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Movie Trailers - Reactions and Rants
When movie trailers were originally invented theaters were the only place you could see them. During their infancy there was no television advertising for motion pictures. As their name suggests trailers were originally played not before the feature presentation at your local theater but afterwards, they trailed the movie and gave you something to watch while you finished your popcorn. Keep in mind also that movie credits were much shorter back then without lengthy page after lengthy page of Digital Effects artists and stunt coordinators.
In today's world however movie teasers and trailers are big business and are featured not just on television but on the fast-paced world of the interwebs where what's trending can change on a dime and things get leaked almost always on purpose. In this hub I want to talk about some of my pet peeves in the recent age of cinematic marketing and use a few recent trailers as a jumping off point.
A Tale of Two Teasers
The two main teasers I want to discuss are the recent trailers for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens and the bad spelling fiasco that is Terminator Genisys. Quite unexpectedly Disney released their most recent peak at the expanding Star Wars Universe at an event celebrating Star Wars. The reaction from fans and people around the world has been overwhelmingly positive and there are numerous reasons for this but among those reasons is that the trailer seems to have been flawlessly crafted to give us just enough to tease us and keep us stoked all without giving us too much.
The Force Awakens Teaser
We get our first clear look at the new Stormtroopers and the redesign of what is left of the Empire after the death of the Emperor and destruction of the Death Star in Return of the Jedi (spoilers guys, the good guys win in that one if you haven't seen it). We see more of our main characters, a beautiful young woman on a desert planet that houses a crashed Star Destroyer and her black friend (can't really say African American because they're in a galaxy far far away) who is apparently having some second thoughts about his allegiance to the Empire. This young girl may in some way be linked to the narration of Luke Skywalker, reassuring fans that the old cast are coming back and that not everything will feel new and strange.
And of course at the end we see Han and Chewie, universally recognized even by people who've never seen Star Wars, two of Science Fiction/Fantasies most iconic characters. The most important thing about the trailer is its sense of fun and excitement and its blend of the old world and the new, from the melted mask of Darth Vader apparently pulled from the funeral pyre to the new villain Kylo Ren wielding a hilted red lightsaber and from R2D2 to the new little droid BB8 who is actually a practical effect they rolled out onto stage at the Star Wars Celebration.
The trailer tells us that Star Wars is back in the hands of someone who can make it a fun adventure with a blend of levity and darkness and with plenty of passion for the old world while trying to tell a good story. While the movie could still suck the trailer reassured a great many fans that George Lucas and the prequels are no longer what Star Wars is about. It's about the Force, the blend of adventure, technology and mysticism that makes Star Wars so unique.
On the other hand we have the new Terminator trailer. Terminator, like Star Wars, is a franchise that I've always loved that has fallen on tough times due to a string of uninspired and mediocre installments in the franchise. The first trailer left me cold and uninterested but at least the movie looked like it was trying something a bit different with the whole Time Travel thing that the series is based on, whereas the lackluster Terminator Salvation had nothing to do with Time Travel at all. But this latest trailer, in an apparent act of desperation by the studio heads, lays all its cards on the table, including ones that should probably have been kept a secret until release.
Not only does it make no sense but it spoils what would have otherwise been an interesting twist in the plot that could have been played to stunning effect. John Connor comes back in time as some kind of weird nano-tech version of the T-1000, what a weird idea, certainly the sort of thing that would make me sit up and start paying attention in the theater. But in a trailer? Why do I have to go see the movie now? Just to find out whether he really is a bad guy robot or a good guy robot and what his goal is? Who cares? I mean if its anything like other Terminator movies his goal is either to defeat Skynet or kill a member of his family (or assimilate them into the Borg).
Am I really expected to make enough sense of this jumble to want to piece it together in the theater over a two hour running time? Especially when I will have to sit through cringe inducing Old Arnold lines like “I'll be Back” for the 70,000th time. We get it Arnie, you're not governor anymore and have no discernible skills other than bad action schlock, it was fun in the 80s and 90s but now it's just sad. If those god awful Expendable movies are any indication we will see another phoned in performance from Schwarzenegger which is a shame because in his prime he could have easily made this look interesting enough to go see (seeing him in T3 still brings me joy even though the movie isn't that good).
