Recently, I’ve seen a spade of comments and an increase in discourse about how movie trailers ruin movies. How they reveal too much. How they’re spoilers and are ruining movies. And while I respect that opinion, I just don’t think it’s true. So here is my defense of movie trailers from one genderqueer media critic.
Movie trailers have existed for as long as modern cinema has, giving us tantalizing little glimpses of movies to come in hopes of building buzz and hype and to help cover the exorbitant cost of making a film. Trailers in the past were more simple and straightforward, just a few out of context clips from the film and the release date for the movie. Just enough to give the audience a little taste. But in the 2000s, things took a turn. Movies had to make money, there was no choice but for them to make money and for movies to make money, you have to hook fans. I think that began with movies like Spiderman 2 where we saw the infamous car toss that took fans’ breath away and built immediate hype for this movie.
Around the time the MCU broke ground is when the ire with trailers began in earnest, mostly whiny fanboys who didn’t want any part of the movie experience “ruined” even though in a 30 second clip, it’s virtually impossible to have a movie that’s over an hour long ruined. But that’s when I fell in love with trailers more. I remember the hype of seeing the clips for The Avengers and falling in love with the idea of seeing the characters I had loved for years come together and began to countdown until the circled date on my calendar for the movie’s release.
Trailers exist to make money. Plain and simple. If we didn’t know what to expect from movies, we wouldn’t go see movies. There have absolutely been movies I’ve seen that I loved immensely without knowing anything about it and that whiplash made the film all the better: Kingsman immediately comes to mind about that where I was just asked to go by a then friend and that utter whiplash and surprise not knowing at all what to expect and then getting what I got was just fantastic.
There have even been movies that I didn’t care for the trailer, still went and ended up either loving the movie or confirming my opinion.
But then there are other times when a movie trailer has made me decide on the spot that I am seeing this movie: that it once had my interest and now it has my attention. The 4th Matrix film did that for me and actually inspired me to write this post.
That trailer alone despite the questions I have about the film and its direction immediately brought me back to a time when I loved these movies and respected these directors and was in awe of this type of filmmaking.
Movie trailers are all about money and trying to vie for our increasingly finite attention economy and with that in mind, I will continue to defend movie trailers.