Who among us doesn’t browse iTunes or IMDB watching the latest movie trailers to kill time? Well it looks like now the coolest kids not only watch the trailers, they want to let all of us know what they think about it. Last week the hot preview for THE GREAT GATSBY had my Twitter timeline flooding with reactions from all sorts of folks. I just sat and watched as they were all so compelled to give their 140-character “two cents” immediately upon viewing.
Yep, after seeing this, I definitely feel like I’ve seen the movie and can make a rationally valid judgement of its quality/merit as a timeless literary adaptation by an acclaimed director. Definitely.
I get it. Making movies takes a long time and the people need something to hold them over until a theatrical release. But have we gone from the “instantly gratified” to the “instantly critical”? I’ve noticed this has been happening for a while: THE MASTER, PROMETHEUS, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, MOONRISE KINGDOM. It’s really true that everybody’s a trailer critic. I’m even seeing now that people are looking forward to seeing specific movies in theaters FOR the previews. For example, the first DJANGO UNCHAINED trailer will play before PROMETHEUS. That “you can only catch it before this movie” kind of exclusive appeal is what cinephiles live for.
It’s seems like everyday I’m bombarded with movie trailers. The crafty industry ad men and women have got Tumblrs for films, prelude to YouTube video trailers, supertrailers and sidebar/pop-up trailers. Even SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN boasts an interactive trailer, while the first red-band trailer in theaters will officially be TED by Family Guy’s Seth MacFarlane before THE DICTATOR. Call me old-fashioned, but there’s no bigger buzzkill that drooling over a really good trailer only to find out it’s not being released until a year from now.
Once again, it appears I’m not alone in my apprehension to cinema fans dissecting movie trailers. In “Review the Movie, Not the Trailer”, critic Matt Singer muses on the recent trend. He specifically focuses on film critics who will write entire articles on films they haven’t even seen yet:
“If I ran a movie website that posted lots of trailers, here’s what I’d do: get someone who writes about advertising to cover movie trailers. Put this trailer in the context of others for similar movies, note the popular trailer tropes deployed, explain what the marketers are selling to their audience. I don’t want the film critic’s perspective on trailers; I want the film critic’s perspective on the films themselves.”
I have to be honest. This “hurry-up-and-judge” attitude as Singer calls it, is becoming one of my pet peeves. They’re just trailers, people. If you have any sense of what the filmmaking process is like, you know anything you comment on at that time will have a 85% chance of changing with the final product. I’m weary of movie fans over analyzing trailers for the music, cuts, which actors get screen time, and whether it doesn’t give away enough or gives away too much. When I do give my opinions about films here on the blog, it’s often because I’ve seen the film. If I’m writing a post and I’ve only watched the trailer, I will make sure to do research about something that strikes me about the filmmaker, the craft of filmmaking or the subject matter, not just the structure of the trailer.
Maybe I’m just an old soul, but I remember watching movie trailers play before films barely even a couple of months before they were released. Now studios need to have something cut as soon as they have footage in the can/hard drive or risk the masses forgetting the movie will be out in a year (or worse thinking “Didn’t that already come out?”). Today I often joke that you can be ten minutes late for showtime and not miss much. If it’s a chain theater, you’ll more than likely sit through theater ads/trivia, commercials and the previews before the actual movie starts. Since you’ve probably already seen the trailers playing before, then watching them again can actually feel like a chore that you just want to fast-forward through.
I agree with Singer that it’s unfair to judge the trailers as if they were fully representing an entire film. I’ve been told by numerous people cutting a trailer can be harder than cutting a 90 minute film. You’ve got to tell a story. A story that people will remember, but you can’t tell them everything either. Gotta lure ’em with enough mystery that they’ll keep the release date in their mind and maybe talk it up to others too. However, this movie industry is over-saturating us on every level . The first trailer (or teaser) leads to a second to a third that leaves you asking “Wait, what is this movie about?” by the time it’s released. Anyone remember SPANGLISH being a lot different from the trailers or was it just me? A funny (or fill in with any adjective) trailer does not absolutely guarantee a funny film and vice versa. Who knows what could happen in the year of post-production before the film hits theaters? To make such high judgments on less than four minutes of footage, hacked together with a catchy song somehow tarnishes the very magic of “coming attractions”.
It’s all business, I get that. The studios have to overload the audiences if they have any chance of convincing us to part with out our dollars. Our attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, so I’ll cut ’em some slack this one time. However, where’s the thrill? Tease me with trailer reviews, posters, “Skip after 5 seconds” YouTube ads, Tumblrs and mini featurettes galore, but at the end of the day, where’s my movie? I just want to see (and read about) the full movie. Please.