Opinion: Do we put too much importance on trailers?

Pre-teasers, teasers, TV spots, full trailers etc etc

There's no such thing as a simple, spoiler-free trailer anymore - but is that a good thing? Film writer Daniel Bettridge weighs in with his thoughts…

Proving that the customer is always right (or perhaps that Ben Affleck in Mallrats hit the nail on the head when he said that they’re always an asshole), Paramount were forced to refund a punter in New Zealand last month after he complained that an explosion from a trailer for Tom Cruise’s Jack Reacher failed to make it into the final cut of the film.

"The explosion where the whole cliff comes down was the defining part of the ad that made me really want to go see the movie…” the man wrote, claiming he was misled by the movie’s marketing.

Perhaps he’s mildly bonkers, or perhaps the man’s insistence that he’d formed an opinion of the 130-minute movie based on a split second scene from a TV promo is indicative of just how much stock we now put into trailers.

Of course trailers themselves are nothing new. But since the advent of the internet the movie marketing machine has gone into overdrive, cranking out a veritable conveyor belt of content in the months leading up to a major movie release. In fact you can’t swing a LOLCat online these days without hitting some sort of teaser, trailer, or a behind-the-scenes-featurette-about-the-making-of-a-GIF-of-the-sneak-peak-of-the-trailer.

The Wolverine alone has had a Vine trailer for the teaser trailer, a teaser trailer, and now numerous medium-to-long form versions of the trailer itself.

Like most film fans I’m guilty of gorging myself on the buzz surrounding tentpole releases, hoovering up every morsel of marketing from the all-you-can-eat blockbuster buffet. In fact I can’t remember the last time I went into a film without having already seen a large proportion of it, a personal choice that consistently strips the spectacle out of even the most exciting cinema experience.

But by feeding our curiosity are we all a little guilty of spoiling our appetites when it comes to the main event of watching the actual movie?

It wasn’t always this way though. Whereas directors used to keep their powder dry, today they’re guilty of showing us too much in an effort to entice us into auditoriums. Modern trailers in particular seem less concerned with telling us what the movie will be about and more bothered with spoiling every special effect, action set piece and punchline it will contain. As a result we’re inundated with on-screen moments which inevitably start to lose their lustre by the time we see them at the cinema, no matter how stunning they may have originally been. It’s even more unforgiveable when the trailers themselves ruin the movie you’re about to see.

As the anti-piracy adverts repeatedly tell us ‘there’s nothing quite like seeing it on the big screen’ so why aren’t studios following their own advice and exercising some control over their marketing materials? It’s a lead some directors have already taken with the likes of Christopher Nolan proving notoriously picky about what he reveals to audiences ahead of time.

Maybe it’s time that others followed in his footsteps. Or maybe the responsibility lies with us. After all just because there are trailers out there it doesn’t mean we have to watch them, does it?

Daniel is a freelance film writer; you can watch him ignore his own advice by repeatedly talking about trailers on Twitter @danielbettridge.

What do you think? Do you think trailers spoil movies? Are we responsible for controlling how much of a film we see ahead of its release or should studios be more careful with what they put in their marketing materials? Let us know in the comments below.


    • SiMan

      May 2nd 2013, 12:50

      Its an interesting point the new Zealander had - if that was the thing that was the deciding factor as to whether he forked out $10 or so to see it on the big screen, why shouldn't he feel aggreived if that scene/moment isn't in the final poduct. You do notice slight difference between trailers and final films, usually its the way dialogue is delivered though (see the 'Billionaire, Genius, Playboy, Philanthropist' line - slightly different in the trailer) but seeing as how trailers come out months before the final product, i think you have to allow for changes to be made. I do think we are starting to be over-exposed to footgae nowadays. I'll freely admit that i have watched most of the trailers and teasers that are online, although i have started to leave off watching an 'tv spots' that appear on the web. There doesn't seem to be any element of mystery involved anymore. Take the Iron Man 3 trailers - as far as i can remember, all of the major actions scenes were glimpsed in the build up, so there was nothing 'new/suprising' (apart from THAT character twist, which was, to be fair, played beautifully) in the final movie. Even the new Man of Steel stuff looks to be doing similar. After the first teaser we were told "this is only the smallest tip of the iceberg", which proved true when the new, full trailer came out, but then i kind of think that they've revealed too much now and wonder how much of the 'iceberg' is left. I'm waiting on the time i see a trailer with loads of action-y stuff in it, thinking its the majority of the awesomeness, then being pleasantly suprised to find it all occurs in the first 10 minutes and there is another 2 hours or so of amazing stuff that i had no idea about (Skyfall almost did this, but after the openeng stuff that was all glimpsed in the trailer, there wasn't much else happening till the end!)

