Coming Soon to a Theater Near You

Happy Cyber Monday everybody! Rest assured that I will not ask for a credit card number or force you to prove you’re a real human being by deciphering captchas.

Last week I was as civil as I could be in my recounting of the biggest sports rivalry on this continent: the annual football game between Ohio State and Satan, I mean the Devil, I mean Michigan. I actually got to go to the 111th game between the teams this past Saturday in Columbus, Ohio, my first time being in the crowd during a match in the storied contest. Somewhat similar to last year, Michigan came in with a lackluster record but played up big and actually led for a concerning amount of time before the Buckeyes prevailed by a tighter-than-it-appears 42-28 score (which meant I got happy drunk instead of sad drunk on Saturday), thanks in large part to Ezekiel Elliott making the play of the game after a devastating blow to Ohio State’s offense. It helped that this happened one minute later. Props to Michigan’s quarterback Devin Gardner, not for his surprisingly effective and for once not completely shitty performance, but for his sportsmanship in going over and kneeling beside and high-fiving Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett who suffered a season-ending injury in the fourth quarter of the game. Even the most bitter rivals can do the classy thing when the game, even The Game, takes a backseat to player well-being. The real concern on Ohio State’s sideline now though is the unsettling discovery of the body of walk-on defensive lineman Kosta Karageorge who went missing last Wednesday and died of an apparent suicide potentially linked to concussions, an ever-growing emphasis of safety in my favorite sport. But that somber topic is for another post.

Today, in the wake of two of the biggest blockbuster movie trailers released days apart last week, I will be talking a bit about the history of movie trailers, specifically blockbusters. Of course, it’ll mostly be my opinions, but you knew that already. If you’d like a detailed history on trailers without having to read further, check out this great video from a great series. But please come back and read the rest of this. So far I’ve just given a glimpse into what’s to come and am just building to the real excitement.

If you’ve been to a movie theater in your lifetime, or watched television during a commercial break, or waited for one of my previous video links to load you’ve undoubtedly seen a movie trailer before. Many people (myself included) enjoy the experience of going to a movie theater to see not only the feature film but the previews for other upcoming films. Trailers provide that first peek at a movie whether we’re familiar with it yet or not. Now more than ever though, our first time seeing a preview is not the first time we’ve heard of the film it is advertising. Nowadays we live in a world (“In a world!“) where a guy dressed as a beer-gutted Wonder Woman can ask a question about what shampoo Chris Hemsworth uses at Comic-Con Minneapolis and it goes viral and has thousands of superfans and amateur critics analyzing every bit of it. This is nothing new for our society though, nor is it uniquely adhered to cinema. Social media on a much faster and connected worldwide web allow anyone to put up anything at any moment, so long as they have the means to do so, and if you’re reading this then you have the means to do so. Obviously it wasn’t always like this, and movies had to get their name out there without the help of Wonder Whoa-man. Posters did the trick to a degree from the very beginning, and they’re still visible everywhere today, but the movie trailer was the home run studios were looking for.

Production studios started showing movie trailers (originally called such because they often followed the feature film) as early as 1916. Movie trailers have since evolved into a separate art form that not so much advertizes for a film as much as it excites audiences already anticipating its release long before it even begins filming in some cases. I speak mainly of the grand American summer blockbuster which has been the undisputed champion at the box office since 1975 when the greatest movie of all time was released. That trailer is terribly incorrect in its description of a shark, but goddamn it filled up theaters and was released in more of them than any previously released movie. Since Jaws gave rise to the summer blockbuster the movie trailer for such films followed its formula and even improved upon it to grab people by face and pull them into fast, loud, and big, Big, BIG trailers filled with everything from explosions to bigger explosions.

