Trailers These Days…

So, they’re in the news. Trailers. Too long? Too much given away? Too many before your feature film? Too many before a movie comes out?

I feel like Holly and I have very much so played into this. We love trailers. We now watch for them coming out, keep up on all the newest ones. We’ve shared many of them here, on the blog – in a segment we’ve called Trailer Watch. Have you ever actually looked at a Trailer Watch post? Tell us in the comments below!

I’ve seen a couple of good discussions of trailers lately, so I thought I would give them to you. Agree with a lot of the points made, so rather than rehash them, I’ll share these out.

Where I First Heard of It

I first saw this on this video by Steve Zaragoza on SourceFedNerd (thanks, SourceFedNerd!) His is both the news and a bit of an opinion piece, but he’s right: are we getting spoiled on the movies, is it a huge time sink before a movie, and do we get led in with promises of “Coming Soon?”

I am concerned with getting spoiled in movies. My favorite sort, really, are ones that leave me not knowing. That’s the sort of trailer that got me to go see Now You See Me – which I highly recommend maybe exactly because I didn’t know what was going to happen in the movie.

The Internet has really just changed how trailers work, and I think we’re still figuring that out. Like, trailers for trailers now. Letting people know when a new trailer is coming out, before the trailer does. That’s a thing.

It’s Become The Thing

In a recent blog article, the bloggers at We Minored In Film did an article on the recent trailer controversy. Check it out here. They do a nice job of looking at the issues.

My favorite one is one that involves spoilers. So be warned: minor spoilers for Star Trek: Into Darkness and Iron Man 3.

These films both did a lot of trailers. They did. And I kind of talked about it as well in my blog post about each, but they summed it up nicely on We Minored In Film. Both of these movies set us up in the trailers to be expecting one villain, played by amazing actors. Then, they did a bait-and-switch and gave us a different villain – one we weren’t expecting and knew nothing about. This happened with the Mandarin reveal in Iron Man 3, and with the team-up with Khan against Star Fleet in Star Trek: Into Darkness.

When we are in a world where we know we have so many trailers that you can use them to run a fear campaign playing up the character of the Mandarin, for instance, then… is it an art form that can be used to enhance the experience, or is it a problem that needs to be solved?

7 responses to “Trailers These Days…

  1. I really enjoy movie trailers. I always want to know what is coming soon and if it is a movie to be excited about. Still, trailers are meant to tease you about the plot. It shouldn’t give away too much or mislead you about what kind of movie you are watching. Movies are expensive and you want to make sure you are getting your money’s worth. Going into a movie thinking you’ll be seeing this and instead get something else is a rip off.


    • Well said. Unfortunately, I also think that trailers are becoming exactly what you describe here – giving too much away, or misleading us.

      Maybe what the Theater Owners are doing will help with this?


  2. “When we are in a world where we know we have so many trailers that you can use them to run a fear campaign playing up the character of the Mandarin, for instance, then… is it an art form that can be used to enhance the experience, or is it a problem that needs to be solved?”

    Perfectly put. The answer, of course, is that it is both. Because we have all become accustomed to the modern form of the trailer the people at Marvel/Disney and Paramount can play around with that in really interesting ways which actually enhance the viewing experience. Plus, something like Prometheus (and going back quite a bit, Cloverfield) can actively show us either a lot without actually telling us anything about the plot or show us basically nothing, and this makes them stand out. So, in effect, you have trailers which are reacting to the modern expectations of trailers. That type of relationship will likely continue for the foreseeable future.

    However, those are sort of the outliers. It is ultimately an annoyance that could be better managed. For example, the video game site rates their video reviews of games as an S for spoiler when they are going to give plot details (though not resolutions away). That might be an interesting thing to try out with trailers, although it would really be more of a heads-up than anything else in a theater as unlike with a website we wouldn’t have the option to simply not watch the trailer. Plus, there would be issues of how to even quantify what warrants an “S” and what d…okay, that idea fell apart fast.

    I think the notion of shortening the trailers is an interesting one which could force the film studios to get way more creative. However, from what I’ve read there has been some serious pushback on this from the industry, and NATO has had to go back to the drawing board to re-think their proposals.


    • I think it would actually be a lot of fun to make trailers. To have the content at your fingers, and try to build a story in a few short moments that can tell the movie, without telling the movie. It’s a challenge, and I like the ones that are well done.

      Some of the heavily music based ones, like the first trailer for Epic with Snow Patrol playing, or the first trailer for The Great Gatsby with Jack White’s Love is Blindness, can be really amazing. Or, going further back, ones like Watchmen with the Smashing Pumpkins or Kung Fu Hustle with Ballroom Blitz. These allow them to show us without telling us what is going to happen, and to keep spoilers to a minimum and excitement to a maximum.

      Instead, most trailer makers do seem to have all gone to the same school. Probably the same one that teaches that the one rule of advertising is that Sex Sells, where they learn trailers rules like Always End With A Joke. (Really, watch a number of trailers in a row. They always end with a joke. It stands out on the rare exception when they don’t!)


      • Yeah, I know – always end on a joke and if it’s an action movie usually follow-up said joke with one last bit of action (ala the 3 minute Man of Steel trailer).

        I remember writer Joe Reed once mentioned on a podcast that his dream job was to create film trailers (because he and the other members on the podcast had just seen a movie where that was one of the character’s jobs). I heard that and realized I never even thought of that as a job possibility. However, it did make me think how cool it would be to make film trailers for a living (it’s probably really cool to just make fanmade trailers for YouTube, but to get paid to do it -that’s the dream).


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  4. Pingback: Interesting Recent Trailers | Comparative Geeks

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