WARNING: The Following Contains Spoilers Galore
The major selling point for almost any mainstream motion picture is the theatrical trailer. In many respects, trailers have become an art form of their own and are often much more rewatchable than the movies they advertise. With strong editing and an epic choir, a trailer can make even the dumbest film look like a must-see event. That being said, some trailers do too good of a job at hooking the audience in.
The best way to sell any product is to put your best foot forward. For movie trailers, this usually means showcasing all the best scenes. The trailers for The Matrix Reloaded and Spider-Man 3 had countless audiences pumped, but people were generally disappointed by the movies themselves. Part of that disappointment stemmed from the fact that their trailers essentially cut together the only cool moments. The same could be said about a comedy like A Millionaire Ways to Die in the West, where the funniest bits were all disclosed. People go to the movies to be surprised and subjecting ourselves to the trailers makes that increasingly difficult.
Exposing the best action set pieces and one-liners is one thing. What’s truly unforgivable, however, is when a trailer spoils huge plot twists. Terminator Genisys has been hailed by many as the biggest letdown of the summer. If you managed to avoid the trailers, though, maybe it would have at least been a little more interesting to watch the film unfold. Alas, the ad campaign not only gave away the alternate timeline subplot, but that John Connor would be reinvented as a villain and the T-1000 would make a reappearance. So there were no surprises whatsoever, making the experience even more boring. Ironically, the Terminator Salvation trailer made the exact same mistake by revealing Sam Worthington’s character was a machine.
The trailer for Self/less, which comes out Friday, is also guilty of this. The sci-fi thriller follows an aging, dying man who has his mind transferred into a body that conveniently looks like Ryan Reynolds. He soon realizes that there’s a catch to this miraculous, if not improbable, procedure, however, and sets out to find answers. The problem is that the trailer tells us a majority of these answers upfront. A twist isn’t a twist if the audience knows the twist going in! Imagine if the trailers for The Sixth Sense and Psycho divulged their secrets in their trailers.
You want an example of how to build hype for a blockbuster without revealing too much? Go watch the first trailer for Jurassic World. It showed off many of the film’s most badass moments, i.e. Chris Pratt riding a motorcycle alongside raptors. The people behind the trailer were also smart enough to keep the Indominus Rex hidden, though, creating a sense of mystery that was guaranteed to pack theaters. While some complained that the Indominus Rex wasn’t as awesome as they built it up to be, the trailer also wisely didn’t mention the Tyrannosaurus Rex either. So when Rexy showed up for the film’s final battle, it was both a genuine surprise and delight.
If only more trailers could learn from Jurassic World, or Interstellar and Cloverfield. Yet, so many just keep making the same miscalculation, ultimately diminishing our cinematic experience. Granted, it’s hard to be too upset about Terminator Genisys as the film would have sucked even if the trailer had come equipped with a spoiler alert. To encourage Hollywood to stop giving away everything before a movie even comes out, though, let’s take a look at five good films that were spoiled by their trailers:
5. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Gandalf the Grey’s last stand in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring was a pivotal dramatic moment on par with the death of Mr. Spock. Like Mr. Spock, though, Gandalf would live again in the sequels. Anyone who read the books of course knew this. Oblivious mainstream moviegoers, however, wouldn’t realize that there’s plenty of ways to cheat death in Middle Earth until The Two Towers trailer hit. As a last minute twist, it’s revealed that Gandalf is back with a new wardrobe. It’s a strong final image, but greatly subtracts from the wizard’s grand entrance in the movie.
4. Children of Men
The beginning of Children of Men does an incredible job at submerging us into a hopeless future where all women have become infertile. The trailer exposes a game changing development, however: One young woman has managed to conceive a miracle baby. Couldn’t the advertisers have sold the movie without sharing this detail? Having this knowledge only slows the first thirty minutes down as we wait for Clive Owen to learn what we already know.
While Carrie is great from start to finish, it’s too bad that the film only seems to get recognition for that climatic prom scene. Even the original trailer primarily focuses on the infamous Black Prom. This moment is so iconic and has been parodied so many times that it doesn’t really matter anymore. Still, if you were an audience member in 1976, wouldn’t you be just a little peeved that the trailer disclosed Carrie getting her revenge?
2. Total Recall
Even twenty-five years after its release, Total Recall still keeps audiences guessing. If you saw the trailer back in 1990, though, many of the surprises were exposed, including Sharon Stone’s death and that Arnie does drag to evade authorities. Every incredible action sequence and special effect is also put on display. Well, at least they didn’t reveal that Benny is a traitor …oops…
1. Cast Away
Much of the suspense and drama in Cast Away derives from wondering whether or not Tom Hanks will make it off that desert island… at least that would be the case if the trailer didn’t tell us that he DOES make it off the island, reunites with his wife and is forced to start over… There you go people, a two and a half hour long movie basically summed up in a couple minutes. You know, for people who are too lazy to read Wikipedia!