Saturday, 8 August 2009

More Trailer Trash

Maybe fifteen months later is too long to do a follow-up entry to a previous post, but to hell with sticking to convention, I'm going to do it anyway. Said previous post was actually inspired by an entry Telf wrote on the varying success of film trailers, and how certain trailers get it wrong. A pet peeve Telf and I share is trailers that don't know when to stop - essentially telling a large part (in the worst cases, all) of the film's story, instead of giving just a taster of what is to come when seeing the film itself. Seeing as I've experienced a couple such trailers recently, I thought I'd share my take on them.

Incidentally, everything below contains potential spoilers (although most of it is based on the content of the trailers alone, so I can't be certain what's a spoiler and what's not. That said, it would be difficult to spoil some of these films more than the people who made the trailer already have)

The Taking Of Pelham 123 (click here for the trailer)
The combination of Denzel Washington and John Travolta initially made this a film I was interested in seeing. However, the more I heard about Pelham 123, mainly about it being just another flat and formulaic action flick, the more my interest wained. I was still curious though, and thought it could be one to see just to make my own judgement on. That is, until I saw the trailers for it. I knew the basic plot of the film, which is where the trailer starts, and where it should end. But it doesn't. So we get the set-up: Washington's introduced as the average guy just trying to do his day job, Travolta as the sociopathic bad guy, whose actions throw Washington unwillingly into the hero role. Standard action fare. Fine, no problem. But hold on, the trailer has more to say. We get a bit more interaction between hero and villain; we find out some of the details behind the villain's motives. At this point I was really hoping the trailer would finish, or at least stop giving away the plot of the film. But it doesn't. It keeps going. We get Washington doing all the hero stuff, including a high speed taxi chase (of which we see a fair amount) where he's apparently taking a large amount of money down to Travolta in the subway train, and even see Washington and Travolta's characters' first meeting. And it goes on. By the time I'd finished watching the trailer, I felt I pretty much knew what happens in the film apart from the finale. If I have to sit through everything before the end knowing basically what's going to happen, then I just won't bother. And that's what Pelham 123's trailer did. It made me just not bothered about the film it was advertising. Good work, guys who made this trailer.

Funny People (clicky for trailery-type thingamajig)
Not quite as serious an offender as the trailer for Pelham 123, but this is a film that I am much more interested in seeing, so my disappointment at its ham-fisted trailer was amplified when I first saw it. This trailer essentially runs around a minute too long. We see Adam Sandler as a successful comedian - no problem. We see Seth Rogen as a comedian just starting out - fine. We see Jonah Hill. My interest is sustained despite this. A film about comedians is enough to draw me in. Then we find out Sandler's character is dying. A twist to add further interest. This looks like a film I'd really be interested in. The trailer continues, drawing me in further, and then when it should finish, it goes too far - Sandler's character recovers from his fatal affliction. A very frustrating fact to include in the trailer, as now when I go to see the film (which I still want to despite my annoyance at the trailer's spoilerific qualities), whenever they make out that Sandler's character is close to death and that it's very sad, in the back of my mind I'll simply be thinking "he's not going to die, so I don't need to worry about that". Essentially, up until the point that Sandler's character is told he's going to beat his illness, the film won't be as satisfying as it potentially could have been as I've had that major plot point revealed to me. Still looks to be a good film, but a shame that the trailer has slightly spoiled it for me already.

There have been a couple of others recently, but these are the ones that stuck out in my mind.

In contrast, the trailer for the new Coen brothers film A Serious Man is what I would define as a very good trailer.

So why is this trailer so much better than those for Pelham 123 and Funny People? Well, it's original for starters. I can't remember seeing a trailer like it before in terms of the way sound and image loops are used. Secondly, it's intriguing - it draws you in without showing you very much at all. I could make some guesses at what some of the film's themes and ideas might be, but I couldn't tell you what the story is. But I do want to know what it is, so the trailer has done it's job. The simple and unostentatious presentation of some of the Coens' previous hits at the end is the icing on the cake. True, not all films are able to do this; but this trailer can, and does it pretty well too.

Just to finish off, I've seen the trailer for G.I. Joe a few times recently. Not a particularly bad trailer in terms of giving away plot, but the film looks like total dross (and most probably without much plot to have given away). The reason I mention it is that, after seeing it for the first time, I immediately drew one or two comparisons with a film in particular from a few years ago. Those one or two grew to several comparisons on a second and third viewing. And I'm so glad to see that it's not just me who spotted them...

I was actually considering going to see G.I. Joe just in the hope that it is so bad that it's laughably bad, but I don't know if I can manage it now. I think to stomach the whole film I'd be hoping all the way through that Matt Damon was going to crop up and say his name repeatedly in a moronic voice.

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