Nowadays we’ve got so many of these movies coming out that the big ones – I mean the really big ones – are set on the summer table many years in advance. Next summer is stacked more than the 1992 Dream Team in terms of blockbuster films, and with those upcoming films come trailers, teasers, pictures, interviews, etc. Some of these we’ve waited for a few years to see, others we’ve waited decades. But of course when we do get to see the first bit of each we get just that; production companies know based on the success of previous films that we’ll see the next ones without any need for marketing, so they tease us with a staggered series of trailers. It goes like this:

  • Teaser (itty-bitty)
  • Trailer 1 (aka Extended Trailer 1; longer)
  • Trailer 2 (equal to T1 in length or longer; different and/or more scenes)

They know they’re teasing us too, because they call the first sample scoop of a trailer a teaser. It usually lasts only 10-90 seconds with minimal dialogue and a good amount of short scenes that show characters and places that will factor into the story. Teasers are nothing new; they’ve been used since the 1970s, however the way they are made today is often extremely annoying to me. They either show next to nothing and serve as a mere reminder of a movie you’re already awaiting (which just pisses me off) or they show waaaaaay too goddamn much and spoil the plot or at least show too many climactic scenes (which just pisses me off). They can be done right though. All you have to do is have a few seconds of scenes (that occur early in the movie so when you actually see the movie you’re not wondering when some scene you saw will happen) that show characters reacting to the situation that will serve as the core of the story. It doesn’t have to be five minutes long and show every detail; that’s what the next trailer’s for.

Like them or not, teasers are just the tip of the movieberg and they are often followed by two more longer trailers. These are the trailers that expand upon what the teaser already established about the movie. Sometimes they merely lengthen the teaser (or more likely companies originally make the first trailer then shave it down to the teaser to be released prior to it). The first trailer features more extensive dialogue and longer scenes, and the second trailer has even more talking and scenes, which usually means more potential spoilers. At least now the director of a film gets more of a say in what goes in the trailer then in years past. Poor James Cameron.

I know I may be sounding hypocritical as I earlier stated that watching the previews is one of my favorite parts of going to the movies, but I’m mainly lamenting over the recent trend of essentially having trailers for longer trailers which show me more than I care to see of a movie before I actually go to see it. And I can’t just avoid it as they are bombarded upon almost every electronic device with a screen and made for people to debate and discuss and spread around with a “Dude! Did you see that new Guardians of the Galaxy trailer? Who knew it was in space? Ballin!” This is mainly a problem for blockbusters and comedies as opposed to award-contending dramas, because, again, big movies make big money. Despite all this, there are some very good teasers and trailers out there, and I’m going to further discuss three really good ones that happen to be for the three movies that I am most eagerly looking forward to for next year.

It recently started with this, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Joss Whedon’s super-anticipated, super-sequel to the best superhero movie of 2012. I initially steered clear of watching it for fear of finding out too much, but it does just what it should: we see all our favorite Avengers, some new friends (and foes), and witness genuine emotions amongst the ever-growing devastation that shows the forces of badness getting stronger – something that will need to happen to challenge such a super-powered team. Hulk looks like he’s going through some serious shit. It’s also nice to see Tony Stark kind of humbled as his motions and emotions say, “I fucked up.” In fact this thing and it’s following trailers (watch this hunk of gold) is so solid, the biggest spoilers come not from the trailers but the contracts key actors have signed and the announcement of the approximate release times of the next films. Last and maybe best, James Spader is deliciously creepy sounding as the voice of the eponymous villain and the use of Pinocchio‘s “I’ve Got No Strings” (which they can use because Disney!) is unsettling to say the least. It’s certainly the most disturbing instance of an artificial intelligence program reciting an old-timey tune to tie in with its theme since HAL-9000 sang “A Bicycle Built for Two” in 2001: A Space Odyssey (“I’m half crazy…”).

But things really blew up in the last week when we were given a glimpse of the now fully-functioning, no-expense-spared dinosaur-filled fun on Isla Nublar. In addition to the apparent success the place has had as a tourist attraction where people aren’t (yet) being eaten alive by what they’re coming to see, it seems that the park has gone from a prehistoric zoo to a full-on animal theme park that doesn’t place as much emphasis on maintaining the welfare of its inhabitants (which it certainly shouldn’t be keeping in a captive setting) as it does on bringing in more guests and their money in droves (even at the risk of their staff). No wonder the creators of this film opted to call it Sea – er, I mean Jurassic World. I do, however, heartily agree with the decision to hire Chris Pratt to be the voice of reason and official badass who rides a motorcycle alongside velociraptors. Totally a good idea.

