Opinion Piece – The Problem with Modern Movie Trailers

Martian

Upcoming The Martian – will there be anything left to learn after the trailer?

Piece compiled by Eddie on 17/07/2015

What’s the mission statement of a movie trailer? Is it to show us just enough to make us want more? Is it to show all the films best set pieces to entice us to spend our hard earned cash at the ever increasingly expensive cinemas? Perhaps it’s to show us a shortened run down of what the whole film entails, as witnessed over recent years in far too many trailers.

Not only have we movie lovers sadly lost the deep and comforting tones of trailer voice over artists in the modern history of trailers but now we’ve been mistreated far too many times by trailers giving away movie’s plot lines, sometimes in their shortened entirety. Recently Ridley Scott’s new Sci-Fi epic The Martian had its trailer premiere and whilst the trailer has been viewed millions of times and reception to it been overwhelming positive, the 3 minute plus trailer quite literally portrayed the movies entire plot line.

Is the concept of a lone man on mars not enough to sell Sci-Fi fans? Do we need an overview of how Damon’s Mark Watney is left behind on the red plant, how he battles for survival growing plants, how his crew valiantly defy orders and head back to collect their fellow space explorer? I would say no, we don’t need to see any of that as I for one feel like much of the films mysteries have now been answered already for me and in an age where script leaks, media coverage and interviews flood the market the trailer should be something sacred that pricks our interest without merely showing us what is going to happen.

Awakens

Images like this in the latest Force Awakens trailer perfectly capture what is needed for us to see

It’s, as said, a modern day movie problem and while examples like The Martian, early 2000 classic Cast Away and so many more pander to the movie going publics increasing need to know everything and know it now! There are still fine examples of trailer workmanship that show off to others how it should be done. The most impressive and pressing example that springs to mind when talking up the merits of a trailer that’s not afraid to show us only slight glimpses at what to expect all the while getting us all giddy with excitement is the most recent Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer.

Whilst it may be seen as teaser of some sorts, this latest trailer did its job perfectly, without hammering us over the heads with its undoubtedly fantastic set pieces and homages to the lore set before it and those who constructed this 1 and a half minute ride should be commended for their smart and respectful treating of those looking forward to the movie. It’s a great example of what the motto of a trailer should be whether full length or shortened, it’s a teaser, a slight look in and taste of what we can expect come release day, not an extended look at who’s going to live, whose going to die, what villains may make a cameo appearance, a respecting of what makes going to the movies such a joy in the first place, the mystery of what’s to come.

While movie making changes by the day, by the hour even, is it so much to ask for to have our trailers made with a little more care and respect for the product it’s promoting? I know I for one am just as excited as other movie fans when new trailers hit the web and I find myself frequently watching the newest and most talked about upcoming movie teases on a weekly basis but as excited as I most often am I now feel trepidation and sometimes sadness at what I may see or have seen as while we want to know every last detail about our most anticipated film, keeping some mystery in an age of abundant knowledge surely can’t be a bad thing?

WRONG TRAILER –

RIGHT TRAILER –

How do you feel about modern day movie trailers? Do you like your trailers filled with plot lines and set pieces or do you prefer to discover these when actually watching the film? What are some of the worst trailers you’ve seen or best? Let us know in the comments below!

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55 responses to “Opinion Piece – The Problem with Modern Movie Trailers

    • Totally agreed, and a brilliant piece. I for one don’t watch trailers at all, no matter much praise its gotten from people as to how good of one it was. My preference is to go into films cold, knowing nothing — as far as footage/clips are concerned. And if I can’t make it to screenings, I’ll bring my headphones and turn the music up really loud whilst the trailers are going on. I recently just came across this after seeing reactions to THE REVENANT trailer.

  1. I am really fed up with how many spoilers there are in trailers, nowadays. I long for the mystique of the past. Too many great and iconic scenes make it into the trailers. Hold something back for us, please dear studio bosses. Whet our appetites for more. Thanks for a great blog piece!

    • That’s it we almost need to picket line the studios haha. I really don’t get the point in showing all the films best bits or just the entire plot line.
      E

  2. I am right with you, I hate these trailers that barely can keep themselves confined to 2 minutes. That’s still plenty of time to hint at the product overall, without delivering major plot points. But now they’re like 3 minutes long and often make me react in the film itself when I recognize a certain scene or whatever as “that moment in that trailer.” Sometimes i guess it’s fun but that phenomenon is happening way too often to me now haha

    • Yeh man this year – its like 3 minute trailers are the new thing! I love me teasers, even that first trailer for Hardy’s new film Legend, it was just a really well put together piece that didn’t show every major scene. The Martian trailer was seriously gob smackingly bad in what it showed!
      E

  3. Great post! I couldn’t agree more. The Terminator Genisys trailer is perhaps the prime example of this, it basically spoiled the movie’s biggest plot-twist in one trailer.

