I’ll be honest, as I always am with strangers on the internet (the real buzz comes from lying to close friends and family), I’ve been a little down since my last Monday review came out. When I agreed to join the site I was aware that a third of the reviews would be “Unpopular opinions” and I thought I was happy about that. Finally, a forum where I could tell you why those films you love are shit, and you are wrong, and you’re a hideously ugly freak. Or that film you hate is actually really good, and you’re a cretin for not understanding it, and you’re a hideously ugly freak.
But it feels like I’m a troll. Because we have to find out what the majority feels, and then argue against it. And it’s not trolling. Of all handful of unpopular opinions I’ve done so far, they were all deep held beliefs that I had, and I felt like I was a mental patient for not seeing what everyone else does. So it’s taken two weeks for me to regroup after the Shaun of the Dead (2004) post and come up with the next outing. I know it’s supposed to be unpopular, but you didn’t all need to send all those death threats and severed duck’s heads. And some joker even sent me a menu for Dominos. Like I need that dark temptation in my life.
I just can’t do it. It’s too soon. The next on my list are Blade Runner (1982) and The Big Lebowski (1998). See, even just mentioning those has made your blood boil a little bit. Why should you listen to this handsome bald man’s opinion about any other film, if he doesn’t like all these other films?
Well, apart from, I’m better than you, and you’re a hideously ugly freak, I don’t know. I’m not trying to convince you. Your opinion is what it is, and I don’t want to change that. That is the job of our religious and political leaders. I’m none of those three things. I just want to entertain you for a little while. The tagline is “A place to discuss film”. And that’s all we want. While there are hundreds, literally thousands of places to discuss film online, the vast majority of them are going to tell you what to think, and try to beat you into submission. Or, if worst comes to worst, call you a nazi or a faggot. Because defending your opinion is harder than hating someone for no reason, or insinuating that they are a hate-filled person. We really have created a wonderfully conflicted world with the internet.
So to go against the grain a little bit this week, I’m not going to review a film and offer a different perspective, I’m going to discuss a concept. But obviously, I’ll do it in the guise of how interesting I think my life is.
Movie adverts, or “trailers” as some people call them, are terrible.
Today I went to the cinema to see two American movies. Readers of my previous articles (they’re not reviews because in the majority of cases I don’t come to a conclusion about whether a film is good or not. But that will feature on my upcoming unpopular opinion about whether 5/10 star /100% ratings are good (hint, they’re not)) will know that I am not only a huge cinephile, but also an Ameri-phile (the reverse is Anglo-phile when Americans like British things, I guess the British don’t like Americans enough for us to come up with a word for it). I once got in a fight because I was wearing a Lions cap, and a Millwall supporter came up to me and asked if I was a Millwall fan. I looked condescendingly confused at him and pointed out I’m a fan of the Detroit Lions American Football team. He was angry that I didn’t know that the Millwall team was affectionately known as the Lions, and because I was in England that I should know this and also support his team. I didn’t have enough time to explain to him that patriotism is the assumption that you were born in the best place at the best time. So I just ordered my Serbian to kick him out. They say “work smart, not hard” I’ve always been of the opinion “hire one person to work hard, one to work smart, and another to work tough, then take all the credit” but that’s just the manager in me.
My point is, most films are American, but at this specific point in the cinema calendar we have American Made and American Assassin out at the same time. This year is also freaky because we had Logan in January and Logan Lucky in August. The two films are unrelated. Or they are so tenuously related that the producers took more of a left turn than they did with Highlander II: The Quickening (1991).
But what definitely connects the two films I saw today is that their trailers make the films look great, but they were so-so. Had I not seen the trailer beforehand I wouldn’t have had that same expectation, and probably would have enjoyed them more. But that’s why they’re made, obviously. To lure people in. Then disappoint them or entertain them. It really doesn’t matter at that point because you’ve already got their money. I’m going to see the film regardless, because it is a film. And that’s what I do. I’ll find a girlfriend and settle down as soon as there’s no more movies to watch.
It’s no secret that food photographers use paint and varnish to make food look better. A picture of a McDonalds burger looks exactly nothing like a McDonalds burger, but that’s acceptable. We’ve all had enough McDonalds burgers in our time to know what to expect. If we wanted a decent burger we’d go to Gourmet Burger Kitchen, or The Diner. But no, we just need that basic dopamine fix of simple, quick, basic satisfaction to trick our brains in to thinking we’re enjoying ourselves.
An Adam Sandler film is the perfect Big Mac example. After The Waterboy (1998), we didn’t really need to see any Adam Sandler trailers. Adam Sandler will put on a voice, and will be mildly amusing for 90 minutes, you won’t hate it, but it’s perfect date night fodder before you go to the Frankie and Bennie’s next door and polish off a rack of ribs just in time to pay the babysitter.
But what if Adam Sandler is in a Paul Thomas Anderson film (this is old ground, so I’m using it to help you get along)? Well lets just use the quirky bits in the trailer so The Wedding Singer (1998) fans will still be on board, but add a couple of The Office (2005-2013) style awkward moments so the Cannes spotter audience know that this is a comedy to fit their snobbery as well.
