Should you watch trailers?

It seems as if a requisite part of being a film fan in today's world is that you obsess over trailers. Teasers for teaser trailers, sites getting mileage out of trailer analysis, breaking down 2 minutes of marketing for clues to stuff you shouldn't care as much about as you probably do but most importantly the formation of opinions for expectations of films based on how a marketing department has tried to sell a film are all common afflictions. 

That last one is something which in the last few weeks has really struck a chord in me. Three recent films have had me thinking about how much I wish the trailers didn't exist at all. For that purpose I won't be linking to them here but I'll damn well talk about them.

1. Baby Driver

I saw two trailers for Baby Driver, the original trailer towards the start of the year and the online only "TeKILLYah" trailer. Both of which seemed to advertise two different films. It is a rather obvious point of fact that trailers shown in cinemas usually try to appeal to as many people within that audience as possible, with this showing in the first trailer, a rather bland affair which has the occasional shot of records but is memorable only really for the halloween mask section at the end, a scene which in the film is one of the only moments of comedy in the entire runtime. This trailer depicts a rather tired narrative which say what you want about Baby Driver, that film has.

The "TeKILLYah" trailer is something different, a piece which shows off the style of the film and feels of a piece to what Wright was aiming for conceptually, however in doing so it promises a film which is frankly more satisfying than the end product was. I know I'm in a minority in not feeling like I'd die to defend Baby Driver as many seem to but I wish I hadn't seen either trailer going in. The style would have been more of a surprise and perhaps the issues I had with the film wouldn't have been as much on the forefront of my mind.

2. It Comes At Night

The only piece of marketing I had seen for It Comes At Night going in was the wonderfully evocative teaser poster:


I mean, look at that thing. It's great.

Going into the film, I knew its cast and a brief outline, an experience I usually only have at festival screenings or on occasion when I look at a screener for something. After seeing the film and reading up on reaction, it became obvious that the trailer had promised something different, on watching it I tried to put myself in the headspace of someone who had wanted to see the full thing with that in mind and while I'm sure I'd have still liked it, I wonder how much the sheer disconnect between trailer and final product would have clouded my judgement.

It is obvious why the folks at distributor A24 had done what they did with the trailer, it promises a much more visceral, potentially bloody experience than the intangible, very hard to advertise dread which the world of the film envelopes you in. It is a trailer which will get horror hounds in but the muted audience reaction, the film getting a rather terrible D in Cinemascore, a US based organisation which polls cinema audiences to aid in explaining the box office performance of films, seems to have a direct connection with the expectation caused by the trailer.

3. War for The Planet of the Apes

At time of writing we haven't recorded our review on the show as of yet but if you follow me on social media, you'll know I adored this film. What made this surprising personally was that for the last few months I've repeated that I've been concerned about that film based on the trailers released for it.

It looked grim, depressing and frankly just not all that fun for what should be a summer blockbuster. It is grim and depressing in parts but it's also thrilling and strangely beautiful in its depiction of a world gone to shit but with green shoots appearing in the form of the Apes' society.

The opening weekend in the US was behind the previous film by a fair margin and the box office analysis over at Deadline this weekend by Anthony D'Alessandro had this to say:

"In regards to why War was slower out of the gate, it could be argued the original trailers stalled moviegoers. Did they distinguish War enough from Dawn? You could say that War looked quite similar with its doom and gloom and angry monkeys. Director Matt Reevesshowed off a trio of clips to the press at a Fox reel day last December and billed the film as an homage to modern westerns and Apocalypse Now. It’s debatable whether that cinematic sensibility was sold."

I don't think that's even a debate. The trailers didn't show off those homages at all, it just looked like a bad time. I'm glad the film wasn't but with marketing that didn't seem particularly thrilling, it seems like Fox have maybe even harmed themselves financially. It feels like a film which could have legs, though it's a busy box office,  I wish I didn't see the trailers, it made me doubt a film I shouldn't have.

This past weekend saw the first teaser for Ava Duvernay's A Wrinkle In Time, one which with her being billed as "Visionary" had me rolling my eyes (not because of her, because of its overuse in marketing) and showcased a film which looks all over the place. But should I think that? Of course not, but a trailer tells its own story, even if its one the film doesn't follow up on. Maybe I should let the film tell me what it's about, not 2 minutes of cut together footage. A trailer will make you have an assumption however and therein lies the question, do you watch a trailer for an idea of whether you're interested in a film or let the film make your decision for you?