My Problem With Trailers or: Why I Stopped Watching Them and Why You Should Too
(Captain America: Civil War, 2016 & Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, 2017)
Just after Captain America: Civil War came out, I made a decision to stop watching trailers for films. I began to feel they were detracting from the experience of seeing a film at the cinema. I remember watching the trailer for Civil War and thinking “Woaaaah, this film looks great! I can't wait to see it!”.
Towards the end of one of the trailers is a really cool scene where Bucky and Cap are beating the crap out of Iron Man in an amazingly choreographed sequence. It turns out this was taken from the final fight scene of the film. When I saw it for the first time in the trailer I was blown away. I loved every part of it and became even more excited for the film to come out. That fight scene stuck in my head all the way up to the release of the film, playing over and over as I imagined some of the other awesome superhero fight scenes we'd be getting.
The release date came and I took my seat in a thankfully not too crowded cinema, excitedly grabbing handfuls of popcorn as I waited for the film to start. As the film went on I became increasingly aware that I still hadn't seen the fight scene from the trailer. I tried to push it out of my head and concentrate on what was happening in front of me. Then it finally happened. The fight scene from the trailer! The awesome and exciting fight between Bucky, Captain America and Iron Man. The fight that had instilled in me so much excitement for the film in the months leading up to its release. However, as I watched the scene unfold I felt a slight twinge of disappointment... I had already seen this. It wasn't quite as exciting and fresh as the first time I watched it. Those first feelings of awe and elation had been stolen from me by the trailer. It's still a fantastic scene but it had lost it's initial impact.
I felt annoyed that I'd already seen it.
And that's my issue with trailers. When you take some of the coolest and most important scenes from a film and place them in a trailer, they lose their impact. The more I thought about the things I'd already seen in the trailers for Civil War the more agitated I became. One of the main issues being Spider-man's reveal. WHY GIVE THAT AWAY IN THE TRAILER! We see the lead up to his appearance in the trailer so by the time that moment comes in the film, you already know what's going to happen. Spiderman will swoop in, web Captain America's hands and take his shield, all the while showing off a sparkly new Stark Industries suit. That moment should be a huge surprise but instead it just becomes a cool entrance lacking any amazement. You know Spiderman is about to appear so when he does appear you feel nothing.
It's: “Oh cool, Spider-man's here, I'm excited to see what he does next.” not “WHAAAAT SPIDERMAN IS IN THIS FILM?! OH CRAP BUT I THOUGHT FOX OWNED THE RIGHTS WHAAAT! OH SHIT THIS FILM IS INCREDIBLE.”
Honestly, I think they should have cut the scene where we see Tony Stark turn up at Peter Parker's home and talk him into joining him. We don't necessarily need to know that. Play it like they did with Ant-man's appearance in the film – Falcon says “I know a guy” - CUT - *Ant-man appears from the inside of a truck*
People know who Spiderman is. We don't need an introduction. Surprise your audience with an unexpected scene where Spiderman swings in out of nowhere, takes Cap's shield, does a backflip and lands next to Iron Man while making a witty quip. Don't give that shit away in a trailer.
Same goes for Black Panther. Thanks to the trailers, as soon as Chadwick Boseman appears we know that he's Black Panther and we know exactly what his costume looks like. When you then try to reveal it as a surprise in the film it just doesn't work. It's cool but it doesn't have the same impact as the first time you see it.
I guess that's my main problem with trailers. You see all the cool moments from the film and when it comes around to actually watching it, you're just seeing the same thing again. There's no surprise, no shock, just a cool scene you've already watched a half dozen times that doesn't feel like anything new.
The trailers for Civil War give away far too many of these surprises and they all lost a lot of their impact for me:
- The final battle between Iron Man, Captain America and Bucky.
- Spider-man and Black Panther's introduction into the MCU.
- The fact that, at some point during the film, Rhodey falls out of the sky and is potentially dead or severely injured. None of this needed to be in the trailers.
One of the best moments for me in Civil War was *Spoiler Warning* during the huge fight at the airport where Ant-man turns into Giant-man. That part was incredible and was a stand-out moment for me, partly due to the fact it was my first time seeing it. It was a surprise. My inner fanboy did a little leap of joy seeing Giant-man appear for the first time, stomping around using a new power that was slightly hinted at in the Ant-man film.
I did however break my 'no trailers' rule for Guardians of the Galaxy 2. It was getting increasingly difficult to avoid and out of curiosity I decided to give the first trailer a chance. It was fantastic.
This is how trailers should be done. Action packed, quick cuts and only short scenes. Never really giving away too much of the story or showing too much of the big set pieces, just little hints at what's to come.
*Minor spoiler for the start of GOTG2 if you haven't seen the trailers*
Even when we see Kurt Russell's character tell Peter Quill that he is his father in the trailer, the film never really presents this as though it should be a shock to the audience. We already see him earlier on in the film with Peter's mother so it's fairly obvious who he is.
Trailers exist to entice potential audiences and encourage people to pay money to see the film. They shouldn't give away any surprises, show any climatic fights (at least not so you can figure out what's going on) or key plot points (and they definitely shouldn't give away pretty much the entire plot 'cough' SPIDERMAN HOMECOMING 'cough').
Trailers should be short and sweet and leave you wanting more. They shouldn't detract from the experience of the film itself or lessen the impact of any great scenes. Rewatching a film at home never quite evokes the same feelings as when you first see it in the cinema. You already know what is going to happen. Trailers shouldn't make you feel that way.
So, the next film you're really looking forward to, try to avoid watching the trailers for it. Go into the cinema ready for a completely fresh experience. I'm not suggesting you do this for every film, just... give it a go. Feel the difference.