Trailer Culture Analyzed

On April 14th, we got our first full trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi and it gave me exactly what I wanted: nothing. Say what you will about Disney’s handling of the series thus far, they have not spoiled much in terms of plot in their trailers. In The Last Jedi trailer, we are guided through a tour of familiar images, but not plot points of how the film will play out. We see callbacks, like X-Wing and TIE fighter dogfights, The Millennium Falcon, and AT-ATs, but we do not get no blatant foreshadowings to any character’s fate or any possible twists.

This is a welcome change in a time when half the trailers I see give away the main plot thread or misrepresent the film, ruining any surprise or expectations for the actual film.

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Where The Last Jedi goes right is in its secrecy and restraint. Movies like: Terminator: Salvation, Terminator: Genisys (great spelling, guys), and Castaway, continued the Hollywood trend of giving too much of the plot away on the trailer. A large number of films today are spoiled by details shown in the trailer and it is ruining the moviegoing experience.

As YouTube film critic Chris Stuckman put it:

“Every once in a while you actually get a really good trailer that actually pumps you up for the film without revealing an absurd amount of plot details that you don’t need to know. These are the things that you go to a movie to be excited about, things that are supposed to surprise you, things that when you are sitting in the theater you can sit there and go, ‘Wow, I didn’t expect that!’

If films continue to give away the main plot before they come out, then they are hurting their returns. People are smarter than trailer producers give them credit for. Every trailer today gets scrutinized and studied for clues the moment they are released. This is especially true for new films in an existing franchise.

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But, she’s definitely not a Terminator, right?

The two Terminator films on this list each give away the biggest twists of their respective plots. In puzzlingly stupid moves, “Salvation” reveals that the main character is a stealth Terminator and “Genisys” reveals that John Connor, the supposed hero of the series’ human resistance, is a Terminator in disguise, as well. Other than both movies using the same plot twist, which is already pretty dumb, they also found a way to get less people interested because you’ve ruined any sense of discovery or suspense.

The returns for “Genisys” were not pretty in the U.S. box office, only covering about $90 million of its reported $155 million production budget.

Cast Away” is an example of a great film ruined by a plot-revealing trailer. The Tom Hanks film literally shows him on a plane heading home, as one of his fellow employees at FedEx explains that they held a funeral for him while he was gone. For anyone going in to that movie, the suspense and tension about whether Hanks’ character will get home is gone.

It’s clear that producers and trailer houses have a huge problem with towing the line between getting viewers’ attention with the film’s plots and showing the main reveal of the film. While this is not exclusively a recent trend, it has gotten worse throughout the past decade. Trailers like Star Wars: The Last Jedi are the exception to the rule and there are very few production companies that know how to get people into theater seats without showing the crux of the film. Unfortunately, I think this trend will remain a problem until more trailers learn that we don’t want to pay to see something that’s already been spoiled for us.

 

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