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Are Movie Trailers Killing Movies?


If you’ve already seen Jurassic World, or any current television commercials running for the movie after it’s been out for a month, it’s no spoiler to you that a.) Chris Pratt is able to communicate with Raptors, and b.) there is a somewhat secret, big new dinosaur revealed in the film. I won’t spoil the latter, because it’s entirely possibly you have avoided that, but there’s no way you’ve seen anything at all about the movie which doesn’t allude to the former.

It is true that once a film is out for a week, as far as television trailers are concerned all bets are off — a studio suddenly starts shoehorning any and all great lines, jokes and moments into the marketing to squeeze every last bit of interest out of it. Jurassic World is no exception, and that’s all very whatever. But had you paid close attention some of what was revealed in the major advance trailers — and you have a decent film IQ which can infer what those bits and pieces might signal — parts of the movie could have very much been ruined for you.

Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow, who beat the odds and surprised many by doing a pretty fantastic job, feels that some of the early trailer shots for the film hurt what he, as a filmmaker, sought to build in the new film. In a great recent interview with Indiewire  Trevorrow spoke on the subject, especially the shot of Pratt riding a motorcycle among raptors:

“In my opinion, they have shown far more of this movie than I would ever have wanted…There is a very natural bit of conflict between a filmmaker wanting an audience to be brought slowly into a film, and to be eased into accepting an image like that…Your suspension of disbelief has to be earned. We’ve been earning it, by the time that happens, for an hour and a half. Every movie has its own logic, and if you’re introducing a new set of rules, to just show people snippets of something without them understanding the set of rules that define the movie, can be challenging for an audience.”

This is a fantastic point, and it goes well into describing the problems with an oversharing movie trailer beyond the simplicity of “ruining the good stuff.” It signals that by showing all the bells and whistles, out of context, the filmmaker is by default robbed of his or her particular development and narrative process and overall hurts the finished artistic product. Knowing the Pratt/motorcycle/raptor sequence exists spoiled the progression of the film as the moviegoer watches it; any audience member who remembers the clip from the trailer will put the pieces together long before that moment occurs in the film.

In the era where studio films are struggling against binge-watching on Netflix, straight-to-VOD titles, cinema-quality cable programming and the de-glamorizing of the multiplex, marketing departments have to pull out all the stops. Unfortunately, in attempts to show you how harrowing/scary/exciting/awe-inspiring/touching/emotional a film can be, these departments find themselves resorting to showing everything. Case in point: May’s Poltergeist remake didn’t even try to hide the infamous clown scene, which to many is the most frightening of the original film. Why not keep that under wraps? We all know it’s coming; wouldn’t it have been at least a little fun to see how the remake played it out?

Or take the trailer for Meryl Streep’s new film Ricki and the Flash, which has debuted in the last few weeks. Whether it interests you or not (here’s a real spoiler: it won’t), humor me and let’s play out this little exercise. As a smart human being, follow this trailer closely and then we’ll compare notes on EXACTLY what will happen in the film:

Alright, let’s do this:

1. Ricki (Streep) is an aged musician. “The Flash” is her band, and not the superhero (sorry, folks).

2. Her straight-laced husband (Kevin Kline, playing either an ex-husband who used to be cool and now has “grown up” or “was just too different from her to begin with for their marriage to ever work” calls Ricki about her daughter, whose boyfriend has just run off. Ricki heads home to his well-to-do upper class home.

3. We meet Ricki’s daughter, who is openly resentful about her mother returning (inferring that her mother left on them years ago). We also meet Ricki’s ex-husband’s likable and sympathetic new wife, who has “kept the family together” since Ricki left home.

4. Ricki runs into her son and his girlfriend, who have plans to get married and plan not to involve Ricki, who has never really been much of a mother.

5. Ricki, despondent, returns to her rock and roll world, where her grubby boyfriend (who turns out to be an awesome dude) encourages her not to give up on reconnecting with her family. So she returns to her ex-husband’s upscale suburb town.

6. Ricki reconnects with her estranged daughter and her daughter realizes that, probably, “They’re not so different after all.” They shop together and probably eat ice cream and Ricki gives her life lessons she never did when her daughter was younger.

7. Ricki ends up getting invited to her son’s wedding — AS THE WEDDING SINGER! — and gives a tearjerking toast speech. Everyone forgives her and the family is saved!

There you go. I just saved you $11.00 ($14.50 in IMAX). And the Ricki and the Flash trailer is a perfect example of how a.) there are no new movie plot conventions and. b.) if you know those conventions, you can completely imagine the movie in your own before you even see it, thanks to a spoiler-filled trailer.

And that may be the ultimate problem with movie trailers — we’ve seen it all already. So why still insist on showing us everything?

Article written by C.M. Tomlin

All I want is a HI-C and a turkey sandwich. @CM_Tomlin

1 Comment for Are Movie Trailers Killing Movies?

  1. ukjaybrat
    8:46 am July 8, 2015 Permalink

    Comedies are the worst. They’re always hit or miss. You can never tell if the trailer dished out all the funny parts and the rest of the movie is mediocre, or if the marketing department saved the best for the silver screen.