Movies – More Than the Sum of Their Previews?

March 20, 2007

I love movie trailers. In fact, sometimes I love the movie trailers more than the movies themselves. It just hit me the other day that there must be something terribly wrong with this recurring phenomenon. Lately, it seems to me that movie makers are pouring all their creative effort into trailers that will suck viewers in, making us succumb blindly to the power of the silver screen. These trailers showcase all the highlights and special effects in a gripping one-minute segment designed to smack you senseless with cinematic anarchy, so that we have no choice but to cough up $9.75 and be herded single-file into a stuffy theater like mindless zombies. After being bombarded with fifteen minutes of other trailers (thus, starting the vicious cycle all over again), we’re often left with a film that seems no better than the original preview, being spread out over two hours of mediocre plot and character development, and lacking any kind of substance whatsoever. Did I miss something? Because apparently I wasted two hours of my life on a plot that could be annotated in a sixty-second commercial.

If you’re looking for specifics – and there are numerous ones to name – the particular movie that drove me to write this post is “300.” Now, I realize that everyone is subject to their own opinion, and I don’t claim to be a renowned movie critic, but come on… I feel like someone pick-pocketed my $9.75, used the money to buy a fake pair of designer brand sunglasses and then sold them to me for $100 at a pawn shop. It was like getting a drive-by wedgie, and not even catching the license plate of the vehicle. It was like finally getting the Redeemer in Unreal Tournament, only to be sniped a second later by some panzy camper. Am I getting my point across? I felt decidedly ripped off watching this movie. Both times. If you haven’t already, see the trailer. It’s absolutely epic. I hadn’t felt so pumped over a movie trailer since Terminator 2. It contains no less than the following: Persians falling off a cliff, Gerard Butler yelling like a madman, strange creatures, women dancing around erotically and horses galloping in slow-mo with a sunrise backdrop. I didn’t think there was any way for this movie to not make me want to line up at 3:30 for the 9:30 show. Kudos to the Warner Bros. They certainly made a believer out of me…

I’m not going to turn this into a movie review, because that’s not the point of this post. I will list the good things about it, though. First, I like Gerard Butler as an actor. I think he’s incredibly talented and diverse, and his Scottish accent is heart-warming. He does an excellent job of portraying the brave, if not maniacal, king of Sparta. Secondly, seeing an army of 300 Spartans with six-packs definitely instills some motivation to hit the gym. That, and after leaving the theater I felt like I could meet Jet Li at the bus stop and stomp him into the ground, kind of like the feeling you get after watching a Rocky or Jean-Claude Van Damme movie. Thirdly, although they weren’t choreographed as well as some other medieval movies I’ve seen, some of the battles were cool. There were a number of slow-mo decapitations and dismemberments that will stick with me for a while. Beyond that, I honestly felt like they could have left out the entire intro, and the subplot involving the queen, not to mention the hunchback Spartan and quirky commentary by the one-eyed dude. In a nutshell, you get to see the battle of Thermopylae unfold in all its gory, and you learn of the underlying theme of bravery and sacrifice that eventually led thousands of Greeks to stand and fight Xerxes for freedom. Xerxes isn’t a god, by the way, but he is strangely homoerotic…

300 broke records for ticket sales in its opening weekend, and continues to dominate the box office – a testament to how good the trailer is. I’m serious… Get quicktime (www.apple.com/quicktime) and see it for yourself. Film companies aren’t dumb. One may tend to think that a mediocre movie with a fantastic trailer would decline rapidly in ticket sales after the first weekend. Not so… I’m willing to bet that even if the average person was told by a friend that the movie sucked, after seeing the trailer he would have to see it and find out for himself. They’ve made their money. On the other side of the coin, there are fantastic movies out there with trailers that don’t do them justice. This is because they have too much substance to fit into a one-minute segment. Movies than win at the Oscars don’t double and triple their production costs on opening weekend, but they do eventually get the recognition they deserve. I guess it all depends on your goals. Do you want to make a good movie, or do you want to make money? I think I’ll buy Adobe Premiere and make myself an explosive movie trailer, get it circulated on TV and have viewers come into their local theaters and pay $9.75 to watch a 2-hour documentary about a guy and his conversation with his shrink. I’ll be rich for sure.



  1. I haven’t seen 300 but I definitely still want to after reading this blog! lol. I have heard from almost everybody that it is amazing. Only two people have said it is only “good.” (which still doesn’t discourage me from seeing it). But I agree with what you are saying about the movie trailer thing. One example of a movie whose trailer doesn’t give it enough credit= Children of Men. Have you seen that movie? It was absolutely amazing and I was in awe the entire time. it was absolutely appalling and made me feel sick to be a human being, but the trailer makes it seem like some feel-good movie about triumph. Anyway, if you haven’t seen it, I suggest you watch it. I work with Ebert and Roeper, so I typically tend to trust their opinion. You should check their critique online- http://www.atthemoviestv.com. You also might want to start checking reviews before seeing movies to get a more in depth look at the film, aside from just the trailers and random friends. There are also cool online exclusives on the site..Hope the link helps!

  2. I appreciate your comments! I tried so hard to not have this come off as a bad review, but I think it may have happened anyways. 🙂 I don’t think 300 was bad. On the contrary, I did enjoy it… Enough to see it twice, but I think the trailer built it up to be more than it was. I was left feeling as if there should have been more. The same thing happened to me when I saw Spiderman 2. I guess the moral of the story is to never judge a movie by its preview, but what else do we have to go by? Even if the movie isn’t worth seeing, the only way to find out for sure is to buy a ticket and watch it. Most people are willing to do that, even if they do have their doubts. After seeing the preview for 300, I had no doubts at all, which is probably why I was so surprised to find that it was just an OK movie for me. Oddly enough, I did check out some reviews, and it seems to be fairing well with the critics. That being said, I’ve never really trusted movie critics. It is beyond me how a movie critic establishes a professional career judging movies subjectively, using their own personal criteria. I’m pretty sure there are fundamental guidelines for rating movies out there somewhere, but with movie critics it’s like paying someone to have an opinion. I just don’t buy it…

    Anyways, I’m probably making this out to be more of a big deal than it really is. It’s only ten dollars we’re talking about, but it’s not like you can get a refund if you don’t like what you see. This is my point. Film companies are smart, and the marketing gurus that they employ are even smarter. Did I mention filthy rich?

    Thanks for the link, by the way! I will definitely check that site out, and I will also definitely see Children of Men. It was on my list of movies to see back in the day, but I never got around to it. Thanks again for your feedback!


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