Wow! What a selection!
I am often asked why I wind up skipping many of the current crop of big summer movies. My response is that, based on the trailers, these movies don't really interest me at all. This often gets a quizzical look because what works up so many people to see these movies are the whiz-bang trailers managing to hook their interest.
Movie trailers are an odd form. Usually lasting about 2 minutes and change, they attempt to create a satisfying experience to hint at a potentially more exciting experience. Despite trailers often being credited with helping a poor movie reap box office awards, I often find them spectacularly ineffective in enticing me to see a movie, particularly if they are loud and loaded with visual effects money shots and cookie cutter story elements.
This video I put together may help explain myself:
Summer Movie Trailer Déjà Vu; also viewable on YouTube
My own personal experience cutting trailers has been limited to this, this and this. I also did extensive final revisions on a couple of trailers for National Lampoon's films. I know what you're thinking. But, hey, a job is a job! At least, I didn't have to watch those movies from beginning to end. There were no pretensions as to what type of movies they were. As long as there were scenes included with fart jokes, college kids partying with kegs of beer and hints of some T&A, then, as an editor, I was meeting the goals of the trailer. What was most important was selling a product to a certain audience who would actually pay money to own a DVD of a National Lampoon movie, though some of us may shudder to think who these people are.
But, big-budget Hollywood summer movies are in a different league. While I have little interest in discussing the merits of those individual movies (since I'm not planning on seeing them until maybe Netflix or cable, if at all), the subject that interests me most is deconstructing the big Hollywood sell, perhaps so we can all stop and wonder why we get so easily seduced by something so hackneyed and, in my opinion, more than a bit self-important?
Why do the movie studios feel so obligated to dumb their marketing down to such tired visual and aural shorthand while simultaneously attempting to convince us such assembly part story devices are grand and mythic? Why do audiences fall for the same hustle over and over? I bet I could pull the trailers for last year's summer movies, cut them into the above video and confuse the hell out of you even more.
Moviegoers often seem obliged to flock to the movies that marketers deem deserving of their money. When they see trailers containing ominous dialogue, cliched backstory, and gibberish about destiny between all the explosions the movie has to offer, it eases them into a state of mind that thinks it is safe to see these movies, as opposed to trying something out that may make take them out of their personal comfort zone.
The marketing also attempts to make these movies seem Important with a capital T. I have a little more respect for a movie trailer of a junk movie that at least is aware that it's junk, but those are few and far between. The utter sameness of the modern movie trailer is sort of depressing to watch.
I have noticed, in movie site comments sections, that many posters will decry the quality of most Hollywood movies, but will still salivate over the latest cool new trailer they've just witnessed (like those I featured in my video). What's worse is that the movie will most likely disappoint them when released, which results in more comments about how shitty movies are before they fall for yet another money shot-laden trailer. Hollywood doesn't care much whether you liked the product, as long as they have your money.
I would guess, that for the last 6 or 7 years, the reason for myself seeing only about 30 or so new releases in a given year is that the theatrical landscape is so barren from January to August, with few exceptions. I would say my recent scant moviegoing in the summer movie season has contributed to the decreasing number of movies I see overall. I can usually pick out about 2-3 movies each summer that I would actually pay money to see and one of those is usually the annual Pixar film, allegedly made for the young'uns.
Most will take this as a prejudice against Hollywood movies, though it's hard to argue that the premises of recent big summer movies, as presented in their trailers, inspire much excitement. Fighting robots? Rebooted franchises? Movies based on toys? The constant urge to crown main characters “The One” because they are so unique, all powerful and destined for greatness? Is there not something wrong when I can map out every beat of the story just from watching the trailer?
Familiarity allows this Summer Movie Hustle to happen. To paraphrase “Field of Dreams”: If they recognize it, they will come. We're most likely never going to have a summer movie season again like 1982 where visionary works such as “Blade Runner”, “The Thing” and “The Road Warrior” all came out within weeks of one another. I'm not as big a fan now, as I was back then of '82 movies such as “E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial” or “Poltergeist”. But even those movies didn't rely on such easy hooks to rope people in.
There was a certain emotional restraint, an attention to mood and even a bit of mystery to movie trailers back then rather than the bullet point presentation of Syd Field's greatest hits backed by a limitless special effects budget we get today. Hell, I would say there was almost an artistic touch to them that may seem old-hat and clunky to today's audiences. They may seem clunky, but at least they had some character and do not come across as soulless movies seeking unearned artistic validation.
You wish that Hollywood would try a little harder to interest those with more discerning tastes. Or have they just given up on us? The least we can do as moviegoers is to not make it so easy for them by taking the bait as often as many of us do.
Here are some of the original trailers for those 1982 movies I mentioned:
“Blade Runner” Trailer:
“The Thing” Trailer:
“The Road Warrior” Trailer:
“E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial” Trailer: