Trailers are an integral part of the film industry, nothing gets people into seats at a movie theatre better than giving the audience a glimpse into what the film is going to involve. Whether its hilarious comedy or mind-blowing action sequences, the trailer is integral to how the film will perform at the box office.
Every announcement of a film leads to the inevitable waiting with baited breath for the trailer to drop, whether its JJ Abram’s heavily anticipated Star Wars Episode VII, or another Christopher Nolan film, the countdown to the trailer is almost as important as the film’s actual release. Movie studios want to make sure the anticipation level is sky high for when a film eventually is released, so the art of the film trailer is as important as the film itself. So why do so many trailers have to ruin the film’s plot in order to maximise ticket sales?
It is now common place for any major release to have a two step marketing tactic before release; a teaser and a full trailer, all to serve one purpose; sell tickets. So if a trailer can succeed in doing so without compromising the film’s plot, then why doesn’t it happen? Why is it acceptable that trailers can completely spoil any sense of surprise in the film itself?
There are however, exceptions to the rule that all trailers spoil the film’s story, with one marketing campaign which was planned and executed perfectly; gaining interest but chose not to give any detail away whatsoever; The Master. Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2012 film featuring the late Phillip Seymour and Joaquin Phoenix follows a naval veteran returning from war jaded and without direction until he meets an enigmatic leader of a new movement. The teaser or full trailer did not reveal anything about the plot, merely an intriguing glimpse into the film.
There is a fine line between building anticipation and excitement but not giving away vital plot points or entire scenes. The Dark Knight Rises is a perfect example of how to spoil an entire scene. The American football scene where Bane blows the field up is an incredibly well shot and executed scene in the film, but the spectacle was completely ruined and watered down by including the entire set piece in the trailer. Doing this took away all sense of shock and awe in the film when everyone who had seen the trailer knew exaclty what was coming and the impact was significantly reduced. Another Nolan example is Inception, when the teaser trailer came out, everything was left to interpretation, including the incredible and distorting visual style. But once the full trailer was released, everything was explained, unnecessarily.
We take a look at what films did the worst job at promoting a film and instead, just completely spoil the movie, almost making going to see it at the cinema pointless.
The Adam Sandler ‘comedy’ sees a veteran comedian find out he has a terminal illness, which forces him to re-evaluate his outlook on life and in turn changes his attitudes to others. Now, most comedies fall victim to the trailer that reveals too much; the best jokes are one such casualty. but the trailer almost plays out a perfect summary of every event that takes place in the film, leaving very little unsaid.
Michael Bay’s 2005 thriller starring Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson didn’t do too well at the box office, partly because the film wasn’t that good, but what probably didn’t help was the fact that the trailer contained several major plot points and twists which left the audience with no suspense throughout the film.
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
As a follow up to the multi Oscar winning Fellowship of the Ring, Peter Jackson’s second adaptation had big shoes to fill. So rather rely on the fact that if anyone liked the first film, then chances are they will see the second, the studio opted to spoil a huge surprise that unless you’ve read the books, did not see coming. Now that the film is going on 13 years, there won’t be many movie-goers left to spoil, Gandalf returns in the second film, after surviving the drop into the abyss after fighting the Balrog.
Christian Bale might be remembered more fondly for his on-set rant at the light technician than he was for his role in this continuation of the Terminator franchise. But the studio simply couldn’t wait for the film to reveal the big surprise; that the main character himself is actually a robot. A plot point like that really should be kept under wraps until the film itself.
Tom Hanks plays a lone survivor after a plane crash leaves him deserted on an island, completely cut off from civilisation. The trailer set the film up perfectly, and then maybe a little bit too much information, and before the two minutes is up, you have also seen the ending, in that he survives and is rescued. At some stage in the build up to the film’s release, someone at the studio thought it would be a good idea to completely spoil the film, making no effort to leave any part of the film a mystery.
Special Mention: Leap Year
The 2010 run of the mill rom-com, Leap Year, goes well beyond the call of duty when it comes to the trailer. Not only does it nicely set up the premise for the film, but actually proceeds to map out every single point in the film, almost every scene too. What actually is left for the viewer, is simply 12 minutes at the end, and being a rom-com, there probably won’t be any surprise whatsoever anyway.