Somehow Kyle Reese, who is John's Father, is sent back in time but is saved by Sarah who has been with the Terminator that has learned how to age himself and was apparently sent back even farther. But during the trailer we see Sarah talking to young John, how is this possible when her and Kyle haven't even had sex yet? It makes no sense unless she and the old Arnie have a time machine of their own and can hop around, but even so at some point Kyle Reese has to impregnate her for John Connor to ever even been born.
Also the CGI looks like an Asylum production. If you don't know who the Asylum are good, but also shame on you because they make the best worst movies around these days.
The trailer shows far too much in what has become a trend not just of teasers and trailers but of movie marketing campaigns in general. Which brings me to the ranting.
A Pre-teaser tease for the teaser for the trailer for the clip
Because of the way social media works and how quickly people can find out there's a new trailer or teaser movies studios have changed the way they market films just in the last ten years or so. Before if you wanted to know a movie was coming out you had to see a trailer for it in the theater or on television otherwise your best bet was running into it by accident at the video rental store after it finally came out on video (remember Blockbuster?).
But now-a-days movie studios are announcing movies before they've even secured the rights to the characters or source material involved. Trending topics on Twitter and Facebook alert us not just when a movie has gone into production but when a movie studio is in talks to get the rights to put the movie into PRE-production. In general this is not a bad thing or at least it doesn't bother me all that much however what happens after they've got the rights and approved the project usually does.
Everything should not be a multi-film Franchise
Not every piece of intellectual property, new or otherwise, needs to be developed into an expansive franchise or connected Universe complete with prequels, sequels and spin-offs. It simply isn't necessary that every character or nuance of a story be explored to death in endless sequels and prequels that often diminish in quality and diminish the enjoyment of the original film. While certainly some movies lend themselves to being franchises – horror movies notoriously did this in the 80s – not every movie deserves this treatment.
This is especially true of properties that have been dead for decades and are better left alone. Some projects are ripe for reboots and sequels even years later but MOST ARE DEFINITELY NOT. Recently an all female reboot of Ghost Busters was announced, okay cool, I'm not sure how interested I am in seeing Hollywood fail at rebooting one of the most untouchable comedies of all time but I'll bite. In a matter of weeks it was announced that there might be a second Ghost Busters film that included men, so we'd get a female version and a male version. Ghost Busters is now a gender segregated franchise? WHY?
Everyone wants to pretend they are Marvel Studios and rush forward their connected universes and the results are not likely to be good.
More Marketing Mayhem
So this leads to the next part of marketing, the pre-teaser teasers. This needs to be stopped, ASAP. I do not want to watch a 16 second teaser for the 30 second teaser. I do not want to see 30 seconds teasing me for the 1:30 second teaser. Terminator Genisys actually had an animated poster, whatever the hell that is, before the release of the first teaser. NO. Stop Hollywood, just stop.
I have never seen a teaser that was under a minute that made me want to see a movie more. We also do not need to know a week in advance that a new teaser is going to “PREMIERE”. We also don't need to see teasers a full 12 months before the release of the movie, it just isn't necessary especially when they are going to do all this other marketing down the line.
After the release of the first full length trailer studios have a tendency to get really desperate and try to stop movie-goers from forgetting their movie is coming out by over-saturating the market with TV spots, sneak peeks and spoiler filled clips given away online. One example I recall is the elevator fight from Captain America Winter Soldier, one of the highlights of the film easily spoiled by the overabundance of clips of the film that appear online on purpose by the movie studio marketing departments. I know there are clips from Avengers Age of Ultron that if I watched right now would lessen my enjoyment of the movie when it is released.
We don't need too much especially for movies that are already going to make a billion dollars and likely set records at the box office and the age of the internet makes it that much harder to avoid spoilers and information that you don't want to see because you'd like to retain some of the surprise when you finally go to the theater to see the movie.
There are ways to do a movie teaser and there are ways to not do a movie teaser. It would seem obvious, at least to me, that giving away important plot twists or spoiling epic fight scenes by showing too much is something you want to avoid doing. Getting people psyched and interested in seeing your movie can't be that hard for while many movie-goers are now quite cynical most are still suckers for intriguing plot HINTS and short but cool special effect shots that are in movie trailers.
If the people who market movies would stop being so paranoid about getting butts in seats we'd all come out of the movie theater much more surprised and that, I think, cannot be a bad thing even if the movie ends up being bad.
Thanks for reading.