I Can’t Watch Trailers Anymore


A cliche image, but a fun one.

Anybody out there suffering from trailer fatigue?

I see articles about this every now and then. Some take the angle of criticizing the tendency of modern trailers to spoil too much of the plot or too many of the big action moments. This is true. Others take the time to point out the way every trailer is basically trying to imitate the same thing — these days, it’s the “Inception noise.” Also true.

My issue, though, is that these things are just wearing me the hell out.

I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but at some point in the past few years most movie trailers went from being about two minutes long to about two and a half. To hazard a guess, most of the movies I’ve seen this summer were preceded by about five or six trailers.

In other words, there’s fifteen, maybe twenty minutes of this crap every time I want to see something in the theatre. Plus all the ads for the brand of projector the theatre is using, and the Coke in the lobby, and any number of other things.

Even the trailers themselves are overstuffed. On a lot of ‘em — particularly the ones promoting action/genre stuff — it feels like every available image from the movie has been squeezed in. My educated assumption would be that this is brought on by a corporate-driven paranoia that anything other than utter transparency regarding the content of a movie will somehow turn people off to it.


Odd then, that so many advertisers seem to think they’re copying Inception’s marketing scheme. That movie gave away almost nothing that I remember. It barely gave away the central premise of the story, much less the plot or any major action beats.

Certain things I’ve been reading indicate trailers are massively focus-tested, which would explain why they pretty much give every conceivable thing about a movie away except for the order that certain shots will appear in. Because when you ask a focus group what they want out of an advertisement whose very nature is to incite interest, they’re probably going to say they want more of plot or action or some other useless thing.

Which, in theory, would be why they’d go see the movie. But what do I know?


Every last thing about Oblivion, after watching this.

This whole trailer… thing… seems to be worse this year. At the least, this year is the first time I had to literally just look away from the screen for the vast majority of the trailers I see in theatres. It’s entirely possible that it’s been getting to this point for a while and I’ve simply not become sensitive to it until recently. (Thoughts?)

For those interested, the actual moment that I realized how much this was bothering me was in the run of ads before Elysium. Among the usual trailers was an extended clip of Metallica’s new IMAX… um… movie? Concert?


Image from Metallica’s new “Thing I Plan to Skip.”  

Anyway, the first thing that went through my mind was a feeling of anguish at what felt like a sneak Metallica attack.* But as the clip wore on, I was surprised to discover that I was enjoying the experience of watching the Metallica song far more than I enjoyed sitting through any of the other previews that day.

For me, this was a Weird Feeling. But not an unexplainable one.

The explanation, actually, is pretty freakin’ simple. The Metallica clip had nothing but footage that was intended to be there. In other words, most movie trailers take images and sound that are intended for one purpose (to make sense in a narrative feature film) and use them to create an entirely different sort of experience (one that feels like that poor soldier in Full Metal Jacket who was held down while his roommates beat him with bars of soap).


The shots used to create trailers often simply don’t go together, which is why it’s hard to sit through a two-and-a-half-minute long sequence of them on a thirty-foot screen, backed by the sorts of bass-heavy thumping that we apparently demand in our trailers these days.

Trailers used to have narrators, plot summary, or even complete scenes to give weight and context to the images audiences saw in the ads. Take all that away and you’re left with the current options to either give a miniature version of the movie or simply throw all the cool sh*t in it at the audience and hope they go for it.

Okay, I’m done. Yes, I realize I sound like a grumpy old fart. But I want to hear you guys weigh in on this. Is my age getting to me, or is the way our modern trailer lineups are cut simply exhausting? Let me know below.



*Actually, the FIRST thing I thought was that we were getting a surprise preview of Amazing Spider-man 2. Alas.


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  1. Couldn’t agree more.

    I feel that a good trailer does it’s job by giving me just a brief glimpse (45 sec or less) of something intriguing that makes me want to see the movie.

