Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Heath Holland On...The Trouble with Trailers
The following is an actual conversation that occurred between me and my wife recently. The song “Dirty Paws” by the Icelandic folk-pop band Of Monsters and Men had just come on the radio in the car. Join us now as we go back to that fateful conversation…
HOLLYWOOD HEATH HOLLAND: I used to like this song, but now every time I hear it all I can think of is Ben Stiller running around doing crazy stuff.
MRS. HOLLYWOOD: Huh?
HHH: You know, it was in the trailer for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. I saw that trailer over and over last year and now I think it’s ruined this song for me.
MRS. H: Oh. That’s why I hate trailers.
HHH (stunned): You hate trailers?
MRS. H: Yes. I just try to ignore them when we go to the movies. I don’t pay attention to them and think of other things.
HHH (upset): WHY?
MRS. H: Because they show WAY too much and they usually don’t represent the final movie. They’re usually awful.
MRS. H: I don’t mind TV commercials for movies because they’re short and they usually show me just enough to let me know if I’m interested or not. If movie trailers in the theater were a minute or less, and only showed enough to let me know something was coming out soon, then I would feel differently about them. But as it is now, they last FOREVER and they show things I don’t want to see. They try to be little movies on their own, but I just want them to show me what’s coming soon. I hate them.
HHH: *remains silent, deep in thought. Tears and diarrhea follow*
Dear reader, I ask you: have movie trailers ever been more hit or miss than they are right now? For example, I’m burned out on Amazing Spider-Man 2 because of the marketing decision to show as much of the movies as possible. For someone like me, that strategy is a failure because I feel like I’ve already seen the movie. Like, A LOT. It seems like every movie I’ve seen since last year’s holiday season has featured a trailer for Amazing Spider-Man 2 and every commercial break on television features a spot for the movie. Am I less intrigued because I know a lot about Spider-Man as a character and I recognize a lot of things that they’re throwing at me? Therefore I’m like “well, here we go with THIS thing?” That’s very possible.
Meanwhile, advertisements for a movie that I wasn’t excited about at all, Godzilla, have slowly worked me up into a froth and now I get excited and hyper every time I see marketing for that film. Each time I’ve seen a commercial featuring that movie, I’ve run into the kitchen and starting smashing dinner plates onto the floor from excitement (we need more plates). I’ve seen the trailer a bunch of times now, but it’s done nothing to diminish my excitement. Quite the opposite has happened, actually -- hence all the broken glass.
1998 Matthew Broderick film when it hit theaters back in the day, but I’m not even sure if that counts as Godzilla. Puff Daddy’s song made more of an impression on me than the monster did. My point is, not a Godzilla fan.
I think they key is in how the movies are being marketed within those trailers. Amazing Spider-Man 2 has taken a “kitchen sink” approach, showing both the major and minor villains, revealing much of the plot, revealing the spectacle, detailing Peter Parker’s skin care routine, etc. Godzilla, on the other hand, has showed the establishing details of the movie but very little of the actual story. I don’t really know what it’s about, other than…Godzilla. Even more wisely, in my opinion, is that the initial marketing showed almost nothing of Godzilla himself; especially now, just a few weeks from release, the trailers and TV spots are still only offering brief glimpses of the creature.
But Mrs. H’s comments make a lot of sense to me. I get trailer fatigue. Hey, maybe we can add Trailer Fatigue to the F This Movie! Glossary:
Trailer Fatigue: the sinking feeling that occurs when you sit down in the theater seat and realize you’re about to see THAT trailer AGAIN.
I don’t feel like things have always been this way. Trailers used to be my favorite part of going to the movies, often even more than the movie itself. Trailer length wasn’t THAT much shorter in the past, but I do think trailer content was significantly less spoiler-rific. I mean, I know the original Carrie trailer showed just as much as the new Carrie trailer, but there seems to be a trend in recent years to make trailers as much like little movies as possible.
There’s a three-act arc to most trailers. It’s so obvious and blatant that it’s been parodied countless times by our hip, self-aware culture. The first act establishes a status quo. The second act introduces the conflict and builds to a climax. The third act is almost always a montage of quickly cut scenes set to dramatic or emotional music. Then…TITLE. By this point we’ve usually seen the overall trajectory that the story takes and been on an abridged and cheapened version of the cinematic experience. It’s like we’ve just seen the whole movie, only a CliffsNotes of the CliffsNotes version. Or, even worse, they show absolutely none of what the movie is actually about in favor of stupid humor that isn’t representative of the movie. I’m looking at you, Frozen.
Man of Steel. A group called the National Association of Theater Owners (abbreviated as NATO…but a different one? Maybe? Hopefully?) is pushing hard to have trailer lengths reduced and to place more guidelines on studios. This could ultimately mean fewer, shorter trailers at the multiplex and could prevent trailers from advertising a film until the product is four months from release, potentially meaning no more of those “coming next summer” previews that run a year in advance.
Look, I still like movie trailers. They still have the potential to get me very excited about a movie I didn’t think I was interested in. But I do have a much lower threshold for trailers than I did a few years ago, and I get particularly tired of the trend of making trailers into mini-movies. If I could have things my way (Darth Vader’s famous last words) here’s what I’d do:
1) I’d limit trailers to two minutes. If you can’t get me excited about a movie in under two minutes, you’ve got a big problem and I probably don’t want to see your movie anyway. And you’re a stupid head.
3) Reduce the number of trailers shown before movies from seven/eight to the less-fatiguing four/five. Look, I have ADD. By the time a sixth trailer starts to roll, I’m thinking about flying kites and how cool it would be to have a pet monkey.
But I’m really interested in how you feel about trailers these days. Are you perfectly happy with a half hour of trailers before a movie? Do you like the way modern trailers are marketing movies? Do you think things are getting out of hand and need to be wrangled back into a tight 15 minutes before the film starts? Let me know in the comments below and we’ll DO THIS.
But first, the following preview has been approved for ALL AUDIENCES…