Reel Talk: Leave it to the imagination

September 18, 2014

As an industrious college student, there’s nothing I love more than killing time by watching movie trailers. Something about the instant gratification and cheesy melodramatic music really gets me going. 

I tend to watch trailers multiple times, both before and after watching the movie. Beforehand, I think of them as my introduction to the actors and soundtrack. Afterward, I like to see if they revealed too much about the film. This issue is a heated argument in the industry today. What do we get from spending $15 to watch the feature film on a silver screen when a complete Sparknotes version was available for free all along? 

Blockbusters are the biggest culprits of this practice. Eager to entice crowds with their overdone CGI and big-name actors, trailers tease climactic scenes and show montages of sweaty A-listers after battle. “Of course they’re going to end up together,” we used to predict, before trailers came to be so revealing. Now we’re given slow motion previews of these precipitated love interests in the trailer.

Like the blurb on the back of a book, trailers are important. With attendance in movie theaters undeniably low, it seems safe to say that we need something to get people off the Internet and into the theater. But at what cost?

A survey conducted by research company YouGov Omnibus found that a whopping 49 percent of participants believed that trailers revealed too much of a movie’s plot. Though this number may seem underwhelming, it’s a sharp contrast to the 20 percent that felt trailers revealed nothing at all. 

With remakes coming into style, it’s harder and less worthwhile to hide anything in trailers. People already know what’s coming—they merely want to see it with bigger explosions and glossier color. Movies that started as books follow this trend, too. The new Hunger Games and Hobbit trailers leave little to be imagined for those who have read the books. Moreover, since the book’s readers constitute the core of their fanbase, producers feel little need to hide anything. 

Take this past summer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, for example The trailer highlights every major scene of the movie—including Magneto’s prison break and his quick return to the side of evil. As the trailer’s dramatic soundtrack crescendos, the preview seems to be built just like the movie: famous actors, then build up, and build up, then fight scenes, and—boom—resolution. 

Perhaps because of their smaller budgets or their already limited audience, independent film trailers do a much better job of pulling viewers in without revealing much of the plot.

When I suggested to a friend that we watch The Broken Circle Breakdown, I imagined that we would be watching a romantic drama about a turbulent romance—some beautiful people who struggle with love. My friend was hooked after watching the trailer. 

Lo and behold, the trailer was nothing like I had imagined the movie at all. In fact, the movie was so incredibly and beautifully made that I was pleased the trailer hadn’t prepared me. It presented only a few clips of early scenes in the film and created a tone linked to only one part of the movie, before any of the film’s core, its captivating developments. 

Trailers are important. I am less likely to be interested and more likely to be irritated with a film that doesn’t give me any kind of window into its story. I want to know a little about what I’m walking into—but there is a line between what is necessary and what is overkill. I love glistening stars and slow motion explosions as much as the next Hoya, but why do the reading if you’ve read the whole Sparknotes? When it comes to movie trailers, less is more. 

Dayana Morales Gomez
Dayana Morales Gomez is the former editor-in-chief of the Georgetown Voice. She graduated from the School of Foreign Service.

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