Movie trailers ruin movies

Alissa Wilkinson preaches the truth about movie trailers:

At best they’ll just show you stuff you probably knew anyway, or don’t need to know — who’s in the movie, what’s on the soundtrack, the basic plot setup. Maybe the look or the tone or the vibe. But trailers aren’t designed to give you a glimpse of the movie; they’re mini-movies, designed to sell tickets (or maybe subscriptions to a streamer). And they’re starting to feel increasingly divorced from their actual movies.

This has been a hobbyhorse of mine for a while, so I was delighted to be validated by a professional movie watcher (i.e. film critic).

I’m so serious about not watching trailers for movies I want to see that when I’m seeing a movie in the theater, I’ll close my eyes during the pre-show trailers (or just try to arrive after them). I’ll still hear them, but usually the audio and dialogue are abstracted enough from their use within the actual movie that it doesn’t spoil anything.

There’s certainly an art to a great movie trailer, both in its construction and purpose. One I think about a lot is Little Children, a movie I still haven’t seen.

It’s fine that most trailers aren’t high art, but it’s not fine when they spoil what they’re supposed to be promoting. Alissa:

It’s surprising how many movie trailers just mess up the viewing experience for someone who wants to see the film. I watched both The Lost City (very funny) and Ticket to Paradise (intermittently funny) before I saw their trailers. Why, oh why, would you put all of your film’s best jokes in the trailer? Does that not telegraph immense insecurity on the studio’s part? I guess once they get you in the door, they’ve got your money?

Her advice, which I co-sign:

Pick a few critics, maybe three, who you like, and rely on their writing to help you decide what to watch. Or, Google a movie to see who’s in it, who directed it, who wrote it, and what their previous work is, and make a judgment based on that. Or, even better, just watch a movie with little to no idea what it is and see if it surprises you — one of the best experiences you could ever have.

This is pretty much all I do, a recent example being The Banshees of Inishiern. A new movie reuniting the In Bruges crew of Martin McDonagh, Colin Farrell, and Brendan Gleeson? Sold. I’m in. I deliberately avoided all information about it and went in fresh. Even though I liked-it-not-loved-it, it was fully worth the experience of encountering a movie without any preconceived notions beyond an earned trust in the artists to deliver something worth seeing.


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