our favorite actors, themes and stories. They want us so invested that they can show us whatever they want and we will pay for the movie ticket anyway. My parents were with me when I saw the Last Jedi, and they brought up a very interesting point. They said that every trailer they saw was exactly the same. Not subject obviously, but their design and rhythm were identical from film to film. Identical to the point where the movies themselves were disinteresting because they felt as though they would also be identical in design. My mother discussed how previews used to be and now I can’t avoid noticing the issue every time I see one.
There’s a lot of them too. Not trailers of films but trailers of one specific film. For example, Star Wars Episode 7 had a teaser trailer, a trailer 1, a trailer 2, a final trailer, a mini-documentary about making it AND approximately 15 to 20 different tv spots. I know that because I was the tool that watched them all. I know what you’re thinking, I did it to myself, but this isn’t the only movie like this. These days every movie has at least 2 trailers, and the big blockbusters have 3 or 4 trailers and a barrage of tv spots. No matter what you do or don’t see, surprise or plot point will most likely be spoiled for you. However, even that isn’t the biggest problem with these trailers.
Spoilers, spoilers everywhere. So many movies ruined by their lengthy and revealing previews. Some of the most recent victims being Jurassic World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Terminator Genysis (A trailer now infamous for revealing its biggest plot spoiler IN ITS OWN PREVIEW). That plot twist being that John Connor had somehow been turned into a machine. Granted, this was an awful movie, but that is a badass concept. So why the hell would you put that in a preview?! Then there was Jurassic World, whose biggest draw was that they had created a new, super secret dinosaur for the movies that would be epic and amazing. The first trailer showed virtually nothing, which is good. The next trailer showed absolutely everything. It showed what the new dinosaur looked like, awesome set pieces that should’ve been kept secret and most of the plot. There was absolutely no reason to do that, People were gonna see this movie no matter what. It was the return of Jurassic Park and Chris Pratt is in it. That’s all you need right there. Even if it isn’t a major spoiler, trailers these days show too much. You can either piece together plot points yourselves or you just see something you wish they had saved for the film.
So how we fix this? What is the right way to make a trailer in 2018? Ironically, I believe the answer is found in a trailer from 2016 that had a lot of complaints. Rogue One was an excellent movie despite being plagued by required reshoots and last minute changes to the story. However, because of this, a ton of the trailer footage didn’t make it into the film and a lot of it did actually look really cool unfortunately. Star Wars fans were pretty upset about it, especially since some of that lost footage had Darth Vader in it. However that mess of development brings us to a solution. Why not make all trailers like that? Show your favorite characters fighting some character or doing some cool thing that demonstrates who they are and what they are capable of without revealing part of the story to you. Hell, make little shorts like Pixar does, only use them to set up character and story. Sure it’ll cost a little more and ding the film’s budget, but not enough to hurt the final product.
Despite what I say all the time, people aren’t stupid. We don’t need to see a ton of footage in trailers to understand the film. These overstuffed and overabundant trailers are information overload. It’s like ordering an appetizer and then ordering the appetizer again as your entree. Nothing has changed and you already know what you’re getting. Thats no fun at all! We go to movies to escape, whether we know that or not. We want to enter another world, connect with the characters and share in their experiences as we follow them on their journeys. The reason I’m so ranty about this particular problem is because modern trailers completely contaminate this idea. Movies are a place where you don’t ever want a map, how you get there is all the fun. When you walk up to a Roller Coaster and see the big drop or the loops, it’s really cool, but imagine how much cooler it would be if you didn’t see them. Studio Executives need to realize that people will always see movies. People will always want to see Iron Man again. People will always want to visit the stars from their cinema. People will always want to escape.
Previews don’t need to be approved for all audiences, they need to be approved by all audiences...