There’s nothing more exciting than seeing a great trailer in a movie theatre. The best trailers capture your imagination about the movie to come without tipping their hand too much. These days though, it seems like once you’ve seen the trailer for a big Hollywood blockbuster, you feel like you’ve seen the whole damn movie!
Take last years Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. I’m not even going to touch the question of the quality of the film, I’m just gonna talk about what the trailer showed. Regardless of what you actually think of film, if you were a lifelong DC Comics fan, there are a lot of really cool Easter eggs and moments that are absolutely thrilling to see on the big screen. Imagine if the promotional material hadn’t shown 90% of that incredible Batman warehouse fight towards the end of the film? Or if you didn’t know that you were going to see Cyborg or The Flash or Aquaman? Or Parademons?!!! We all would’ve lost our minds! But because of the trailers and TV spots, we all knew this was coming. It’s so much more fun walking into a movie and being truly surprised but what you see up on the screen. Unfortunately that’s becoming more and more rare.
One of my most anticipated movies this year is Spider-Man: Homecoming. Spider-Man was one of the highlights of last year’s phenomenal Captain America: Civil War. The first trailer was a blast! It had this awesome, John Hughes meets Harry Potter vibe. And who out there doesn’t love seeing Michael Keaton playing The Vulture like an absolute badass? Then a few days ago, they released the second theatrical trailer and I was really excited. Despite the fact that everything in the trailer itself looks really cool, I feel like the trailer gave the entire movie away. Check out the trailer below to see what I mean and then keep reading:
Let me break it down: we have Spider-Man swinging around, doing his thing in the cool suit that Tony Stark gave him in Civil War, he’s trying to get a spot on The Avengers while dealing with all of his high school crap. He makes a big mistake while facing off against The Vulture and his crew. Tony Stark has to come and save his ass and then takes his Spidey suit away because he feels Peter isn’t ready for it (and because Tony Stark is a prick). Then, in his old crappy homemade Spider-Man suit, Peter has a final showdown with The Vulture and shows that he doesn’t need any high-tech suits to save the day, he’s Spider-Man! (And I’m sure by the end of the film Tony Stark will give his Iron-Spider suit back and Peter will be one step closer to being an Avenger) That sounds great and everything but that’s the whole damn movie!!!
Of course, on the other end of the spectrum there are trailers done the right way. “Teasers” that excite and intrigue you about a film without giving the whole thing away. Below, I’ve posted two great examples of this. One recent and one from almost 20 years ago.
This first teaser is for the M. Night Shyamalan movie “Unbreakable” starring Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson. This was M. Night Shyamalan at his best. He was just coming off the success of “The Sixth Sense” and this was his follow-up to that megahit. “Unbreakable” is arguably Shyamalan’s best film and one of the best superhero movies ever made. One of the things that makes this trailer so good is that it gives you an incredibly compelling set up without spoiling the surprise of what the movie is. I’ll let the trailer speak for itself:
Tell me that teaser didn’t absolutely rock! You’re thinking “What the fuck is this movie?! I don’t know, but I bet it’s fucking awesome!”
Next, I have the trailer for Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens. Now there are actually several trailers and teasers I could’ve used for this film, but I wanted to use the “main trailer” which I think was the second or third that they put out. The one thing all of the trailers for The Force Awakens have in common is the fact that they’re all undeniably Star Wars movies, they’re exciting trailers, and they don’t give you any damn clue what the movie is really about. Is Luke Skywalker in this? Who the hell is the guy in the Vader mask? Who is the girl on the desert planet? See for yourself:
Of course when we all saw the movie, we saw that there were all sorts of fun reveals and twists throughout the story. The experience of seeing this landmark film would’ve been diminished had some of the story and character beats been spoiled in a trailer.
Personally, I’d really love to see them go back to the type of trailers like the “Unbreakable” one above. We so rarely get surprised in movie theaters anymore. There’s real magic in going to see a film and getting swept up in the story and the characters. I think it’s a shame that to a large degree, with very few exceptions, we’ve lost that. Don’t get me wrong, I will be there opening night for Spider-Man: Homecoming and I’ll probably love it. However, the next time we get a huge blockbuster movie, I hope the filmmakers realize that a teaser trailer can be a work of art all by itself and restraint can create magic in the theater.
Thanks for reading!
P.S. I should mention as a disclaimer that other writers like Quint over at Ain’t It Cool News and others have written similar articles about teaser trailers and I was definitely inspired by their great work.