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Stop Watching Movie Trailers

They are broken, and they’re ruining movies


Stop watching trailers. I don’t mean: If it makes you mad, you should avoid it! I mean: Stop watching trailers. You’re buying a broken product. Trailers are free? No, you’re paying to see a movie, and when you watch a trailer, you are decreasing the value of your ticket. You’re cheapening the experience. Everything costs something. Trailers are ruining good movies, and they are making average movies unwatchable. They are bad and they need to be sent back to the factory.

Are you going to see Suicide Squad? If your answer isn’t “What’s Suicide Squad?” then you probably don’t need another trailer for it. If you went to Comic-Con, or read Comic-Con content, or attended Comic-Con Content Con (a.k.a. hell), then YOU DEFINITELY ARE GOING TO SEE SUICIDE SQUAD. That decision has been made. So then why in the world would DC and Warner Bros. feel the need to remix all the previous footage into this:

That’s the whole movie, dog. Seriously. For as long as we trudge through this world wearing capes and masks, every franchise movie will be the same. There’s a crisis; a hero answers the call, usually with some friends; it’s darkest before dawn, and then everything works out; but there are loose threads, and we exit with a bounce pass to a sequel. Please find me the person who leaves a movie saying, “That was fine, BUT I FELT COMPLETELY UNPREPARED FOR THAT FILM.” Why would you want to feel prepared for a movie?!

Trailers are ruining comedies by including all the funny parts. Seth Rogen: Your movies are funny, and I don’t really need to pay to see them anymore because all the jokes are free in the four Neighbors 2 trailers. Trailers are ruining horror movies by revealing all the scares. Trailers are ruining great movies. Almost all of Sicario’s best scenes are In. The. Trailer. … What?

Why are movie studios doing this? Here’s a theory: With the emergence of social media marketing departments come new metrics for engagement. People watch trailers online; it’s fun, and if it’s not fun it’s a harmless distraction. Like everything else on the internet, content creation is a furnace. You need to feed it. So marketing departments demand more and more footage, and studios and filmmakers go along with it because they want their films to be seen. But by the end of the promotional cycle, the movie itself is just a two-hour albatross hanging around a three-minute trailer’s neck.

Maybe the problem isn’t the trailers, [extremely Matthew McConaughey A Time to Kill voice] maybe it’s us. I just went back and watched the trailers for The English Patient, A Few Good Men, and Die Hard, and you know what? Those trailers commit the same sins as the ones today:

And you know what else? I never saw those trailers. Because trailers used to be something you avoided. They were viscerally annoying. We (all my 100-year-old friends and I) used to actually get mad when they would come on before a movie.

Now we sit in front of our computers all day and watch trailers. For a while that was pretty fun. We got hype for There Will Be Blood, and No Country for Old Men, and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

It was great when Steve McQueen used the single piano note in the Hunger trailer, and then the studios came in and screwed it all up. It was awesome when they did the quick cuts, punctuated by the “bongs” in Inception. It was even better when they added that dude screaming CUT IT OFF! in Prometheus. But then we killed the goose that laid the golden bongs.

Maybe the issue is trailers have peaked (they probably peaked with the Alien trailer in 1979, but whatever). Hollywood needs to go back to the lab and figure out a new way of enticing people to see movies in the theater. While they work on that — and while they keep putting out movies that are just pastiches of recently released films anyway — why not just remix old trailers to sell new movies? Like, can you really learn anything from this Doctor Strange trailer that you couldn’t learn from a montage of footage from The Matrix and Inception?

Can’t we just save all the great character beats from Justice League (I just wrote “great character beats from Justice League,” didn’t I?), show a couple of decent-looking Affleck shots, and then throw up a title card that says, “Ocean’s 14, but with 100% More Wonder Woman”? I would see that! You don’t have to leak Ezra Miller’s shit!

There are no bad ideas in a brainstorm, except for the idea of putting more footage in trailers. Trailers want us to love movies. We want to love movies. Movies and people are one of the great love affairs of postindustrial American life. We are Rachel McAdams and movies are Ryan Gosling and we are running toward each other. We know how it’s going to work out in the end. Stop spoiling it for us.