In 2013 I was feeling pretty blue about the state of movie trailers. For a time, it was imperative for me to get to a theater in time for the previews or else some of the fun would be missing from the experience of going to the movies because, let’s face it, sometimes the coming attractions were more entertaining than the feature presentation. That started to change when the previews became less of a creative way to market the film and more of way for studios to put all their cards on the table with little artistry. Like I said back seven years ago, it seems like nearly every preview that’s released is about 2:30 minutes long and gives away almost every aspect of the movie, acting more like a Cliff Notes version of the movie being advertised rather than something to entice an audience into coming back and seeing the full product.
Sadly, in the years since I did my first run of the In Praise of Teasers series, not a lot has changed and it may have gotten worse. It’s gotten to the point where I almost avoid watching a trailer all together because so much of the plot is given away. This site used to feature a wealth of movie previews but I just can’t bring myself to post too many because they’re so spoiler-y. Only the rare well-done coming attraction or preview for an “event” film gets through…and even then I can’t think of anything recent that could go toe-to-toe with the brief bites I’m going to share with you over the coming weeks.
That’s why I’ve decided to revive In Praise of Teasers now. In this day and age where all aspects of a movie are fairly well known before an inch of footage is seen the subtlety of a well crafted “teaser” trailer is totally gone…and I miss it…I miss it a lot. Let’s revisit some of the teaser trailers I fondly remember and, in a way, reintroduce them. Whether the actual movie was good or bad is neither here nor there; but pay attention to how each of these teasers work in their own special way to grab the attention of movie-goers.
Strange Days (1995)
It’s easy to see that the problems for Strange Days started with this teaser trailer. Here was a movie written by James Cameron who had just scored a gigantic success the year earlier with True Lies and directed by his ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow still, four years later, riding high off of her blockbuster Point Break. Though the two were no longer a couple, they continued to collaborate on this project which had been on Cameron’s shelf for years. Arguably, Bigelow was the right person to direct it but its virtual reality plot line was, in hindsight, perhaps too ahead of its time…and add to that a complicated conspiracy thread running through the film and technical elements that impressed but at times overwhelmed and it all becomes a bit of a blur. Honestly, the movie is still mostly a jumble in my mind, even today. I do need to watch it again because it’s got such a great team behind the scenes and an intriguing cast that it should work. Like I said at the beginning, though, this teaser trailer is too manic and blippy for its own good and doesn’t entice the viewer in for more. If this were made today, Bradley Cooper would be staring back at us and not Ralph Fiennes, right? Fiennes is a strong actor but this close-up of him is majorly intense and in a way off-putting, pushing the audience to lean back rather than lean in. The perfect teaser to me is one that I could see and know right away I’d want to watch the movie without anything else to go off of. This brief look at Strange Days wouldn’t have been enough to get me in the door, even with Cameron’s name attached.
For more teasers check out my posts on The Fifth Element, The Addams Family, Alien, Misery, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Showgirls, Jurassic Park, Jaws 3D/Jaws: The Revenge, Total Recall, Halloween II: Season of the Witch