The Trailer Disease


Over the last few years the more ad and trailers I see, the more I feel like there is something off about them. One question came to mind upon this reflection. Are movie trailers a disease to films they are intended to represent? 

But before I get into the reasoning behind why I think that film trailers are a disease, here is a bit of backstory to what they actually are.

Trailers have been apart of film culture for over 100 years, with film historians declaring 1913 the year when the first trailer was shown.

Nils Granlund, advertising manager for the Marcus Loew theatre chain, created the first trailer when he produced a short promotional film for the musical, The Pleasure Seekers, where he used footage from the rehearsals to promote the musical, thus creating the first ever trailer.


Nils Grandlund, the first man to show a film trailer – Source Film Maker IQ

The first film trailers usually happened after the movie, which is where they got the name trailer from, as it trailed the film. But the problem with showing the advertisements for films after a film meant that most of the audience had left. But during those times cinemas would only have one screen and would pay a measly 5 cents to see as many films as you like, and with the irregular schedule times, some of these trailers were played before the next film. Ultimately shaping the way we experience cinema now.

Until the 1950’s, trailers consisted mostly of a compilation of key scenes from the film being advertised, with large, descriptive text describing the films plot, an underscore, pulled from the music libraries of studios and a form of narration presented by presenters with stentorian voices. The National Screen Service, who was the predominant creators of movie trailers until the late 1950’s, produced these trailers.

As the decade changed ,the way film trailers were made changed too. Text less, montaging and quick editing became the norm for movie trailers and they began to shape into what we experience today. This change was to do with the rise of “New Hollywood” and techniques that had become popular in television production.

As the rise of animation took hold in the 1960’s, so too did the need for strong voice actors, influencing and altering film trailers, moulding them into what we now experience today.

We have all become accustomed to trailers that have little text, montage or quick editing, with professional voice actors doing narrations or pumping us up about films.

But over the years, as I have matured as a consumer of film and having seen my fair share of trailers, it dawned on me that trailers hampered my film viewing experience.

From this same thinking I came to the conclusion that trailers are a disease to the film going experience. As I thought about how trailers hampered the film viewing experience, I broke down what makes a trailer and then identified the trailers most associated with the disease, like the recognizing of symptoms for an actual disease.


“Spoiler Free”

One symptom I discovered was that trailers are not meant to spoil the films plot, but they spoil the film in other ways.

Trailers can spoil parts of the film. How you may ask?

Well firstly they may include parts of scene and if you remember the trailer or are brainwashed by the TV spots they play you may already have a constructed perception of that particular scene, causing it to lose its overall impact.

An example of when this became so blatantly obvious to me was during my recent viewing of M. Night Shyamalan‘s Split, where I remembered a conversation about the window in Hedwig’s room and I was able to quote the sentence.

Look out for the scene in question at 1:21.


So as I was watching the film I thought about the trailer conversation the whole time during that scene, knowing how the scene would play out. The trailer had ultimately spoiled the scene for me, rendering the intended meaning of the conversation as just empty information for the viewer.


Misleading the Masses

Often trailers are misleading the millions of people who watch them.

Now not all are misleading, but a large majority are generally misleading with the information presented.

Over recent years, there has been a large amount of trailers using misleading information as part of the make up of their trailers.

Some tricks associated with misleading trailers are:

> Adding extra actions scenes (example of making films more actin packed)

> Showing celebrity cast members who only have minor roles. For example Bryan Cranston, who was blasted across the trailers for Godzilla but was only in the film  for 15 minutes

> They can affect the way the viewer interprets the film, by misleading them ‘for their own good’ kind of way. Meaning that a viewer would not usually see a film of terrible nature based on preconceptions, and by doing the old bait and switch, they can allow the audience to think it’s a good movie and either stay with that preconception or take a massive back-flip on the film and think its terrible.



The Best Laughs are all in the Trailer

The first culprit in the spread of the trailer disease is a comedy film trailer.

The main reason I think comedy film trailers are a main offender, is because they throw all the funniest jokes into the trailer and when you get to watch the actual film most of the jokes you have heard multiple times.

It is quite annoying to go into a comedy film after seeing the trailer on TV four thousand times and you prepare for a laugh fest as you hope that not all the jokes have been told. It dampens the experience of watching comedy films and could change the way you feel about the film.


The silly season has well and truly arrived and Office Christmas Party is well and truly a silly film. – The Front Row Review on Office Christmas Party

Now not all comedy trailers are necessarily bad for their films, one example I can say that I saw the trailer a lot and was still pleasantly surprised by the film was Seth Rogan‘s animation film Sausage Party, their smart use of a trailer compilation allowed only a little of the jokes to be told, holding back the best ones for the film, and by doing that I laughed at practically every joke, it was a refreshing change for me to watch a comedy film and not sit there in boredom because all the jokes had been told a thousand times.



“The Fast and Furious Effect”

Now what does the “Fast and Furious Effect” relate too? In the context that I am writing this it’s about action trailers and how they have plagued the action film genre.

The action trailer has now reached a stage were it crams so many fights, car chases and explosions into a small clip to have your brain instantly believe “OH MY GOD! THIS FILM IS AWESOME!” these are the trailers I usually avoid, as I have seen enough of them for my brain to become accustomed to them and I know exactly how they will be made up and what aim they are trying to achieve. Only a few trailers recently have been able to persuade me “THAT WAS AWESOME!”

What does “The Fast and Furious Effect” mean? I have coined the term from a close study of every Fast and Furious film trailer and it epitomizes the action film trailer, to a point it made everything associated to the action film trailer turn from awesome to cliche. These cliche associations are big explosions, car chases or gun fights or cars crashing, a shit load of explosions and over the top stunts.

Once you know what is associated with these toxic trailers you will start to notice the cliché features pop up more in every action trailer you watch. Soon you will notice that sometimes the action doesn’t correlate with the actual film, which may be a dampener, or it may aid the film, but 7/10 times it will be the dampener. You will notice that sometimes the trailers put in extra action scenes, shot specifically for trailer only as a way to entice you to watch it, which is a cheap and dirty bait tactic to get you to watch, and it is one of my pet hates with some action trailers.


Although I still share trailers on The Front Row Reviewer Facebook page, as well as placing them at the end of my reviews for films, as a way for you, a consumer to decide to watch a film in whatever way you like.

Although I have set most of this article out at attacking trailers, I will still provide you guys the opportunity to watch them, to form your own approach to watching films, but for me I will stick to looking at reviews and avoiding the toxin that is film trailers.


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