I go to the cinema 5-10 times a month. If I don’t then I feel like I’m wasting my membership. I’m way more committed than you January gym bunnies. Also, you’re a hideously ugly freak.
The worst part of going to the cinema so often is not the extortionate mark up of popcorn and Pepsi. A handful of kernels costs about 12p, and 7:1 1ltr soda:syrup ratio costs about 30p. But I’ll pay £8.50 (£7.65 on limitless discount days) for a combo. That’s an acceptable loss.
But I book my tickets online. And at the time the film is supposed to start, I jump on my bike (it’s a motorbike, I’ve told you before that I’m cool) ride down to the Odeon, have a cigarette outside (double cool points), pick up my tickets, and the above snack combo, validate my parking, and sit down in the middle of row C. That all takes 23 minutes. Which is exactly the amount of time between the advertised start time, and the actual movie start time. If I am 10 minutes earlier I will hear the ugliest phrase in the cinematic experience. “And now for the bit everyone loves. Ahh, the trailers. Especially chosen for this film actually”.
No. Not everyone loves the trailers. There is a huge swath of people who can recognise when they are being sold to and like to avoid that. I abhor SkyTV because you’re paying to watch your favourite shows, but it’s 22 minutes of entertainment with 8 minutes of advertising. I should either be paying for entertainment, or it’s free and you try to sell me something. That’s the trade-off. I’ve already paid to come and watch a big TV, and I’ve bought your extortionately priced snacks. Don’t try and sell me something else. If a product is good, then I will gravitate towards it because it is good. It doesn’t matter how many times you show it to me, it doesn’t make it any better. I am 35 years old and I have never drank a cup of coffee. Everyone I know drinks coffee and they love it. And the adverts I see for coffee show someone taking a big sniff if misty coffee fumes and being relieved by the scent. But those same adverts don’t show you the off-putting breath, or the jittery comedown at 2 in the afternoon, or the Columbian warlords aiming automatic weapons at the bean pickers.
People love trailers. There was a manhunt recently to find the person that “leaked” the trailer for the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War (2018) trailer. This was shown at ComicCon to a select group of a thousand people. They alone (in that screening, ignoring all the hundreds of people who worked on the project) were allowed to see a handful of scenes from next year’s Marvel instalment. But some Thomas Crown level genius got their phone out and filmed it so we could all see it.
It showed Thor meeting the Guardians. And then some other superheroes.
Well blow my bumhole!!! Who would have thought?!
What? Oh, everyone with even a passing knowledge of the Marvel universe knew that that would happen? But we weren’t going to see that movie unless we knew that *SOMETHING* was going to happen. Except that Marvel is now the biggest franchise in cinema history, and absolutely everyone is going to see all of the films regardless.
I’m not shitting on Marvel. I love their films, almost as much as hot girls pretending to be geeks love those films. But the things that they do show, are not representative of what the film will actually be.
The problem with this article is that to be objective I would need to post and compare every trailer (usually 3-4 per film) for every movie released (100+ mainstream movies released per year). So I’m going to whittle it down to some of the most egregious examples throughout my lifetime that have led to bad experiences. A handful from my youth, and a handful from the past couple of years. And I’ll try to mix in positive and the opposite of positive examples.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) trailer went out of it’s way to have the voice-over explain that Ultron is an artificial intelligence super-drone, much like Iron Man’s fleet of drones. As it’s saying that we’re shown Iron Man with his special space padding fighting Hulk. For months I was under the assumption that huge Iron Man was Ultron. But it wasn’t. That was just mid-film fracas between two of the good guys. Why are you trying to trick me? Just show what Ultron looks like while you’re talking about him.
Thor: Ragnorak (2017) has not come out yet. It will in a month or so. So we have already had the teaser trailer, and the theatrical trailer, and the full trailer. The teaser shows Thor having to get in to an arena with the Hulk. There is a pithy line of “We know each other, from work” and then the last shot of the trailer is the two of them jumping towards each other, about to punch.
Wow. That is actually awesome. Because one is a God, and the other can not be killed or even hurt because Gamma radiation has made him impervious to pain. And actually being hit might actually make him stronger. We’re told in Avengers: Assemble (2013) that when Bruce Banner tried to shoot himself “the other guy” spat it out. That means that the Hulk doesn’t just need to be angry, he can pre-empt pain and become invincible in split seconds before an outside force needs him to be.
So who could possibly win in that battle? Well, it’s Thor’s movie. It’s not called “Thor vs Hulk: Ragnorok”.
But then we have the theatrical trailer, which skips past this battle that we were previously led to believe would be an integral part of the plot. Now we see Thor and Hulk having a little bit of banter where Thor claims to have won the battle easily. That alone means that it was sarcasm, and Hulk was actually winning the fight, but Thor lucked out. Someone in the crowd probably throws him a magic hair-clip. Or something. I don’t know, I haven’t seen the whole film yet, but I bet dollars to donuts that I’m not far off the mark.
