“So, what time does it actually start?” Thus I have asked pretty much every person who has ever sold me a movie ticket. Because sure, the advertised kick-off might be 7:50 PM or some such, but rare is the cinema at which the show you paid for actually begins at the appointed hour. Like buying a glossy magazine and having to leaf past seventeen pages of hair product before you even reach the masthead, a typical trip to the movies comes along with up to thirty minutes of commercials—the worst of which, in my opinion, being the ones for other movies.
Trailers. My word do I hate them.
I don’t think it’s always been this way. As a kid, every moment at the movie theater was a joy, a rare treat of which I wouldn’t want to miss a single moment, and often the trailers were the closest I would come to watching these forthcoming films for several years. And the trailers – or previews, as we call them in my homeland – that presaged each video rental, back when that was a thing, were not only thrilling enticements to the next one, but also very often an indicator of your current choice’s quality, or lack thereof.
But as time went on, I grew increasingly disenchanted with the trailer in all its forms, to the point where I now refuse to even enter the movie theater before I am sure they are over. (And yes, I have missed the beginning of more than one as a result; what DID happen with Peter Parker’s parents in The Amazing Spider-Man? I’ve been meaning to check…) Many is the friend I have sent in ahead of me while I wait anxiously outside, trying – and usually succeeding, though I don’t mean to brag – to time my entrance perfectly, sitting on the aisle so as to disrupt as few people as possible with my tardy (on time) arrival.
Going to the movies with me is far more problematic than it probably should be.
The thing is, I just don’t understand why anyone would want to watch the trailers. Oh, I get why the film companies make them – they need to advertise their goods, after all. But WHY do people seek them out, and obsess over them, and create elaborate fan theories from them long before the film they are pimping is even available for pre-booking?
Why open yourself up to such disappointment? Why engender a fever pitch of anticipation that is sometimes YEARS away from being sated? And, most significantly, why invite anyone to spoil plot points, dialogue and sometimes entire scenes from a movie you’re probably going to see, regardless?
In last week’s Geek vs. Geek on Suicide Squad, our Mark Ritchie lamented the finished product’s lack of resemblance to the series of kick-ass trailers released in the months leading up to the film’s premiere. He (rightly) suggests that the footage used in the trailers should have been present in the film; essentially, that the filmmakers pulled a bait-and-switch, false advertising at its worst. I entirely concur, a trailer should at least resemble the film its promoting, and having now seen some of the judiciously edited works of trailer art to which Mark was referring, I can see where his disappointment lies. But here’s the thing. Almost all the footage in the trailers is in the film, it’s just cut so evocatively, and set to such incongruous yet perfect music, that these scenes sing with a life and frenetic vigor the movie could not hope to match without inducing seizures. I’ll admit, I didn’t love Suicide Squad, even going into it blind, but I still had a pretty good time with it, most probably because everything in it was new to me; Harley’s crazy-eyed quips, Diablo’s pyrokinetic flamboyance and Deadshot’s astounding feats of marksmanship undulled by repetition.
Take, for example, three of the biggest film releases of the past year, The Force Awakens, Captain America: Civil War and X-Men: Apocalypse. I went into all three having avoided the myriad of pre-release marketing – which, especially in the case of Star Wars, was surely some kind of Midichlorian-infused miracle – and so stared at the screen in wonder as Han Solo boarded the Millennium Falcon, as Spider-Man swung into action, as Wolverine escaped from Weapon X’s compound. Coming at all three completely cold, I was able to judge them solely on their merits, their surprise reveals coming as actual surprises and their shortcomings evaluated by what was on the screen, and not in comparison to the highlight-reel version seen on some other screen beforehand. Sure, I still had baggage with Civil War – the comic book kind, to which the movie was spectacularly unfaithful – but at no point was I cross with the movie because it didn’t live up to its hype. Because I had managed to avoid the hype entirely.
But I’ll be honest. None of this is why I really hate trailers.
I just don’t like spoilers. AT ALL. I would rather be unpleasantly surprised than have a single moment’s amazement taken away from me, and since I have a solid plan, somewhere in the back of my head, to someday watch ALL the movies, I don’t want to have a single one of them ruined by – and you know this happens – seeing a preview so thorough you feel like you don’t even need to see the movie anymore.
Am I suggesting film companies shouldn’t make trailers for their forthcoming releases? Of course not. For a start, I actually don’t know anyone else who shares my intense hatred of them, and I would hesitate to deprive others of their weird need to pre-watch all the good bits. I am also aware that some people prefer to choose from among the various cinematic offerings rather than just assay it all, and so for them a good, bad or even indifferent trailer can help narrow down the field.
What I would like is for the advertised movie time to actually BE the movie time, but with the theater opening, say, half an hour earlier for anyone who wants to be inundated with scenes from the next big blockbuster and reminders to switch off their cell phones. (We know, okay?)
Then I never need miss a pre-credits sequence again. But until then: totally worth it.