For years my friends have mocked me for closing my eyes during movie trailers. My dear friend Bronni used to joke that whenever we’d go see a movie together and the trailers would start, I’d throw a paper bag over my head. While a wee bit of an exaggeration, the intention is not far off.
Years ago I realized that trailers were starting to show more and more of the film. Oftentimes right down to the climax! So while I now choose to close my eyes and patiently wait for the feature to begin, it’s my kindly mocking friends who are the ones bitching and moaning in the end that they don’t need to go see the film now. They saw the trailer.
Today’s example was a trailer for HARRY BROWN starring Michael Caine and Emily Mortimer. Luckily, I caught the film last year (it opened in the UK in 2009 even though it’s just now having its US theatrical release). This is a terrific film and made my Films From 2009 Deserving Honorable Mention list. So, having already seen the film, I was free to avoid any eye-closing (or paper-bagging) during this particular preview. And what a preview it was! Not a moment or beat in the film was left out. Nope. The entire film is present in the trailer. It is, in essence, the entire film boiled down to around 3 minutes. And yes, including those crucial surprise moments that should be saved for a paying audience who actually cherish the unexpected. But if you’ve already seen the trailer? Well, no surprises for you.
My grandmother, never one to waste time, would read the last page of a book before deciding whether or not she wanted to read the whole thing. “I make sure it’s got a good ending before I waste my time reading the whole damn thing only to discover the ending’s crap!” God bless her. If you can relate to Grandma Ruth, then by all means watch the trailer for HARRY BROWN. Me, I’ll continue to keep my eyes closed so that I may be allowed to experience a film as it was intended by its filmmaker; to unfold slowly, to draw me in, to captivate and intrigue. I want the journey. I want the unexpected. To state it simply, I want to watch the fucking movie.
But the age and art of great movie trailers has all but passed. Yes, occasionally one squeaks by; that inventive and alluring combination of images and moments that entice you to see the film, that stir your imagination and fill you with a sense of excitement and yearning. But those are as rare as a creative one-sheet. Another movie art that has all but died out, replaced instead by cookie-cutter molds that barely distinguish one film from another and look as though they were slapped together in Photoshop by some 12 year old in a hurry. And sadly, many of the films themselves seem to follow this same pattern of by-the-numbers expect the expected.
But it’s particularly criminal when it happens to a good film like HARRY BROWN. Because, regardless of whether or not the film goes to some expected places, I’d rather see it go there in the film itself where it’s meant to be, rather than in the film’s trailer, where it has no place. It’s disrespectful to the film, the filmmaker and, perhaps worst of all, the audience.
So if you happen to find yourself in a movie theater and the trailer for HARRY BROWN splashes across that silver screen and you haven’t seen the film yet, be prepared to do your best Helen Keller impersonation. Or at least have that paper bag ready.