Trailers: Wondrous little films or just spoilers?
As a movie fan, I should be crazy about trailers.
At its best, a trailer should offer a microcosm of an upcoming film. It should be a glimpse into the film’s appeal and tantalize a viewer with the pleasure this movie will offer. And—at their best—trailers do this. They awaken the need to see a film and discover the answers to its secrets.
Trailers also allow filmmakers to use every weapon in their arsenals—particularly editing—to put the best face on their films. Trailers can be wondrous little films. There are people who say that trailers can make even the worst films come across to unsuspecting viewers as award winners.
So why am I so indifferent to these little mini-films?
Back in the olden days, when I used to see some films in a movie theater, I used to get annoyed by the proliferation of trailers at the start of a film. I used to plan my arrival because of these pesky things. The schedule might say that the movie was going to start at 7 p.m., but that only means that the house lights are going to go down. Then you get five, eight, even 10 coming attractions trailers. I remember that I used to rejoice when I saw the "Please turn off your cellphone" message that always comes up on some poorly designed slide. It meant the movie was drawing nigh.
And another thing about trailers. They have some seriously annoying tendencies. They, for example, often cherry pick the funniest lines from a movie, and since you might see them multiple times, by the time you finally do see the movie, a big payoff gag might have been ruined. Arg!
On other occasions, the trailer tells us too much about the plot. The idea is to tantalize, not to give you enough information that you can discern the film’s plot twists. That seems obvious, but based on the way some trailers operate, it obviously isn’t.
With the proliferation of handheld devices, the trailer has become ubiquitous. I have to confess that the "Trailers" app on my iPad is a frequent stopping point for me. The effect might not be what the marketing geniuses intend, however, as I open up the app and gaze upon movie after movie after movie and think: "Not much of interest there."
A random recent look at three trailers offers an example. The first was "Savages," a new film directed by Oliver Stone. It deals with the drug trade, kidnapping and gut-churning violence. Um, not so interested.
Another choice was "Jeff, Who Lives at Home," which is apparently about the dynamics between two brothers (one a slacker and the other a ninny) and their loving but clearly frustrated mom. My reaction was overwhelming indifference.
The third trailer I picked at random was "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," which looks as though it is one of those charming, well-intentioned films for young people that champions the notion that some of us are square pegs who will never fit in the round hole. It stars Emma Watson, fresh from her stint in the Harry Potter films and looking Audrey Hepburn-esque in this movie. It looks somewhat promising, although it could turn out to be a collection of rom-com cliches.
Do you enjoy movie trailers? Do you seek them out? Or do you avoid them, thinking they might ruin a film for you? Let us know what you think.
Follow Shawn Sensiba on Twitter @shawnsensiba.