Hello Interwebs! Have you ever watched a movie trailer that spoiled the whole story? I know I have– many many times, in fact. And I’m sick of it. But I think the problem runs deeper than a few bad trailers. Read on to discover why movie marketing is detrimental to your film-watching experience…
Trailers are a great way to showcase movies. They’re short, easily-digestible snippets of a story, tailor-made to make you interested for more. Trailer editing is truly an art form in its own right. It takes more skill than you’d think to turn two (or more) hours of footage into a cohesive package– one which also makes the greater product appear interesting. Some trailers do their job so well that they can make movies look better than they really are!
That said– movie trailers have outgrown their humble beginnings in a bad way. Where they used to be a clever marketing tool to entice audiences into theatres, they’re becoming glorified synopses of films. Seriously: I’ve seen countless trailers which tell their movie’s story from beginning to end. Halfway through such videos, I often think “You’ve sold me already! Stop showing me stuff!” And, by the end, whatever surprises the movie might have held in store are thoroughly spoiled.
Joke’s on the studios. Most times I see spoiler-heavy marketing for movies, I decide to not see said movies. I doubt I’m alone in that sentiment either. Funny how countless trailers accomplish the opposite of their job… I’m supposed to be left wanting more, not less (or even none).
Sadly, most popular films receive spoiler-filled marketing at some point. On average, big-budget movies put out 3-4 full trailers + TV spots during their advertisement campaigns. The first trailers are meant to tease people, and the later ones get progressively heavier on spoilers to entice audiences further. Films which release spoiler-heavy trailers early in their marketing process are the absolute worst offenders, but the majority of movies still ruin themselves with advertisements at some point before release. Here’s me putting a line in the sand: there are too many trailers for movies in 2021 and those trailers show too much of the plot!
Here’s an example of particularly bad marketing. This is easily one of the worst trailers I’ve ever seen.
***Spoilers ahead for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice***
Maybe it’s hard to tell from the trailer alone, but these few minutes spoil or choreograph every major plot in the movie. The last minute in particular is ridiculously awful in that regard. Introduce Doomsday (the troll-like creature at the end)? Any Superman fan will tell you that Kal-El probably dies at the end of the movie, because that’s Doomsday’s most famous story… Show Wonder Woman? That moment would have been far more impactful had audiences not known she was in the film. Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman standing side by side? Well, it’s safe to assume the titled conflict will resolve itself before a final fight. Etc.
Why This is Happens/ What can Be Done About it
At this point I’d like to clarify: the abundance of spoiler-filled trailers/ video marketing is not the fault of Directors and other people who make films. Studios rarely give production teams a say in marketing. They take whatever film footage is currently available and ship it out to separate entities (specializing in trailer-work) who create something marketable. Basically, the reason trailers have so many spoilers is because they’re made by people who have no stake in the success or failure of the movies they’re advertising.
Why am I reasonably confident that directors and film editors aren’t to blame? Well, as I mentioned above: many people (myself included) care less about seeing a movie once the plot has been thoroughly given away. Creative personalities have little incentive to spoil their own work before it’s released. That’d be self-sabotage. And speaking as a creative person myself, I can back up that point. Many of my films take months or years to finish and– for the sake of all my work– the last thing I’d want is to reveal the whole plot in a two minute advertisement…
Frankly, I don’t think there’s an easy fix for this “spoiler” problem. The current advertising process for movies is thoroughly ingrained within big-budget film-making systems. Therefore, there’s going to be awfully-made film trailers as long as trailers exist. And I predict the problem is only going to get worse before it gets better.
The only fix I can think of rests with us consumers: don’t watch movie trailers. I know that seems weird to suggest. We’re film fans, aren’t we? We want to discover new films, right? And we’d like a sample so we know if we’re interested, yes? All correct. But I suggest that, the more interested you become in a project, the less advertisements you should consume. Teasers are great to check out. Trailers can be even better. But when marketing starts getting to the second, third, or even fourth trailers, it’s time to voluntarily bow out. Otherwise, you’ll most certainly see something you’d wish had been saved for the theatre (or home video, or wherever you watch movies for the first time).
But even that probably wouldn’t be enough for you to avoid spoilers. Let’s assume you’ve got fantastic willpower. Great! But it’s not always a matter of self-control. Trailers are everywhere: from Youtube ads to movie theatres. And it may be inconvenient to abstain from them entirely. For example: It’s not advisable to walk out of a theatre during trailers because you might miss something cool that you weren’t aware of or, even worse, an ad for something you wanted to see. But you can’t always choose which trailers you’re shown. It might be the solid “teaser” kind or the dreaded “plot synopsis” kind. Who knows? People shouldn’t have to be cautious about such things, but this is our entertainment reality.
A word to studios: making consumers suspicious and paranoid about the media they buy from you is not a good way to entice viewership.
An Ideal Example
To end on a more positive note, I’d like to analyze one of my all-time favourite film trailers: The Force Awakens Teaser #2. ‘Cause this one gets everything right.
The trailer opens on classic music and imagery: a desert planet, a star destroyer, and an X-Wing. Immediately we have questions: why and how did these ships end up as ruins on this unknown world? And who’s casually driving a speeder past these iconic vessels? Luke Skywalker’s slightly altered narration, taken from one of the old movies, guides us through enticing footage: we see the burnt helmet of Darth Vader (who retrieved that?), Luke Skywalker (featuring his mechanical hand) with a beaten-up R2-D2, and the original lightsaber being passed on. The message is clear: the classic era of past movies is withering away and a new generation of heroes and villains must take over from the old.
The trailer quickly introduces all our main characters through imagery alone: hotshot pilot Poe Dameron, dark side user Kylo Ren, stormtrooper Finn, intense (but vaguely introduced) Rey, badass-looking Captain Phasma, adorable BB-8, and the good ‘ol Millenium Falcon. But THEN we get Han Solo with Chewbacca giving the audience a reassuring and crowd-pleasing closer (which is VERY different from the Wonder Woman situation, by the way, because Han Solo was a fully expected character for this film).
So why does this teaser work so well? Mainly: it’s vague but exciting. Through imagery alone, we learn almost everything we need to know. We see all our main characters and get a rough impression what their roles in the story will be; we get an idea of the stakes when we see an army of Stormtroopers and the guy with the red lightsaber (cause those are what badguys look like in Star Wars); and we see there’ll be some epic action sequences. We are also reassured that characters we know and love from the old movies will have integral roles to play (and, in fact, making the first big-screen appearances in 30 years). IMPORTANTLY: almost all of the footage used in this trailer comes from the first half hour of the movie. There’s little to nothing in here which could ruin any future plot developments or moments.
Marketing is a fantastic thing! I don’t know how many great movies I’d have missed had I never seen advertisements for them. But movie trailers are ruining movies more and more, and that’s incredibly frustrating. I hope studios stop putting out this spoiler-filled garbage and simply let people enjoy movies. I’m tired of being weary every time I click on a trailer; I’m tired of missing out on good films because all the plots were given away in advance; and I’m tired of complaining about movie trailers… So here’s a good place to end this Warm Take. Best of luck to all you film fans. I truly hope you never have a movie ruined for you (from marketing or otherwise).
Have you ever had a movie spoiled because of the trailer? Please share your experiences in the comments. If you have any ideas for future articles, or any questions, let me know. Also be sure to Like this article on Facebook and share if you enjoyed!
Till next time,