What’s going on with movie trailers?

Bob Dylan once said, “The times are changing so grab your butts and hold on.” As consumers, we’re harder and harder to impress by movie trailers. Not because our tastes have become more discerning — they haven’t — but because we’ve become desensitized and somehow lack the attention span to watch something for two and a half minutes and be entertained. What gives, Internet?

Watch the trailer for Hitchcock’s REAR WINDOW, one of American cinema’s most influential films — the source material itself is so heavily copyrighted that any work deemed potentially derivative is subject to scrutiny (even you, Spielberg):

Let’s be real, I’m not exactly on the edge of my seat. But the film is arguably one of the best suspense films ever made and Hitchcock’s best work, and it scared the hell out of people in 1954. This was base-level scary for audiences back in the day, and filmmakers were only just starting to explore and experiment with new techniques to disturb audiences. Just ask Thorwald who can’t be bothered with breaking down the fourth wall:

Now take a look at the trailer for Guillermo del Toro’s CRIMSON PEAK (opening today). GdT is the creature-feature master who brought us Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy, Pacific Rim, and almost The Hobbit.

CRIMSON PEAK : Guillermo del Toro, Universal Pictures


So what does it all mean? We need more, need to feel more, need studios and filmmakers and actors to raise the stakes and put their careers and livelihood on the line with each new project because when you push the envelope so far, you sure as shit better find a way to push it even further or else I will not be entertained.

Our attention spans suck. The internet turned us into the “tl;dr” generation. We need everything summarized into its most basic and digestible form, because we’re busy people (and we want you to know it). If you’ve even made it this far into my post, congratulations and thank you (Mom).

That ain’t lost on trailers, by any means. First there were the MPAA dictated two-minute-thirty-second trailers, then came the minute-and-change teaser, followed by thirty-second TV spots. Now there are Instagram trailers selling audiences on a film in fifteen seconds or less to be viewed on a mobile device — somewhere David Lynch is shitting a brick with his morning espresso.

It’s becoming harder and harder for studios and distributors to command the attention of modern audiences. Our time is valuable and we know it, so you better appeal to my sensibilities, give me what I want, when I want it, on the media I am using, and on my own time. Then maybe I’ll give you my $15. But seriously, DON’T YOU DARE make your Insta-trailer the full fifteen seconds because I do not have time for that. Don’t. Interrupt. My. Scroll.

If done correctly, and done WELL, movie trailers should effectively evoke the full spectrum of emotion in two minutes and thirty seconds. Excitement, happiness, tension, loss, grief, hope, redemption, and again, excitement. That’s why, every once in a while, we’re blessed with a truly GREAT trailer that says forget all of your modern conformity to media and attention constraints and look at what we’ve done. We’ve made a fantastic film and we want YOU to see it, we want to appeal to YOUR basic emotions, excite you, tease you with the promise of getting lost in cinema. And with that, I present you with my trailer discoveries of the week. Enjoy.

HAIL, CAESAR! : Coen Brothers, Universal Pictures
THE REVENANT: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, 20th Century FOX
PARTISAN : Ariel Kleiman, Well Go USA Entertainment
JAMES WHITE : Josh Mond, The Film Arcade

You said it, Joaquin.

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