This one generated Dreadnoughtus-sized buzz after it’s teaser trailer debuted. When you got to see more than 12 seconds you probably had some great thrills or reserved concern, but chances are you also wished it was June 12th today (especially if you live in Buffalo). One way or another, after watching that you probably thought, “There can’t be a more exciting trailer the rest of this year as the one for Jurassic World, right?” Wrong. There is another. It came out just three days later, and it’s out of this world.

If you didn’t have a sudden discharge of some fluid in your pants when the Millennium Falcon flew into frame then you’re not alive anymore because that was incredible. I was excited yet uneasy when it was announced more Star Wars films were going to be made. Technically it’s not a summer movie anymore either, and many were concerned by the push-back to December, but I wasn’t one of them. Take all the time you need to work out any kinks and get on the same page. After seeing bland or annoying characters in a vastly inferior trifecta of what happened before the best trilogy ever made, it will be very fun to see the loveable motley crew from that holy trinity back in action again. And I honestly have to say – and I’m pleasantly surprised to do so – I liked every single thing I saw in that trailer. I did not feel anything showed too much of the story to come but rather did a great job of setting the tone. This will be a film with new characters and technology, but it also is very much looking like the same good, old Star Wars with some pretty top-notch direction. Way to go so far, J.J.! If only you could stick around for another, or Joss Whedon could step over in between Avengers movies…. Also, congrats to Andy Serkis! Way to work your way into the new Disneyverses and get into both the Avengers and Star Wars trailers. Maybe he’ll finally get that Oscar he’s do for.

As crazed of a Star Wars fan as I am, I don’t have any grand insights into the storyline of the next trilogy, and it’s going to sound rather Sith of me, but I would prefer to stay in the dark and keep everyone else there too. As is the case with the aforementioned movies you almost certainly already are planning to go see them, and in the unlikely event that you’re not another longer trailer probably won’t convince you in the same way that buzz from friends, family, and trusted sources of criticism and analysis (like this blog!) will. So while I would drool profusely over another trailer, I would love to see the Force go back to sleep until May 1st when I dish out my first batch of Mickey money to Marvel. But if you positively need to know more about Star Wars VII, I can predict with absolute certainty three things that will occur in the upcoming film:

1) The film will open with a scrolling crawl of expositional text, followed by a ship racing or cruising through space.

2) C-3PO and R2-D2 will have integral roles.

3) Someone will utter the line “I have a bad feeling about this.”

These are easily the most anticipated trailers for me and many others for the tremendous summer-winter we have before us in 2015. But who knows? Sometimes you see a trailer for a movie you had no intention of watching, but some things are like a train wreck and may entice you to turn your head and walk on over. Isn’t that right, franchise that’s turned illegal street racers into superpowered beings who show that no matter the terrain – or lack thereof – a car is the best vehicle? Daddy’s got to go to work! AHAHAHAHAHA!

Hopefully these films and the others due out next year will not disappoint. I remember seeing the excellent trailer for Prometheus, which followed along similar lines as Jurassic World and Star Wars VII in that it was a newer, more refined special-effect-filled continuation of one of the all-time great theater-packing franchises, but it left a lot to be desired and as pretty as it looked it’s story and characters were full of too many holes and twists that didn’t work out. Avengers is quite new (cinematically) and looks to expand upon its prior success; Jurassic World looks maybe a bit similar but appears to have enough new things to make for an exciting time; and Star Wars looks like a perfect blend of old and new. How will they actually turn out? Fuck if I know! The real frustration is that they are all months away (Star Wars is over a year!) and there’s nothing we can do but wait until the release… of the next trailer. Dun Dun DUN!

Thanks for reading everybody! I hope you enjoyed this post. Comments and Chris Pratt fan-fiction can be sent to monotrememadness@gmail.com. Be sure to watch the full trailer next week when I complain about Christmas music!

Don’t come to play school,

Alex

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