      Alert a moderator

    • FBEKirk

      May 2nd 2013, 13:18

      Yeah, I remember bits from the Snow White & The Huntsmen trailer that made it look better than it was, and there have been quite a few trailers in the past that have had scenes or images in them that aren't in the final cut....surely that's basically false advertising? I prefer when they don't show you the whole film as well...they seem to have forgotten how to show stuff without giving away any plot points...

      Alert a moderator

    • RaveyDaveyGravy

      May 2nd 2013, 14:40

      Ive harked long and hard about trailer overload. Prometheus wasnt perfect, by any stretch, but the MASSIVE overhype supported by trailer after trailer (gleefully waved in our faces by this very website) ratcheted the anticipation far too high. Tease us, dont show us!

      Alert a moderator

    • 2Dglasses

      May 2nd 2013, 14:47

      The worst by far are those that show something after a plot twist (Terminator Salvation especially) or stuff from the final climax. Why cant they show things from just the first half of a film? Prometheus good example, im pretty sure we knew from the trailer most of what would happen and then the rest was just waffle and bad storytelling to get there in a contrived way. IM3, not bad, at least they didnt show any major twists and there were a fair few to show.

      Alert a moderator

    • Pearceyy96

      May 2nd 2013, 16:45

      I completely understand and agree with what's been written but I think that Iron Man 3 is a good example of great marketing. The final product is nothing like the trailers. Without going into too much detail, it's a much lighter film than the trailers dark approach & there was so many twists that could of easily been given away! Lets hope it's a sign for things to come!

      Alert a moderator

    • DravenCage

      May 2nd 2013, 21:59

      The Iron Man 3 marketing machine prior to release is a perfect example of how to build expectations and give some spectacle, but also keep a sh*tload of surprises up your sleeve. There is so much in the film that the trailers don't even really hint at and even when you'd seen every trailer / TV spot (as I had prior to going to the cinema), you still sit there with a childish grin on your face at what is unfolding in front of you.

      Alert a moderator

    • PhillTurner

      May 3rd 2013, 15:36

      YES YES YES¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I totally agree. Why ? There even more annoying when they tell a mini story that has nothing to do with the film. Its like I created the film in my head then go and see it and its like I just got robbed. or You sit through a long version of the mini movie you just saw. intrigue is way more powerful than giving the plot away. STOP IT HOLLYWOOD its ruining our joy at working out the film while we're watching it. Phill Turner

      Alert a moderator

    • Vocalscpunk

      May 3rd 2013, 18:21

      I have joyfully cut trailers out of my life for over a year now. Occasionally I'll get sucked into a teaser through reddit, IMDB, or something similar. If the trailer is longer than 1 minute I will not watch it. I leave theatres before the previews start simply because I want the option to be surprised. How much of a book does the jacket cover or back cover give away? Just enough to get you hooked - and that's all I need. Superhero's have to save the world in Avengers? Shocking! Why watch the trailer? Youtube search "Rainman" as a horror movie trailer as an example of how much editing can do to a trailer (I'm not allowed to link directly here). The guru's behind the computer can take 180 minutes of film and create whatever they want. Some decent movies have had c**p trailers and probably floundered for it and there are c**p movies with decent trailers where we all feel duped after we've sat through it. Next time there's a movie you know you're going to watch (Superman, Avengers 2, 300 prequel, etc.) do yourself a favor and avoid the trailer. After you've watched the movie go back and watch the trailer. You'll be surprised at how different they can be. Sincerely, Avid Trailer Avoider

      Alert a moderator

    • JoseyWales

      May 3rd 2013, 18:26

      Not keen on watching trailers tbh, I tend to avoid them at all costs. My biggest pet hate is trailers attached to adverts in cinemas featuring the same movie you're sat there waiting to watch. It's seriously taking the p**s when they do that.

      Alert a moderator

Most Popular