Once upon a time I enjoyed watching the trailers before a film. They were tiny teasers of a film. Not too much was given away, but it piqued your interest just enough to make you excited for the film’s release. Watch a trailer from the early 80s to see what I mean. Trailers have become spoilertastic, often giving away much of the plot before one even sets foot in the theater to see the film.
Needless to say, I was surprised and a bit saddened when I read about a recent UC San Diego study by the psychology department which concluded that people enjoyed stories with a twist ending more when they knew the outcomes. Do we not want to be surprised at what we watch or read? The largely negative audience feedback on The Cabin in the Woods aligns with this conclusion. Many people (not me) felt tricked or misled by the trailer and marketing of the film. I say, watch the trailer again and tell me you thought it was a straightforward slasher flick. If so, you must have been seeing what you wanted to see. I did have a large issue with a scene in the trailer that proves to be quite spoilery, but other than that I enjoyed the film. Perhaps more on that in another post at a later date.
Sometimes, trailers don’t spoil by giving away too much, but rather by giving away too little. I know, I said earlier that trailers should pique interest, but stay with me here. I like to call these trailers, “Whizz-Bang” trailers. Most of them are for action, scifi, or horror films. They usually consist of quick cuts and literal sensory overload of CGI. Think of the trailer for Transformers: Dark of the Moon – yeah that kind of trailer. The ones that have all kinds of cool CGI visuals without context, assuming that audiences will want to see it based on that alone. And maybe for some people that works. But for me, it usually means I quickly dismiss the film from my future viewing options (unless others really want to see it . . ahem Transformers: Dark of the Moon).
Considering this, I would like to offer John Carter as a film I nearly missed seeing based on the terrible trailer. Knowing what I know now, maybe if the trailers had centered more around the adventure aspects of the story, it would have gotten through to more people. Instead, it seemed to alienate most potential viewers. It wasn’t kiddie enough to be a family film, and not adult enough for the rest of us to care (even with the Andrew Stanton pedigree). Admittedly, my expectations were quite low. The film was deemed a flop within hours of its release and was widely panned by critics, but it was really the trailer that had almost sealed the deal. Oh and pretty much anything 3D is a turnoff for me. Higher ticket prices, often post converted prints, and a general sense of vertigo. No thanks. Gratefully my local theater almost always has 2D screenings.
So in spite of all of this, on the recommendation of friends, I went to see John Carter in 2D. I really could not believe how much I enjoyed it. It hearkened back to the old fashioned adventures I enjoyed as a child and still enjoy to this day. Sure it was pulpy, but that was part of the charm especially if you know anything about Edgar Rice Burroughs‘ work. I remarked to my husband during the credits, “It’s sad that we likely won’t see another John Carter Barsoom film for awhile, yet we are guaranteed 2 more in the Hunger Games series.” I don’t mean that as a total swipe at Hunger Games. I read the books and thought the story was OK and the movie was about the same. More than anything, I felt like I had almost been hoodwinked into avoiding this fun film by the horrible marketing and bad word of mouth.
I fear what the summer holds – The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, & Prometheus are coming out soon and although I won’t be covering my ears and closing my eyes (as a friend did for all the Inception trailers), I will hopefully see them relatively unspoilt. (Hmm after seeing the Prometheus trailer again over the weekend, I’m not so sure.) Will they live up to the hype of the trailers? Will they be spoiled by overzealous marketing campaigns? I guess we’ll know in a few weeks.