Columnist Jon Paul Roberts explores the excitement of film trailers.
Sometimes I wonder if I love trailers even more than I love the movies themselves. As a kid (and, hell, even now) I never wanted to miss the trailers, the two-minute mini-movies that reek of possibility. Sure, I’ve seen most of them before, at previous screenings or on YouTube, but that doesn’t quell my excitement. Last year, for example, I felt the same wide-eyed wonder every time a saw the trailer for Hustlers, which was exceptional and set to Cardi B’s ‘Money’, and every time Jennifer Lopez delivered her lines, it felt like the first time. It was the same the year before with the trailer for A Star is Born, when Lady Gaga belted gibberish over images of private jets and motorcycle rides, I felt a giddy, childlike glee.
It’s not just me who is excited by them either; there is a whole industry built around trailers. Now, studios rely on YouTubers and internet sites to deconstruct them frame-by-frame, to search for clues, and talk about them on Twitter. They hope that the internet erupts with discussion and excitement. Remember last summer? Was there anything more discussed than the Cats trailer? From the horrified to the morbidly curious, digital fur technology and a-sort-of-sexy-but-I-don’t-really-want-to-think-about-it-because-he’s-meant-to-be-a-cat Jason Derulo captured the hearts and minds of the internet. It became instantly meme-worthy, and you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who hadn’t seen it. Cats is an example of how a trailer can become a cultural event in the same way music videos like ‘WAP’ and shows like Tiger King were this year. Even if the movie itself bombed, it cemented itself within our cultural consciousness in just two-minutes-and-thirty-three-seconds, and that’s exactly what the studios want.
These days, you have to have a keen eye when it comes to trailers. I can generally tell a studio is trying to promote a stinker from the trailer they release. After all, millions of dollars go into these films, and then, when they’re presented with a naff final product they have no choice but to try and sell it. However, if you look closely, you can tell. When I saw the trailer for The Goldfinch, I knew. Jojo Rabbit, I knew. Downhill, I knew. How to Build a Girl, I… well, actually I had no idea about that one (lol jk, I knew). Advertising teams try to hide bad films by editing bombastic trailers for them; they use quick cuts and let it all build to climax. Still, even if trailers act as smoke and mirrors for bad movies, there is nothing better than seeing a great trailer; one that gets your blood racing and has you on your knees asking your God (in my case, Stevie Nicks) not to let you die before that film comes out.
At the end of August, the cinema’s will finally have new releases to screen and the trailers for those are already out there. Tenet, the Bill & Ted sequel, and The Kingsmen prequel are all slated to open in September. October holds Wonder Woman 1984 and Candyman (which had a stellar trailer set to a creepified version of ‘Say My Name’ by Destiny’s Child) while November offers Black Widow and No Time To Die. The trailers for these all came out months ago, and the studios are hoping that audiences remember them.
As for me, the most exciting trailers released recently are both for Netflix. I’m Thinking of Ending Things Charlie Kaufman’s latest endeavour starring a cast of people I adore – Jessie Buckley (who deserves all the world), Jesse Plemons (who is one of my favourite actors working today and is also married to Kirsten Dunst which is a huge bonus), and Toni Collete (who is literally incomparable to everyone else) to be precise. The trailer is a weird mix of spooky and challenging which, if you look at Kaufman’s oeuvre, fits perfectly. It’s the first time, since lockdown began, that I’ve felt excited about a film release and I’ve watched the trailer about fifteen times since it dropped last week.
Then, they also have the star-studded and much anticipated The Devil All the Time which brings together everyone’s internet crushes: Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Sebastian Stan, and Riley Keough into a bizarre-looking gothic tale of the American South. This one could go either way, quality-wise, but it also has Robert Pattinson pouring spiders onto his own face so… well, do with that what you will.
Soon, we will be able to sit in dark spaces and revel in the coming attractions. Hopefully, those films will keep coming and, after a nearly six-month break, the back end of 2020 could be pretty crowded. To stand out, they’ll need some killer trailers and I, for one, am ready for them.
Also Read: How Film Changed Me: On Moving House