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Spoilers in trailers

MPAAScreen.jpgThere's a reason that I haven't posted the new trailer for Demi Moore's latest film Half Light, and that's because it's potentially full of spoilers, and it's a growing trend.

You can see how difficult it can be. A trailer has to capture the audience above any others being shown So it has to grab the audience quickly, keep them held, and make them remember the film after another four or five have been shown. Tough job.

So to do it they have to take the best snips of a film. Now in an action film that's not that difficult, explosions and one liners are aplenty without ruining the plot, but in a thriller?

What do you have in a thriller that you can use in a trailer? Surprises, moments of revelation, frights, shocks. These are the moments that can be edited quickfire into a trailer, and these are usually the moments which can be crucial to the plot.

It's not always the case though. Look at the recent Inside Man trailer. At the time I thought it looked slightly fishy, there's one moment when a pretty surprising moment of the film is given away. I'm totally convinced that the trailer had a hand in me not liking that film as much as I thought I would.

Even in V for Vendetta the trailer gives away too much, although it doesn't actually affect the film so much, it's still a pivotal moment and one of the largest scenes in the film.

What other trailers can you think of that have given away too much? I can remember the feeling many times but sitting here now I can't remember which films, I just remember angrily shouting at the screen...okay, that's for trailers on DVD's and TV, I didn't mean shouting at the cinema screen!

Yet powerfully twisted films have managed to keep their trailers completely free, such as The Sixth Sense. What others have managed to do that?

You see a trailer can be made to not spoil a film and yet be engaging and entertaining, it does work. The key is in capturing the mystique of the film in the short few minutes of the trailer, and not giving away any crucial moments.

For me I'm struggling in two minds. On one side I love watching trailers, I really do get hacked off if I'm late and miss them at the start of a film. On the other side there's this very issue I've talked about, the annoying practice of giving it away.

Yet don't blame the Director of the film, it's not their fault, for they've nothing to do with the trailer in most cases. The trailer is usually made by another company who are well versed in the art of creating a two minute audience grabber, and with that what loyalty do they hold to the film itself? None. They need to persuade you to go and see it, they hardly care if you enjoy it, they've been paid for the trailer already.



Now there are teaser trailers that basically are done to pique interest, the teaser trailer of Da Vinci Code (altho I am already familiar with the story) was really good and eventually a full trailer, sometimes 2-3 more will also be released. I also do not like to watch a trailer where you can almost guess how the story ends, what's the point of going?

The trailers I have seen recently, that of "Shooting Dogs" (I have no idea at all when I was watching it) was very good, it really made me want to see it. But what about that trailers that make a film look as if it was something else? Can you actually say that the makers had no control over it, that it was an inadvertent effect? Remember "The Village" and "Signs"? Both films had trailers that made you think, 'oh that is about aliens' (Signs) which it wasnt, and 'oh look that looks like a really good horror flick' (The Village) which again it wasnt, affecting your overall expectations of the film?

Richard, it's already Friday and youre still dishing out great articles! Well done!

I have seen this movie, "Half Light," on DVD at Blockbuster. Without me watching the trailer, or the spoilers, does this look like a good movie to see? The cover looks interesting, but you know what they say... "never judge a...."
Let me know.


Oh another thing I thought of:

I HATE DVD menus that give things away. THIS DRIVES ME CRAZY! I hate DVD menus in general anyway...don't even get me started on that, but when they give away pivotal scenes or moments of dialogue I wanna shoot my DVD player!


Any course on editing should include this exercise:

1) Choose any movie you like and ellaborate a trailer.

Some trailers are excellent pieces of editing. Some others save you the torture of paying a ticket to see two hours of crap.

Drewbacca says, "I wanna shoot my DVD player!"


Knowing you love Star Wars, this line reminded me of that scene between Han Solo and Greedo. ;-)

Got to agree with the DVD menu there. This is no longer trailers-spoilers related, but have you had an experience watching a film and a plot to another film was made reference to? I was watching "50 First Dates" in the cinema and out of nowhere, Drew Barrymore's character, that of the forgetful Lucy gave the plot of it away. And here's the thing, I have already planned to watch The Sixth Sense that weekend, so you can imagine my frustration, I wanted to shoot...


Totally! One kind of funny example is right in the middle of the credits of "Hot Shots Part Deux" (I think it was that movie), in big bold letters it says, "The secret to the crying game is...." and then it tells you the secret. For absolutley no reason. Funny. But annoying since I hadn't seen The Crying Game yet.

P.S. I would've been VERY pissed if someone told me the end to Sixth Sense before I saw it. It was one of the best endings of all time.

- Drewbacca

I personally can hear all about a movie and it doesnt spoil anything. But that's because i'm a writer and Know how stories are put together. so part of my enjoyment comes from seeing how the threads of it come together in the end and how it is played. I heard EVERYTHING about revenge of the sith before seeing it, but It still astonished me becuase I'm just that type of person.

I do, however , hate it when I see a trailer that lacks the creativity to keep a secret. The worst one I've seen lately was the one for "when a stranger calls"... i mean, unless something drastic happens, I know exactly what's going to happen.

I am in total favor of an idea of a seperate "spoiler trailer" page. that would be a great move.

A film with demi moore in it? to be honest i won't be watching the film anyways so spoil away crap movies.

General rule of thumb: if a film has to give away its secrets in a trailer then the film ain't worth watching.

Flight Plan...there was a trailer that gave away too much. Just heard it on the telly and remembered.

Drewbacca, watching The Sixth Sense already knowing how it would end was pretty annoying, a friend said, its your fault anyway, you left it too late to watch it. I was like, HELLO???!!!

Mogulus says, "I heard EVERYTHING about revenge of the sith before seeing it, but it still astonished me". Same here Mogulus, it all started with AOTC, I read the spoilers from AICN but when I went to see it, specially expecting that Yoda versus Dooku fight scene, I was still beside myself with glee. There are films where you already know how it would come about but it doesnt make great shake at all.

This practice is just the Satans little idiocy imps at work!

Trailers should pose questions not offers answers. The production of a good one should be crafted with the same care and attention as the movie and that goes double for thrillers or any movie with major suprises in it.

That's a good point about the ubiquity of the teaser trailer. maybe because they have to produce a teaser and a proper trailer the studio's feel obliged to distinguish one from the other by revealing more.

I know it's a pretty big glass house to be standing in, but I blame the fanboy mentality wherein fans want to know all about a movie before they see it. It's cutting off your nose to spite your face, for me most of the best movies I have seen were the ones I knew least about.

I was gonna give some examples but for the life of me I can't think of any right now.

V for Vendetta is a great example of trailers that drive me crazy - and having seen the movie, I can only guess that they put the movie's biggest action sequence into the trailer because there are no other great action sequences to show otherwise!

These days you tend to see a lot of trailers that also show an entire joke - setup, execution, punchline, reaction - and then you go to the movie and sit there waiting for and anticipating this "great" moment you've already seen. It completely takes you out of the movie and makes me want to beat the studio marketing department with my fists.

I remember reading an article several months ago (of course, it's vanished from the Internet now - too old!) that interviewed a trailer editor who claimed that moviegoers just want to know who's in a given movie and what exactly will happen. They don't want to be surprised; they want to know exactly what they're going to get if they fork over their money.

And we wonder why fewer people are going to the movies.

(BTW - best trailer not to give away the ending? The Usual Suspects, no question.)


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