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.