By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. Sept. 9, 2014
First things first: I understand that movie trailers and television previews are marketing tools, used to create hype, excitement, and anticipation. They’re a hook to get viewers like yourself to engage with the entertainment, to let it into your home, and allow it to consume anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours of your life. Movie trailers are essential to the industry, but I don’t care for them.
How many times have I been suckered into watching a movie strictly based on the appeal of the movie trailer? I’m looking at you, Cloverfield,and every Superman movie ever. You got me! And how many times have I disregarded a movie based on its uneventful, lacklustre trailer—or one that essentially gave away the whole story.
But how will I know what the story is if I don’t watch the trailer or see the preview? My answer: a movie or television show should unravel as you watch it—you don’t need snippets here and there to propel the plot forward. The plot can do that all by itself. If you are engaged in a show, say, The Walking Dead, I don’t need to know which characters’ lives are jeopardized in the next episode. I can naturally assume that they are all in danger. The same way I would not want someone telling me the ending to a book, I don’t need someone highlighting aspects of the movie for me before I even grab the popcorn.
I get it. Your time is valuable and you want to be in control of your entertainment. Fine. But know this: some of the best movie/television experiences of my life began with absolute unfamiliarity—no hype involved, just brilliant storytelling. Trailers are misleading. They sell celebrities, special effects, and dramatic performances, but they don’t prove the worth of the movie, the same way a commercial does not prove the worth of a product.
For comedies, trailers ruin the jokes. For romance, trailers cram the key relationship into two minutes. For action flicks, trailers showcase spurts of explosions, car chases, and fight scenes that only someone with severe attention deficit disorder would find alluring. For dramas, trailers present a potential Oscar nominee crying out of context over a soft melancholy soundtrack. Gee, I wonder what to expect. Commonly the trailers tell you how to feel before you even buy the ticket. And I believe it’s that no-surprise marketing philosophy that is hindering the movie experience.
The fewer trailers you see, the less likely your perception will be altered when you watch the movie or show. You’ll be surprised to see a familiar actor appear on the screen. You’ll be surprised by the plot twists as the story unfolds before you. You wouldn’t want a magician describing the result of their magic trick before it’s performed, right? So don’t be angry because the theatre experience lacks the movie magic you expected. It might be impossible to avoid trailers altogether, but don’t get too hyped or disenchanted by them.