It has been an issue for years now, but for the majority of the time, trailers for upcoming films have been an utter shambles. There are a lot of gripes about them nowadays and almost once a week a poor trailer is released. Today we are going to talk about them and also try to figure out what can be done to make them work to the film, audiences and studios advantage.
Stop giving the movie away
Terminator: Salvation may not have thought it was giving away a big twist in its the trailer but revealing Marcus is a human-terminator hybrid gives far too much away. What person thought releasing a big reveal such as that in a trailer would be smart? At least they didn’t go with the original idea…
Let’s not kid ourselves that this aspect is a new issue by the way. Let us look no further than 1990s Total Recall. The first proper shot of the film is a reveal of Quaid’s disguise and they kill his wife… IN THE TRAILER! Again, who authorised that?! Madness.
While Shutter Islands first trailer didn’t spill all the beans of the film and it was corrected in later trailers, they revealed just a little too much about Leo DiCaprio’s characters psyche and thus the seeds of doubt about his sanity began.
The biggest sinner of spoiling the film has to be Castaway. If you watch the trailer you just watched the film on fast forward. The last scenes of the film are in there. If you wanted the suspense of knowing he returned home, well hard luck after watching the trailer.
I stand corrected, upon further research the film Quarantine (shot for shot remake of the terrific REC) literally has the last shot in the film in it. What they could have done if they were going for a virtual shot for shot was just copy the originals trailers. At no point is the final minute of the film there. If you want to compare the two have a look below and see which one comes across better. While the original give away what has happened to the child in the story, at least it doesn’t give away every single other scene…
A teaser should be less than 90 seconds in length
A few recent trailers have been able to utilise the “teaser” aspect of a teaser trailer very well. One was quite recently with A Quiet Place 2, which had a trailer of 30 seconds. It gave us a little bit of information that the family were on the move beyond the safety of their home. Done. Nice and easy.
Another teaser that worked well was Mulan if anything I would say that it doesn’t need a further trailer after this one, but we know we will get it. 90 seconds, of giving a brief idea of the story and some nice shots and done. No more, no less.
Once a teaser trailer begins to edge past the 90-second mark it is merely a full trailer as it is giving far too much away. A teaser should have just enough to entice the audience before a trailer is released. The full trailer then gives a little bit more information about the film. That is all that is required. For example, while the teaser trailer for Joker was a good one, it showed things that could and should have been spared for the full trailer. When a teaser trailer and then the full trailer months later show a lot of the same footage, then one of them was a waste of time. Teasers that show very little or one snippet of a scene in the film work best and we get most of those from older teasers as we see below.
This trailer works as it makes the viewer intrigued as to what we are being shown, we actively want to know. The only thing that I can complain about with this trailer is that it was evident that made the trailer before they had the Giger egg design finished… What is that egg about?
Such a simple idea, have the name players scroll along with the screen and then give them a wonderful money shot. Sometimes trailers do not need to have all the CGI thrown at it in a rushed fashion. It is a teaser. Tease! Speaking of CGI…
If the CGI isn’t ready, don’t use the clip
We are in a world where CGI is King and we know that studios love to create a buzz about a film almost a year in advance. But, and this is a big but, if the CGI is not finished, then do not try and tease an audience about your film with subpar visuals. The audience should not have to be wondering if that is how the film should look.
Other than Cats… You can see my breakdown of it here The biggest criminal of releasing a trailer before the CGI was ready was The Hobbit Desolation of Smaug. Entire backgrounds are changed as well as the colour of the film. It is very jarring, luckily here is a 9-minute video to watch at your pleasure that breaks down the trailer to the Blu-Ray release.
It is all very strange. So please, if it isn’t ready for the audience to see, delay the trailer. It’s grand, really.
I do not need 4 trailers for this film.
The best example of having just too many trailers was Avengers: Endgame. There are almost over 8 minutes of footage from trailers and TV Spots. That is just too much and yes I know it was an event film and it did magnificently at the Box Office and all of that. It was going to do well though. So why was there a need to show 8 minutes of content? It is just needless in my opinion, and do not get me started on special looks or 5 minutes of… That studios release now too.
Are we over analysing?
Before I finish up, should I beg the question, am I being too critical with all of this? Are studios doing what they are doing as they know in this day and age its audience and critics will analysis every second and frame of their trailer? I think partially we as an audience are to blame. It was easy to show a trailer in the cinema or a TV Spot on the TV to get everyone’s attention, but now we can see all of what we are given and repeat watch it and inspect and deconstruct it.
Although I would argue that the audience is scrutinising films more than ever before via its trailers. The film studios need to take this into account and not let any mistakes like they do carry out get through for their film. Depending on the film, it should be pretty easy to market it to its intended audience and beyond.
Do not use a theme from another film (looks at Adagio D Minor)
Finally, I could talk about the BRAAAAAAAAAHMMMM, but I have more a more pressing piece of music that is all over trailers these past 11 years. I am not using hyperbole when I say this but, 12 different films have used John Murphy’s Adagio in D Minor in their trailer. Yes, you read that right, 12. The X-Men series loved it so much that they used it for two different films.
I love that score and that track, but did other films really not notice that it was getting used so much that it might dilute interest in their own project? It has also been used in films, but today’s post is all about trailers. Be a bit more creative folks. Though it is worth remembering that Jerry Goldsmith wrote a whole score for Alien, but Ridley Scott and editor Terry Rawlings felt that some of Goldsmith’s previous work fitted the scenes better. So it is not an unusual thing to have previous scores recycled, but 12 is a tad much, no matter how good it is…
Effectively trailers have never been more open for scrutiny and they really need to be at a high level before they reach the audience. As we have seen with Cats and Sonic the Hedgehog in 2019, if the trailer performs poorly, the film will struggle. Only Sonic was able to go back and course correct. Cats paid the price and seeing as they had to send out updates of the film as it is out in theatres. It shows the importance of a good impression, hopefully Hollywood listens. Until next time.