    *a great example, (though I know it’s over 1 min in lenght) is the original Super 8 trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpzUCA5i6zY

    I think that this “trend” of sorts with movie trailers is really killing comedy movies too. I go in expecting to see something I haven’t already seen in the trailers, thinking that they’ve saved the best for last … turns out they don’t and I already know all the punchlines.

  2. I still contend the best movie trailer ever made was for the movie ‘Unbreakable’. Gave virtually nothing about the movie away – but created a great deal of interest in watching the movie.

  3. Verizon has been pushing something Jaws-related on their On-Demand menu for a bit now and I find the tailer brilliant. Music, narrator, tension. It is amazingly well done.

    Really, tension is one of the elements that I find most lacking in trailers today but I guess that it’s been a while since I’ve seen a MOVIE that does tension well either.

    35 years later, that trailer makes me want to watch a movie that I’ve already seen dozens of times.

  4. I agree to a certain extent. I feel like the homogenization of trailers is a real issue, and certainly the theater experience you describe sounds awful, but that could be better expressed in a larger “what’s wrong with theaters” idea.

    For me, someone who goes to theaters MAYBE once a year, I tend to watch trailers in batches. Every couple weeks, I’ll check a few sites and watch maybe 15 minutes of new trailers. Controlling when I’m watching, and what I’m watching, ameliorates a lot of the problems you’re talking about.

    And while I do notice the trend of trailers giving things away too much (comedies, like the above poster pointed out) and looking/feeling/sounding the same, there are still some good ones:


    That trailer gives no major plot points away, sets up the premise nicely, and has a style all its own.

  5. I started to go with the 30 to 40 sec, intro to a trailer. If I like the first 30 sec of a trailer, I pause it and am already commited to see the movie. From that point on i avoid anything and everything related to the film till I actually see it in theaters. Worked great for Batman rise, Elysium, Pacific rim. The scenes they showed in elysium were great, cause I got to see all those scenes for the first time on the big screen eliminating spoilers and first time reactions to key scenes.

    Hope this made sense.

  6. Um, no. I still love watching trailers, particularly in a movie theater. I do have a problem with trailers that give away too much, but this is what’s called a crappy trailer. Of course we all have a problem with crappy trailers, just as we have a problem with crappy movies. By far the worst kind of trailer is a brilliant trailer for a bad movie. That’s the one that picks your pocket.

    My main peeve is that by the time I see a trailer on the big screen, I’ve already seen it on imdb. Often twice or more. I kind of wish they’d play new trailers exclusively in theaters for about a week before releasing them online. Then again, the whole point of advertising is to get eyeballs on your product.

  7. You are right. I actively avoid most trailers because I can’t stand the sameness anymore. A lot of times they’ll make me want to see the movie less. There are some really great ones out there, but most mainstream blockbuster films have the same style of paint-by-numbers adverts that I can’t stand anymore. I fins there are some really great fan trailer out there, though. Oh, and don’t call A Clockwork Orange cliche again. I keel you.

  8. I used to love trailers but now they either give the entire movie away or trick me into getting overly excited for a bad movies, best examples being the first Wolverine movie and Terminator Salvation. I saw the preview for Rush and Paranoia this week. Felt like I watched the entire movie.

  9. It’s tricky.. on one hand I love trailers because they excite me about upcoming movies but on the other hand they spoil too much.
    These days I just usually watch half of 1 trailer for a movie and then decide to watch it or not and then skip the rest of the trailer(s).

    Best trailer experience for me was Disctrict 9 (the first trailer I think).. which set it up a bit but made it seem like a “regular sci-fi movie”. I was blown away by the actual story once I saw the movie. Had no idea!

    The worst experience was the Oblivion trailer which spoiled (*spoiler*) that there were other people on the planet (Morgan Freeman and stuff). That would have been a nice plot twist to keep hidden and would make for a better trailer. Still loved the movie luckily.

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