In the past week there have been trailers for two films that have been popping up in my social media feeds an awful lot: Luc Besson's Valerian (not just "Valerian" mind, "Luc Besson's Valerian". He's an auteur don't you know) and the live action remake of the classic anime Ghost in the Shell.
I'll have a bit of a word on both a bit further down but it got me to thinking about trailers and their purpose. As far as I understood it, a trailer was just what the name implied: a brief promotion for an upcoming movie that would whet the palette and get audiences giddy with anticipation. When I was a nipper these where the fillers before the main cinematic event that got you to spend your money on the next film at the movie theatre. And they still are. But something's changed.
Even Broken Arrow looked good.
They've got longer. And longer. And blow me if they haven't started turning into a summary of pretty much the entire movie. What happened to 30 seconds of trailer which didn't explain everything? Trailers used to be so brief that they even made Broken Arrow (with John Travolta and Christian Slater kids) look like Citizen Kane. And now there are trailers for the trailers. I'm sure they must work, because otherwise people wouldn't keep making them. But they seem to have lost the plot a bit.
Naturally I blame a combination of social media and a desire for people to want to know everything right now. But then I'm getting older and grumpier as has been previously demonstrated in other blogs. My case in point for how trailers can be used as a fantastic piece of marketing without giving the game away is those that were made for the original version of Independence Day (the one where a PC virus saved mankind if you remember). There was a 6 month(ish) campaign of teasers that went out before every big movie that year, each building up the tension without giving much away. It created an astonishing amount of hype and when we saw the final movie it was still a complete thrill (though it hasn't aged well!).
Too much leg
For me, trailers today aren't what they purport to be. But then I think their purpose has changed. There is a bigger industry around generating hype in order to guarantee box office. For me, it can mean that some films lose a bit of the lustre as the surprises can become lessened due to over exposure of pre-release information. And it can also be potentially debilitating to people's ability to judge a movie on its own merits rather than making massive generalisations based on scant information.
What do you mean Dom?
Well, I'll tell you.
Shit-storm in a tea cup.
A few months ago the first trailer aired of the live action version of Ghost in the Shell. This is quite a big deal. It's a big film based on a well established and well loved anime. And there was a relative shit-storm when it first hit. Most focussing on the casting of Scarlett Johansson in the lead role and the fact that the film had replaced Japanese characters with white counterparts. I get this. I completely understand the frustration one has when something that you love in its original form is taken on and changed for a different audience (especially when it takes an entire culture and displaces it to appease a mass market). But remember, this is not a new thing, Hollywood has been doing this for years. They want to leverage global sales of movies and if that means taking advantage of big cultural hits and remaking them for a wider audience they will do that (and the people they buy the rights off let them, don't forget that). Because, as the name of this blog suggests: no-one likes subtitles right? Well, that's what some people think.
Anyway, after a lot of bitching and whining a new trailer appeared the other day. A full length version. And guess what? People stopped throwing their crap at the wall and started saying things like "it actually looks pretty good", "Scarlett Johansson looks like she's well cast for the role", "Fucking hell, is that Tricky in there"? And lo, internet insanity was calmed as people realised they were getting het-up over a minimal amount of information.
And Beat Takeshi's in it so calm the fuck down people, this is going to be fine. And yes, I have forgiven him for appearing in Johnny Mnemonic.
He's an auteur actually.
And while I'm on it, I'm actually looking forward to Luc Besson's Valerian. I want this film to be great. He hasn't made anything of real beauty since The Fifth Element. Here is a director who has massively lost his mojo and spent more time producing than directing. I love his film's so much I did a dissertation on how La Femme Nikita was essentially a cinematic version of Freud's oedipal complex (buy me a pint and I'll tell you about it). Please be good!
You see, teaser trailers bloody well work! The bastards!