On my second viewing of Marvel’s Black Panther this week, I ended up running out of the cinema. Not for anything to do with the film but because of a certain trailer before it. Once the first few frames of the Avengers: Infinity War trailer flashed on the screen and a monologue from Samuel L. Jackson rung throughout the theatre, I immediately knew that I needed to avoid it.
Regardless of what you think about the amount of superhero films nowadays, it’s hard to deny the weight on Infinity War’s shoulders – it’s a massive cinematic event incorporating some of my favourite comic book characters who I never thought would crossover (let alone be adapted successfully!) and is a culmination of over ten years of world building. With the amount of hype I have, it may be a surprise to discover that I haven’t seen a single trailer or tv spot for the film and have no intention to see them until after I’ve seen the final product in the theatre.
Every single time a new trailer is released for a highly anticipated film, we all find ourselves clambering to our phones and laptops to see what teases the producers have decided to bestow on us. As we watch these repeatedly along with the inevitable video breakdowns, reactions and theory discussions, our expectations are set for what the movie is going to be like. And this is a good thing…right?
Avoiding trailers is something I’ve been doing for the past year now and due to the promotional schedules of films, I’m only just starting to reap the benefits of doing so. For many, enjoyment of a film is all about fulfilling expectations and modern day trailers carry a lot of responsibility for setting these expectations. Studios must create something with viral potential, showcasing the film’s imagery, tone, premise and so much more all in the space of 120 seconds to help sell the film and secure ticket sales.
One of the many reasons why I avoid trailers is to keep the film entertaining for myself. It’s a common belief that trailers give away too much – often providing an abridged version of the movie. And whilst many directors such as Christopher Nolan and Denis Villeneuve are praised for understanding the art of the trailer and how to effectively tease something, the fact they’re showing non-linear sequences of the film still spoil my experience.
I used to always find myself watching a film and completely breaking from the immersion of the plot, since I knew a big set piece was around the corner or a certain character was going to eventually appear. I began anticipating the moments I saw in the trailer instead of enjoying the film for what it is, at its own pace.
This is the case on a smaller scale too: minor action sequences or lines of dialogue are revealed in the trailer which I’ll be eagerly expecting when I’m seeing it on the big screen. This snatches away the thrill of seeing something for the first time in the appropriate context with the right stakes and pace. The rhythm of an action sequence or performance has already been seen by the audience after it’s been sliced out of the film to promote it, and I won’t appreciate it as much as I’ve already seen it ten times already.
This has recently been taken to a much worse level. Jumping on the post-truth bandwagon, film trailers have become the subject of further criticism in regards to containing footage that doesn’t even make the final cut, or was never intended to be a part of the film in the first place. Keeping with superheroes, Justice League’s theatrical release has significant changes from the pre-release material (although it could be argued this was because of the last minute change of director) and Spider-Man Homecoming’s trailer had action shots which were made specifically for the trailer, setting up false expectation and even raising questions of advertising ethics.
Another argument to make concerning blockbuster trailers is that I already know so much about it without having to see a trailer, I know for certain that I’m going to see it on opening night and other miscellaneous details, so why am I ruining my experience by watching this promotional reel?
But where should you draw the line? Trailers can ruin a moviegoing experience for you but on the flipside, an effective one can do a great job of reeling you in to a film you might have missed otherwise. Promoting a film is also an appreciated art form in itself – iconic and creative posters are framed on people’s walls and it’s hard to argue against the feelings a good trailer can invoke.
The sheer number of reaction videos on YouTube and their high view counts are also an example of how trailers are a way for people to share and bond over their enthusiasm for an upcoming release. Though I do feel as though I’m missing out on the narrative every time I see the internet’s reaction to a big preview but I always ask myself: ‘What do I value more? Being part of the fandom or enjoying the film properly?’
An effective tease can also draw your attention to new original releases which the film industry has been in desperate need of for a long time. A film like Inception might not have been as successful as it was without it’s iconic trailer perfectly blending the film’s elements together. Furthermore, does avoiding pre-release materials go beyond trailers? Should we not stop at looking at film posters, or even reading articles on production progress?
Obviously to keep the industry alive films do have to be promoted and there is an audience demand for them, so my solution is for the audience member to take back control and try their best to avoid trailers if they know they will see them. We have a choice to watch a trailer, and although it might mean occasionally turning up to the cinema a little late or grabbing your popcorn during the promotional preamble, I know for certain that when I see Avengers: Infinity War in April, it will be a completely fresh experience.
With this in mind, a compromise could be made. Yes, avoid trailers for films you know you are certain to see but be open minded to ones for new and exciting projects. Do the smart thing, and let someone see it first so you can decide if it’s worth seeing too, but if you don’t need convincing, then make the film even more enjoyable.