Heresy of the Week – A good trailer is every bit an art as a good film

guardians of the galaxy trailer

Heresy of the Week is a (mostly) weekly spot in which I entertain some of the unthinkable notions of geek-culture. The arguments I put forward are not always things I personally agree with, but often rhetorical devices designed to force myself (and maybe readers) out of the boxes which fan discussions can get caught in. But that aside, feel free to get yourselves worked up and your knickers in a twist if you really want to.

This week’s heresy:

“Forgotten as soon as the film starts to play, the trailer is forgotten. But given that they are what draws an audience into the cinema, and are pored over by fans eagerly anticipating the finished product. There are bad, there are ones which do the job, and that rare gem: the good trailer.”

Do you watch the trailers when you go to see a film? I do. I quite like them, in fact. The anticipation of treats still to come, trying to decide which to see and which to give a miss. Encountering something new, which I hadn’t heard of.

It’s like when I was a kid, watching toy adverts on TV in the run up to Christmas.

There are, though, good and bad trailers. The bad ones are easy to spot; these days they tend to actually spoil the damn film they’re trying to make me go and see. The Terminator Salvation trailer is the one which immediately springs to mind. The trailer manages to give away the twist of the damn film. After that, you can basically infer everything else in it, with the exception of Helena Bonham Carter’s cameo, which doesn’t make sense even after watching it.

The other “bad trailer” type is the one where all of the best bits are in the trailers, which are ten-a-penny, particularly with comedies. The Hangover films, for example. Which, incidentally, even in the trailers aren’t funny.

In between the two, are the functional trailers. The majority of them. These are the ones which give a flavour of the film, show enough to introduce the premise with a slight hook to get you interested. They do what they say on the tin.

But the good ones, they are rare. Trailers which don’t just make the film look good, but make the damn trailer look good. The first one which occurs is Guardians of the Galaxy. Most people’s reactions to the news that Marvel was converting one of its lesser known franchises into a film was along the lines of “What on earth is that? It’ll never work.” Then they saw the trailer, and it changed to “I want to see that.” And they were humming “Hooked on a Feeling” for days to come.

See, the GotG trailer had that same sense of unremitting fun which made the film such a success. And it hyped up not general excitement and feeling for the film, by telling enough, and just enough, to make it seem like it might be worth a go. And the soundtrack. My God, the soundtrack.

The other one which springs to mind is Inception. Which is something of an odd one, because although I loved Inception, I hadn’t the faintest clue what it was about when I went into the cinema to see it. In stark contrast to the Terminator Salvation model, I knew precisely zip about the plot, the characters or anything. There were loud noises, vague philosophical statements, and folding cities. And yeah, I was sold. Thus proving my favourite adage, that nine out of ten times, less is more.

And I wish more trailers took risks like that. Trailers are videos, and they can be works of art ancillary to the main feature. American Horror Story, though a TV show, does this wonderfully. Starting with the second season, it has released a spate of micro-trailers, usually 15 to 30 seconds long, designed to tease the feel of the upcoming series. They are bloody fantastic. And often terrifying.

Trailers like this, trailers as art or short films, are far more effective since they actually let me get excited about something which is a part of the main feature, not just a synopsis of it.


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