  4. I think we have but ourselves to blame.
    When the attention span of audiences everywhere decreases by the second, and they are only interested in watching things blow up, what is a studio to do?
    Do you honestly believe that if Alien were to be released in this day and age, the trailer would still be the same it was 30 years ago?
    It would probably the damn creature devouring everybody.
    But why?
    Because audiences are lazy. There is no more effort being put into obtaining a true cinematic experience.
    And look at the latest Terminator trailer, which revealed the film’s plot twist. The studio, afraid that they were not going to get enough butts in seat, had to do that as a way to tell audiences “this franchise is still cool! look, plot twists!”

    Because the problem is only going to get worse, this is what I propose: Stop watching movie trailers.
    I quit that practice a little over a year ago, because I was tired of not experiencing the full emotion whenever an unexpected development arose, on account of having already seen it on the trailer.
    What I do instead, after watching the movie, I look the trailer online, and see whether the creators did a good job in showing what the movie was about.
    Most of the time, I am disappointed.

  5. Actually, long trailers (of close to or over 3 minutes) have been around for decades. I’ve noticed that plenty of classic films were denser in terms of plot and trailers for them tended to cover certain elements for certain audiences while not going wild with spoilers.

    I’ve also noted that when something important was shown in some of those older trailers, very often it was placed out of context so that you didn’t know when the scene in question took place. It seems today’s spoiler-heavy trailers are run in the order the film runs (which is pretty stupid and places no faith in the audience and heir shorter attention spans).

    The major problem now (which is also older than some think) is studios think audiences NEED to see ALL thrills in their promos so you get what amounts to the entire film’s best moments in a tiny package. In many cases, that’s all you need to see because some films only have those few minutes going for it. I also lay blame on jaded audiences who’ve seen it all and desperate studios trying to get that first big weekend gross at any cost.

    That said, two of my all-time favorite long trailers are ones where you see a lot, but end up still curious because you WANT to know more.

    The long one for Psycho with Hitchcock giving that hilarious tour of the Bates Motel is still a great one that doesn’t give away anything at all but piques interest in the film 100%. The other one is for ALIENS, which shows plenty of action, but also reveals no major spoilers. In fact, it made me want to see the film because the tension was so palpable and action scenes shown were of the “WTF?!” and “How the hell did they do THAT effect?!” variety (that great rear-screen projected crash of the drop ship).

    • I’l have to check out some of these older ones mate they sound great, I love those trailers that manage to pick your interest without showing much of the plot at all recent ones I can recall doing this were The Master and films of that ilk. Its true also about trailers trying to tailor themselves to lazy audiences and people that don’t really care about having their films ruined for them as long as there are some neat explosions on offer!
      E

  6. I agree that some trailers give out too much information. I don’t mind them being long but I don’t want them telling me the entire story. I do enjoy the suspense.

    • Yeh that’s it, if we are going to have our trailers extended in length lets make it for a reason, the Suicide Squad teaser did will with this although trailers coming a year before release date aren’t absolutely necessary in many ways as the hype train can get out of hand.
      E

  7. I’ll try to make a point, so bear with me. I see your points entirely. I agree with them too. As someone noted above “Terminator Genisys” blew it. Horror films are arguably the worst. On the “Force Awakens” bit, as you noted, it can (to me it is, per the definition or idea, and length) be a teaser trailer. They’re meant to do exactly what this one did. The biggest difference is, J.J. Abrams probably had a lot of say in the final cut. He’s well known for his secrecy, and I think, as I’m really biased, it works out being for the better. If he wasn’t involved I wonder how it would’ve ended up looking. “Prometheus”, of late, that I can recall, is the only one that seemed to start of with its trailers being very mysterious and didn’t offer up too much.

  8. So I agree with your article that far too many trailers give too much away but there’s two things I disagree with.

    Star wars trailer as a good example? Really? Because when you have a new entry in a multibillion dollar franchise you don’t need to try and sell the movie – it sells itself. They could have shown a light saber with the title and we’d all still go watch it so this trailer is almost pointless.

    However for a brand new idea/movie not based on books or an established franchise will actually have to rely on the trailer or attached names to sell. Its the way consumers like us have made things where studios investing large amounts of money scarely will take a high risk.

    Antman? Really? Do we care about a guy the size of an ant who flys on a bee? Oh wait its marvel and part of the universe so it will sell.

    If we supported indie releases we’d have a lot more risks being taken. But these days franchises and big names are what sell and if u dont have that you’ve gotta put so much into a trailer to garner some interest.

    Do I like it? No. But I perfectly understand why its done.

    • I just hope less movies have there story lines shown so intently. Nothing wrong with seeing some neat special effects etc but just hate knowing where the movie is going from a 2 minute trailer.
      E

  9. Trailers have always balanced across the fine line of what can be considered a spoiler and what isn’t.
    Anything in a trailer could be considered (see: is) a spoiler if you have not seen the film. The Martian however does show far too much, in too much context.
    I believe a trailer can show whatever it wants, as long as it is out of context – a sizzle-reel of the exciting parts of an action movie for example.

