So we’re back, and after quite a break as well. But now’s not the time to reminisce, no, instead we should be looking ahead, which brings me quite nicely to this blog’s topic, film trailers. I’ve been going to the cinema a hell of a lot recently, this is mainly because I get a pretty good deal at my local multiplex. Now when I say I’ve gone a lot, I mean I’ve been going a ridiculous amount; I can count at least seven visits in the past two months alone, with another visit due this week. Either way, due to all this cinema going I’ve been prone to watching a lot of trailers (as well as keeping up to date with some interesting releases coming out later this autumn (or fall for any American readers)), and I must say that they have become quite sloppy of late.
I don’t necessarily mean that the trailers look shit, or that their production value is bollocks, quite the opposite. I find that many trailers now have grown in scale, trying desperately to create a thrill in the few minutes of screen time they have before the film you bought a ticket for begins. Now this has always obviously been the case, but I find ever more with the rise of VOD (Video On Demand), studios and distributors have been more determined to fill the seats of the multiplex so that they can try and cash in on box office revenue before the big home distribution kicks in. Now yet again I’ve got no problem with this. I aim to work in the film industry and see the great importance of profits in determining what films are made, it can be shit that so many crap films are made each year, but their profits margins may allow for them few gems each year to come into existence.
Either way I’m digressing from the main focus of this blog. My main concerns with film trailers recently (I say recently, I’ve actually been contemplating this blog since at least the beginning of the year), is that they have been giving too much away. Literally revealing the entire story, or even the plot twist if one exists. This is obviously not something which a trailer is meant to do. It is meant to entice the audience to want to know more so that they will go and see it. To show the establishment of the narrative, who the characters are and what disrupts the equilibrium of the narrative. What should then follow would simply be an action or emotional sequences to show the pace, stunts, acting capability linked to the film; to demonstrate why else this film would be entertaining other than simply its story. I saw Oblivion when it was released at the cinema. This was mainly because of how cheap I could see it for and thought ‘why not?’, it didn’t look too bad at the cinema, I know it’s just going to be an apocalyptic action film with minimal thought needed to understand it simply because of the certification and the audience it was aimed at being teenagers. Now, I entered the screening with a specific idea of what would happen purely from the trailer (SPOILER ALERT!!!), that Tom Cruise was a clone and he doesn’t know, and as I watched the film unfold it was never hinted that this was the case and I was relieved. Then BOOM, the big twist happens at the end and I was spot on the money from the very beginning. I couldn’t believe it, not that I had figured out the film before it finished, but that I had figured out the film before it even begun. I thought that it was blatantly obvious that Tom Cruise was a clone, I was expecting it to be established within the first half of the film, not the twist at the end.
(SPOLIER ALERT OVER) Now there have been many times I have figured out the twist of a film before it’s revealed. Sometimes it feels like a great sense of achievement; you’ve beaten the film at its own game. But other times its frustrating. When I saw Shutter Island at the cinema I figured out the big twist within the first half of the film (don’t worry I won’t reveal it for any of you how haven’t yet seen it), and sat there for the rest of the film hoping that I was wrong and that it wasn’t that obvious. It turned out that I was right and was annoyed by this, however, when leaving the cinema my friends where completely dumbstruck; they didn’t see the twist coming at all. I couldn’t believe this, but was then slapped with the realisation that I have studied film for years now, that my brain immediately begins to deconstruct a film almost by instinct now, from narrative structure and conventions to the quality of the camera work, sound, acting and direction.
Since discussing Oblivion with the friends I saw it with, none of them had figured out the twist from the trailer alone. Could this just be me, with my ever critical and academic view of films? Who knows, but I can safely say that some films give away everything in the trailer to non-film geeks. Take Halle Berry’s new film The Call, the basic plot is given; a 911 operator (Halle Berry) gives some crappy advice to a woman in distress and she ultimately dies with Halle Berry listening in. Boom, a serial killer is revealed. The serial killer kidnaps someone and puts them in the boot (trunk for any American readers) of their car but the hostage can call the police. Who does the hostage ultimately get…. Halle Berry of course. Now that is all that should be given, instead the film shows scenes of the police trying to track down this serial killer and of Halle Berry giving advice to the hostage so to ascertain her moving location. Now this I can forgive, however they give far too much away. I can see from the trailer that the hostage remains in danger, but lives until the final showdown which from what I can tell is the serial killer’s house. That Halle Berry herself is able to figure out who, or at least where the serial killer is, and stupidly goes alone to the house to confront him/free the hostage. This is where I have a problem with the trailer. I can’t tell if the hostage will live, if Halle Berry will then escape the serial killer’s house and it have a happy ending, or whether they all die at the hands of the serial killer, but that doesn’t matter. The trailer has given away most of the narrative in the space of 3 minutes. I can therefore see that there will be annoying bullshit character development to try and add dimension to a film which ultimately will probably be stretched thing. Now it may be a great film and all these assumptions may be wrong, but the point is I know all the driving plot developments already, and for a film which is trying to market itself as a suspense driven thriller that’s something you don’t want the audience to know.
Now there are some films which I’m looking forward to see this autumn (again fall for any Americans) and just hope that I haven’t figured out the entire plot before I see them. For those interested in what I’m anticipating here’s the current list. Prisoners – now from what I can see from the trailer I greatly hope that Hugh Jackman’s character kidnaps Paul Dano’s character either within the first half of the film, or it’s an obvious build up of whats to come. If this becomes a twist or a sudden late narrative plot point then I’ll be very disappointed as it’s shown in the trailer. Thor: The Dark World – this doesn’t really show much, just the world in jeopardy, a lot of Thor style fighting, Natalie Portman doing her thing and not quite fitting in in Asgard and maybe almost dying (wouldn’t really expect anything else), Odin doing his thing and Loki being coerced into helping Thor (of course there has been some recent shoots to add more scenes with Loki in quite close to the release date due to Tom Hiddleston’s popularity at Comic Con earlier this year). However I have been intrigued about why no proper shots have been shown of the main villain, Christopher Eccleston’s character Malekith. And finally The Counselor – this trailer has done what trailers are meant to do. Establish Michael Fassbender’s character, him getting mixed up with the drug trade and some serious shit going down which he had nothing to do with but all leads back to him. Then just sit back and watch as shots of carnage unfold mixed in with sequences from an amazing cast including Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz and Cameron Diaz.
Lets just hope that no new trailers come out which caused as much of an uproar as World War Z did, where the army clearly states Russia is a black hole, and it’s where Brad Pitt needs to enter, when instead in the film Russia is never mentioned, and Brad Pitt travels to the black hole of India.