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.
The Fifth Element (1997)
Bless French director Luc Besson, he just marches along to the beat of his own drummer. While directors aren’t necessarily involved with the marketing of their films, it’s hard not to watch these two teasers for Besson’s space operatic epic The Fifth Element and not see his influence all over them. Both teasers feature no plot description or final footage from the eye-popping film starring a blonde Bruce Willis and a barely-clothed Milla Jovovich, to say nothing of hearing villain Gary Oldman’s Foghorn Leghorn accent in all its glory. No, audiences would have to wait for a longer trailer to get a better picture of what Besson had in store, following on the heels of his well-liked but minor-hit Léon: The Professional in 1995. Make no mistake, The Fifth Element was a risky endeavor (as all Besson’s films are, see Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets for proof) and while it made only $63 million dollars here in the US, it netted a total worldwide gross of almost $265 million…so clearly overseas took to it far better than we did. I remember being in Spain the summer this was released and seeing the most gigantic billboards ever advertising this — truly an astonishing sight to behold. Watching the feature film again recently I was struck by how ahead of its time it was. It’s silly but fun and totally the Europop comfort food we’ve come to expect from Besson, though these early teasers hint at something a little less focused on style and more on inter-galactic adventure. And no Diva Dance…that would have to wait for the main event.