  10. great blog post comments. someone earlier mentioned attention spans, what i am wondering is how much longer before we skip the movie entirely and just market the trailer. most action films already throw dialogue, character development, and rising action out of the window from the start, so maybe we’ll just skip the movie and have the trailer.
    for what its worth, i read the martian and am looking forward to the movie, but my thoughts were exactly the same when i saw the trailer–they told way too much!
    again, great post!

  11. I am very happy to say that I do not need to spend the money to watch the Martian. After viewing the trailer, I shall wait for it to come on an internet movie channel and catch the last 5 minutes. Thank you, great review on trailers!

  12. If you have the DVD of ‘The Usual Suspects’, watch the bit where Bryan Singer talks about that movie trailer. I think for more unknown directors and films with less hype, the studio puts their hands on the trailer more, convinced “mainstream” audiences won’t go see a movie unless they know everything about it. Singer said they wanted to give away the ending in the trailer! He was like “NO!” and had to really fight with them to cut the trailer his way.

    Obviously, they could just put a screen up that said “Star Wars – December 18” and that would do it for Star Wars, but The Martian doesn’t have the same widespread recognition unless you move in SciFi reading circles.

    I hate when I go to see a movie and realize I’ve seen the whole thing in the trailer. I find that the superhero movies are REALLY guilty of this, especially the Ed Norton ‘Hulk’ and ‘Amazing Spider-Man’. It annoys me no end and makes me not go to the theater but apparently for most people, it doesn’t matter as all those movies still make a ton of money.

    • I reckon Jordan would love to check the Suspects commentary you mentioned.
      It would be great for more directors to have a bigger say in the adverts. I do get the feeling that the studios will have to change there tact at one stage.
      E

  13. Really compelling article. It was super intriguing. I loved that Star Wars trailer, and share your thoughts on it. As we approach its release I’m sure they’ll debut a new trailer… maybe from the “wrong”category, showing way more. It will be hard not to watch it.

    I think trailers should only show footage from the 1st Act. The latest Terminator is an example of revealing too much in a trailer, like a 2nd Act twist.

    As for the Martian, fear not. I read the book, and it seems like all trailer footage is 1st Act stuff. This Ridley Scott movie will be worth watching!

    • Ah cool to hear about the Martian! I do hope it’s not ruined for everyone. I thought yesterday’s Revenant trailer was quite good, didn’t give to much away.
      E

      • Revenant was great. Sold an atmosphere, with editing, rhythmical sound design, and some stark visuals. While we can connect the dots, and predict entire movie from trailer, it’s straightforward concept is strong enough we’re sold. This is survival, and revenge, done. If done effectively, this could be a best picture candidate. No bold statement there 😉

      • That’s what everyone’s saying, eh. Can’t wait for those first reviews to trickle out. I’ve heard Hardy is Oscar worthy here too. I couldn’t anticipate it more… wait i can… Star Wars, Hateful 8, then Revenant…. The Martian makes my list too 😉

  14. I am in complete agreement. Comedies are the worst for this showing every joke in the trailer.

  15. I coulnt have agreed more! Thank you. I have been feeling like this for quite awhile and started believin i was the only one, you said it perfectly. Crimson Peak’s trailer has interested me an picked at images and subjects i want to know more of. Also U.N.C.L.E.

  16. Fantastic blog post, you said it perfectly – trailers these days certainly leave nothing to the imagination.

    The best recent example was with the Terminator: Genisys trailers. Not only did they give away the huge plot twist for this one, they also gave away the plot twist for Judgement Day! I may have been more inclined to go see the latest part had it not been completely transparent what was going to happen.

    • Cheers Fiction. Your certainly right on the money regarding the new Terminator. I think its low end Box Office numbers suggest that there trailer tactics did not work in the slightest and perhaps many like you and I felt like we had seen all we need to by just the trailers alone.
      E

  17. This piece is is just spot on! I became known as a trailer hater with friends and family because I refuse to watch any trailer for movies I intend to watch. I usually watch the trailer after the movie to see how well it hypes up the movie and how much it gives away. This is my first time watching the Martian trailer and was shocked at how much it gives away. I mean with names Ridley Scott and Matt Damon plastered on the poster why do you need to give away this much? I thought that the trailer should just cut off at 1:20 having established the first few minutes of the movie and hyping up the cinematography. Star Wars trailer was just perfect and should be an example of all future trailers. I remember District 9’s original trailer was also a great trailer having set up the hype without even showing the main character. The worst movies in this regard are comedies, jam-packing all the good jokes in the trailers.

    • Glad you agree mate and you make some great points about comedies! Why put all the best stuff in a trailer? Makes no sense to me just makes people leave disappointed.
      E

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