WARNING: This article contains very mild spoilers for I Am Love and The Ghost, on general release at the time of writing. You may wish to turn back if you intend to see these films but haven’t yet done so.
Before the advent of reasonable broadband speeds, there was always a time that I had to be in the cinema for. That point normally came about 10 minutes after the advertised start time of the film, at the point when the adverts finished and the trailers began. It’s amazing how a couple of good trailers can sometimes offset the disappointment of a less than stellar film, and can build that sense of anticipation to the point where the trailer is more enjoyable than the film itself.
Sometimes these little marvels can be almost films in themselves. And then one day, I realised I’d seen a trailer which pretty much was the film itself. It was for Brian De Palma’s Mission: Impossible.
For an action movie, you do need to get some of the key action beats into the trailer, otherwise people won’t be enticed in. But to put beats from every major (and even minor) action movie into the trailer leaves little to the imagination and then leaves the movie feeling somewhat unsatisfactory, perhaps unfairly.
Trailers had seemed to get better over the years, but then last weekend I was at my local art cinema, where I was in the slightly strange position of seeing two trailers for films I’d just seen and one for one that I was about to see. The first was for Dogtooth.
There are two shots in this trailer (I won’t say which) that are taken from the last ten minutes of the movie. But in the larger context, that’s fine. The trailer itself gives a good sense of the overall tone of the movie and the shots shown don’t actually spoil the plot. In fact, this is pretty much what a trailer should be.
The next trailer was for I Am Love (Io Sono L’Amore). Having seen the film before the trailer, I was glad it was that way round.
Because this trailer has two or three longer shots taken from the end of the movie, and in particular actually contains two short shots which feature in the dramatic denouement. The problem comes if these shots are in any way memorable; in this case they are, so what potentially happens is that when watching the movie, you are robbed of dramatic tension the closer the movie gets to the end if you’ve not yet seen these shots, as you know they must (almost) certainly appear.
But the worst offender is The Ghost (or The Ghost Writer, depending on your location). Admittedly it didn’t help that I saw the trailer only three hours before the actual movie, but this commits a number of crimes.
Not only are whole reams of crucial plot exposition contained in this trailer, but large amounts of crucial moments from the third act, a key moment from the penultimate scene and part of the last scene of the movie are all in this trailer. As if to see how much worse matters could be made, the trailer commits one further sin, by making the movie seem a lot more of a thriller (and also a lot more interesting) than it actually is. Maybe an impressive feat on behalf of whoever cut the trailer, but not helpful when it comes to watching the movie.
I would love to think these are isolated incidents, but from reading a recent early review of Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood movie on AICN, it seems that this is more of a pattern than it should be as that is doing something similar. I will now try to avoid watching that trailer again before seeing the movie, but you become a captive audience when inside the cinema.
Seeing a dodgy pirate copy of a film is bad enough, but seeing a two minute cut down version on the big screen which pretty much removes the need to watch the movie feels worse in some ways. So all I’m asking for is that those people who are putting trailers together try not to give too much away in the trailer itself, and ideally sell a product which actually matches in terms of content what is in the cut-down version. Not too much to ask, surely?