Kingsman: Garry’s War Chest (2017) is coming out soon as well. Here’s what we know about this film… There is going to be an American version of the Kingsman called The Statesmen. And they are the Ethan Hunt to our James Bond. My prediction is that the guy with the moustache, who appears to be a co-operating American agent turns out to be a bad guy. We don’t see enough of him in the trailer, his name isn’t one of the predominant ones flashed in front of our eyes as the trailer ends. So he is the secret bad guy. They have to show him a bit, so we think he’s a good guy, but not so much that we’ll actually think about this when we’re watching the film.
Kevin Spacey had to tell David Fincher not to have his name in the opening credits of Se7en (1995), because people would work out he’s the bad guy. Just think about that. David Fincher couldn’t even work out that the whole point of Se7en is keeping the bad guy a secret. Every episode of Law & Order has taught us that it’s not the first guy you meet, it’s the second guy. But sometimes, to throw us off, it’s the first guy.
The benefit that a trailer has over a movie is this…
As I was tucking my daughter in to bed she said to me “Mummy, there’s a monster in my closet”. So to prove that she was safe I opened the closet door. There I saw my daughter with her arms wrapped around her legs. She said “mummy, there’s a monster in my bed”.
Terrifying. But that whole scene would last about 30 seconds. No-one is going to pay money to see that, so we need to stretch it out for 90 minutes. That whole time is spent setting up that there is a mother and a daughter, and there might be a daughter-imitating demon/monster, and then that she is hiding in the closet. Now we extrapolate which one is the monster. And now that monster has to chase someone down the stairs. And then we need to get away long enough to speak to the comic book nerd/gypsy/priest and then go back and fight the monster. The finale is we either kill the monster or we think we killed the monster, but there’s a final callback to show that the monster is still alive. With all that dragging out, it becomes less scary. Typical horror films are around 90 minutes long because people start to move from scared to bored around that time.
So if that scene was the only thing it the trailer, watching the whole movie becomes redundant and unsatisfying.
Solarbabies (1986) is a perfect example of how misleading trailers can be, and I’m taking this from the horses’ mouth. The excellent podcast about mental movies “How did this get made?” had a bonus interview with Mel Brooks about Solarbabies. To summarise… The film was supposed to cost $4 million, so Brooks put in the money himself (a huge producer no-no). The costs then went up to $20 million+. Fearing that he wouldn’t make his money back from this huge suck of a film, they spent weeks with an editor making the trailer look like an E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) style kids adventure with an alien helper in a post-apocalyptic film, and they play Rollerball a lot.
There is a little alien in it. He does basically nothing. They play one game of rollerball. They skate on sand.
The film has nothing to do with the trailer. But Mel Brooks made his money back because in the first couple of weeks at the cinema everyone went to see E.T./The Goonies (1985) in space. And we didn’t have the internet to warn everyone that that was not happening in this film.
Did you see Snow Dogs (2002) with Cuba Gooding Jr.? No. Because that is a film about some talking dogs right? Nope. The dogs talk in a dream sequence. It’s a film about Cuba dealing with his mother’s death. There are no talking dogs in the narrative of the film. But that shot of the talking dog was in the trailer. I mean, it’s still a terrible film, it’s just not the terrible film you thought it was.
Logan Lucky is about a couple of derpy-derp hillbillies pulling a heist, but how are they gonna pull it off, because they’re such derpy-derps?! Nope. There is one 20 second scene where Daniel Craig alludes that people call them stupid, and they ask if people really say that about them. None of the rest of the film is about them being stereotypical dumb derpy-derp southerners. And actually, that was to the film’s credit. We need to stop the class-warfare of “that guy has a non-classy accent, he must be an idiot”. It’s the last bastion of racism. We just don’t recognise it as racism yet.
The film was actually pretty good, just not what was represented by the trailer. It wasn’t a yakkety-yak comedy. It wasn’t really a heist movie. But it was a pleasant story that had me welling up at one point.
I could sit here for days going through examples, but I think I’ve covered my main bugbears. Even though I still get annoyed that trailers make the film better than it is, that’s forgivable, because it’s their point. Being primed to expect one kind film, but then receive another is an atrocious form of trickery. If you paid for sex with a female prostitute, but got a female-looking man (breasts and a penis) that’s shenanigans, and I don’t care for it. Am I still going to have sex with them? Of course I am, it’s not my favourite kind of genitals but sex is sex. We’re here for a good time, not for a long time. Just give me a heads up next time.
If you’re upset that this wasn’t a normal review, or my points are too scatter-brained to be coherent here’s a bonus mini Unpopular Opinion for free that I should have included in the Shaun of the Dead article about why American films are better than English ones…
American Pie (1999), American Psycho (2000), American Hustle (2013), American Beauty (1999), American Ninja (1985), An American Tail (1986), American Sniper (2014), American Graffiti (1973), American History X (1998), American Gangster (2007), American Ultra (2015), An American Werewolf in London (1981), even American Made and American Assassin… All fantastic films. And yes, when the first American Pie came out, we all loved that film.
We have The English Patient (1996). And Johnny English (2003). That alone is proof that the Americans are better than us.