Trailer Park

It’s been a while since I’ve kept up with what movies are in production. I used to totally geek-out on various movie news sites and forums. For instance, I remember seeing behind the scenes footage of the first Lord of the Rings film somewhere around 1999 (two years before the film came out). Since then, I’ve tended to let that sort of thing go (with an occasional exception), for a few reasons. First, it’s really annoying to follow a production over the course of years and realize that you still have to wait two more years before you’ll finally get to see it (the aformentioned LotR being a good example). Second, following every detail of a production tends to build up expectations that are too lofty… it’s rare that a film will truly impress when you’ve spent years building up expectations (LotR is a good example of that, but again, that’s the outlier. A film you’ve been following for years is more likely to be like The Phantom Menace.) And finally, following a movie production from beginning to end without learning spoilers is near impossible. Even movie trailers these days are often filled with spoilers (plus, they have a tendency to be overedited, repetitive and boring, but we’ll get to that in a second.)

Trailers are an interesting art form. Since the advent of DVD, I’ve had the opportunity to watch a lot of older trailers, and boy are they awful! There are some exceptions, of course, but sometimes I’m really in awe of how bad movie trailers used to be. Now, I’m no expert, but I think the zenith of movie trailers was probably the 1990s. I remember going to the movies then and almost looking forward to the trailers as much as the movie I was seeing. Perhaps I’ve just matured to a point where the tricks of the trade just don’t work on me anymore, but I remember enjoying trailers for movies that ended up being terrible. These days, I’m usually able to pick up on that sort of thing right away. Of course, the mid-90s were also a time where people were still in awe of what could be done with the latest special effects… something I imagine people have become bored with. Many of the things that used to make trailers interesting are now simply cliched tropes (i.e. frenetic editing, pulse-pounding music, movie guy voiceover, etc…) I think we’re starting to see a trend for more interesting trailers, even though the typical stuff is still dominant.

So let’s take a look at some recent trailers for big new movies and see if I should start paying more attention:

  • The Incredible Hulk: Let’s just pretend that Ang Lee movie never happened. For all intents and purposes, this is your typical Hollywood trailer. It’s probably a little better than your average trailer, but it’s still pretty stereotypical. It looks like the fun popcorn flick the Ang Lee version was never able to capture.
  • The Dark Knight: The trailers they have for this now are pretty straightforward. Again, typical Hollywood fare, though perhaps a little more upscale. However, it should be noted that the original teaser for this movie was a six-minute featurette that tells the story of a bank heist. For some reason, this mini-film is not available on the web, except for this lame bootlegged version. It’s a brilliant trailer though, and it really makes me want to watch this movie. The newer trailers are awful by comparison…
  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: This is almost unfair, as nostalgia serves to make this more enjoyable than it probably is, but it’s pretty well done. The only thing that bothers me is that it looks like we’re going to revisit the mysterious government room with all the crates. I don’t know why, but that bothers me. I love that it’s just sorta thrown on the end of Raiders with no explanation… and I love that the next two movies make no mention of it at all.
  • Lost Boys: The Tribe: I can’t believe they’re making this movie, but the trailer is pretty unintentionally funny. Bill Simmons sums it up perfectly:

    I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a movie trailer as much as the one for the “Lost Boys” sequel on, not just because Corey Feldman introduces it in the beginning like he’s James Lipton, but because of the way Corey seems to be randomly inserted into the trailer at various points, almost like how they stick Guillermo into real movie trailers on Jimmy Kimmel’s show.

    Heh. I have almost no desire to see this. I do, however, want to revisit the original now, as I have not seen it in… uh… over a decade?

There are probably a hundred other trailers out there that I could review, but I’m realizing again why I try to avoid all the hype surrounding upcoming movies. I’m not totally immune, but I find that it usually helps my enjoyment of the actual film…

Update: Fledge comments, and answers the unspoken question: Why is it called a “trailer” if it’s shown before the film?