WHAT I WANT TO SEE (From Movie Trailers)

When I’m in a theater, I take note of the comments that can be overheard when one ends and another begins. Things like “that looks good” or “we should see that” means that preview hit it out of the park. It showed up with one job, to get people informed and excited about spending their hard earned money on it.

All too often these days no one cares. The trailers were already seen online and they’re giving so much away, the audience feels less inclined to see it.

When I first saw the trailer for Warcraft it gave me what I expected to see by the numbers. Just having a little bit of knowledge from what the video games did, I could imagine the approach the trailer would take and it didn’t disappoint.

Featuring a ton of CG landscapes, generic action beats and cliche one liners, Warcraft received nothing but groans from the theater I was in. The first half of the trailer promoted this Lord of the Rings-type epic war, but by the middle showed an alliance between the two warring factions. It’s safe to assume this would be the case during the film but when you give this away in the movie it turns the audience away.

When a huge reveal is given during a trailer, too often an audience will believe it’s the only surprise in the film and be more likely to skip it. If the Empire Strikes Back trailer revealed Darth Vader was Luke’s dad, sure there would still be reason to see it, but that is the huge twist in the film. It relays a lack of confidence in the film to provide an experience on its own. This is noted by viewers and isn’t the selling point that the studios believe it is.

People are more hip to trailer structure and can now piece together whether the trailer is showing all of the good moments or they’ll simply skip a film because it gives too much away. In the 70’s some horror trailers would show almost every kill in the film. People that loved it, would see it anyway, but if you’re not a huge fantasy action movie fan, Warcraft giving you the entire plot isn’t going to persuade you to see it.

Potential is what gets asses in the seats. The intro to the trailer for The Social Network shows a bunch of images from Facebook, like “Add friend,” “What’s on your mind,” and a relationship status changing. We know what all of these mean, and each of those examples all have a million outcomes. The beginning of a friendship, a thought that could be anything, a new relationship or the end of one. A million stories to be told, and people are cool with paying $12 to see one of them. The other approach that is often taken now is to show the “What’s on your mind” image and then see the words “Just ate a bagel.” appear and then hit post.

The most effective trailers ask questions. How is James Bond going to get out of this one? What would you do if you were bit by a radioactive spider? That new stranger who just moved into town can’t REALLY be the devil, can he?

The trailers that appeal to our curiosity will always be more effective than the ones that don’t. This still holds true to the dramas, the oscar bait and the foreign films. New trailers like the one for The Wailing is similar to some of the best David Fincher trailers in terms of tone and what it reveals. But for the blockbusters, the promotion is as mindless as people slam the movies for being.

The Transformers doesn’t have to be a two and a half minute recap. But trailers can only cut from the films they’re given. This is when we see the difference. Nolan’s “What would you do if you were Batman” vs. Snyder’s “Here’s Batman punching people.”

This was originally posted at TrailerMade.TV.

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