Are Trailers Spoiling Movies?
For our first official podcast – the previous being more of a test run – we decided to discuss the idea of movies being “spoiled” by their trailers. The topic arose from a discussion between Laura and myself over the way trailers for Marvel films, specifically, seem determined to showcase ever aspect of the movie they are intending to sell, presumably with the goal of finding something, anything, that will lure in an audience, whilst also having the (likely unintentional) negative effect of leaving few surprises left unseen.
Obviously this isn’t a practice held exclusively by Marvel. One much more recent example, which you also won’t find in the podcast, is the trailer for Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, specifically the most recent one.
To those who have followed or, like myself, side-glanced, at the development of this movie, it’s difficult to ignore that a lot of plot points have been given away. Some are to be taken as granted – Superman and Batman are going to fight, eventually they’ll stop, and then most likely team up against a big nasty villain.
What wasn’t initially known, was the form this big nasty villain would take. That is, until the trailer revealed it to be (SPOILERS AHEAD, YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!) Doomsday. Yep, he’s there in the trailer and it’s not just some vague image or cryptic line implying his existence in the plot. Nope, he’s there as clear as day.
So, now that we’ve pretty much got the makings of an entire story in our minds, what secrets will the movie hold for us? Unexpected cameos? Unlikely. It’s been fairly hard to avoid the constant barrage of articles detailing that the entire DC Universe is going to be cropping up in this one. But there’ll surely be some big twist that changes everything, right?
Well, that’s something to hope for, certainly, but if they’re taking the approach of Marvel’s Ant-Man or Age of Ultron as a template for selling the film, I’d have my doubts. Both movies, either through their trailers or released clips succeeded in giving away a great deal, and while there were still one or two things left to discover, I had to agree with Laura that when it came to seeing many of the best bits in the actual movie, it felt like we’d already seen them many times before.
Yeah, I know. It’s not really THAT big of a deal. But such is the effect of spoilers that you sometimes have to wonder how much more powerful a moment would have been if you hadn’t already known it was coming.
Take the Vision, for example, spoiled not in a trailer at first, but in a poster. The character’s role was one of the few things left to the imagination, but how much more exciting might it have been to not even know he was going to crop up until the moment when he does?
Of course, that’s all just speculation and it’s all entirely subjective anyway. Not everyone is bothered by spoilers, and the definition of what counts as one varies from person to person. You might be forgiven for not thinking it’s a spoiler that the good guy saves the day, particularly in a superhero film where this is generally to be taken for granted (with a few exceptions), however, even something that innocuous can diminish your ability to suspend disbelief, and thus engage with the movie.
On the other hand, being overly secretive can backfire, particularly when the marketing of a film leads to the complete warping of expectations. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is partly guilty of this, albeit in an innocent way, with its marketing of the chrome-armoured Captain Phasma, (MILD SPOILERS, AHOY!) whose appearance can be seen in everything from action figures to coffee mugs and beyond, implying a pivotal role in the movie. Oh, how very naïve we were!
That bait-and-switch, unintentional though it likely was, left me to feel a similar disappointment to what I felt at the lack of something bigger in Age of Ultron than had already been shown in the trailers. I should add, that slight disappointment aside, I still enjoyed both movies, but I was left with a sense of “what if?”.
Myself, I’m a purist, generally hoping to avoid anything that might reveal more than what the trailer tells me about a movie before I watch it. Knowing all the characters, all the plot details, and realising I’ve seen all the best bits already in the trailer, leaves me significantly less pumped for a movie, and tends to lower my expectations significantly.
I think, personally, I’d rather watch a film I know less about and be disappointed that it wasn’t as good as I hoped, than already know everything of significance about it before I even take my seat in the cinema.
…But maybe that’s just me.