When Trailers Go Bad, Movies of 2014 Edition
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When Trailers Go Wrong, Movies of 2014 Edition

By Rebecca Pahle | Think Pieces | August 21, 2014 | Comments ()

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Movie theaters can be awful. Tickets are expensive. Popcorn is more expensive, and I always buy it even when I promise myself I won’t, and then I feel gross afterwards. Far too often there’s some jackhole who thinks the “no cell phone” rule doesn’t apply to texting or status updating. And, generally speaking, people are The Worst. There are a couple of reasons I will never come close to giving up theaters, though, and the typical cinema purist line about “seeing movies on the big screen like you’re ‘supposed’ to” is only one of them.

Friends. I love trailers. No, no, no, you don’t understand. I love trailers. One of my earliest moviegoing experiences was seeing the Mighty Morphin Powers Rangers trailer for the first time. I don’t remember what movie it played with, but who fucking cares, because it’s the trailer that almost made little nine-year-old me stop breathing. (Rightly, as it turns out—Mighty Morphin Power Rangers is very close to perfect.)

People complain about there being too many trailers at screenings, about trailers being too long, about trailers giving away too much of the movie and including orphaned scenes and lines of dialogue that aren’t in the final cut. I can see where people are coming from for those last two, though I personally don’t share their irritation, because I. FLIPPING. LOVE. TRAILERS.

But there is one thing, dear readers, that I cannot abide, and that is a trailer that misrepresents its movie. A prime example is Life After Beth (my review; Vivian’s review. Sisters in being disappointed by this movie—high five), which was a mish-mosh of intriguing ideas only barely delivered on. I might’ve been more sympathetic had the trailer not made it look like, quoth Emily, “Aubrey Plaza at Her Aubrey Plaza-est.” I had high expectations, but it was all downhill from here:

To whoever put this trailer together—I understand putting the funny Aubrey Plaza bits front and center. Believe me, I do. And you probably got a fair number of butts in seats. But you lied to those butts, and that makes you kind of a butt yourself.

Another offender was the trailer for The Rock’s Hercules:

You think you’re getting an action comedy full of gloriously cheesy Rocktastic goodness? Ha-no. All the things the studio knew the audience wanted to see, like The Rock throwing a got-dang horse and fighting a lion, were in the trailer. What said trailer left out is all the generic action crap that comprised the vast majority of the movie itself.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the trailer for the Daniel Radcliffe/Zoe Kazan rom-com What If, like Life After Beth currently out in limited release:

Did you just vomit in your mouth a little because it looked like Radcliffe and Kazan did a generic romantic comedy about the age-old (seriously, really really old and tired) question of “Can a man and a woman ever be friends? No, really—are everyone’s lives not ruled by sex 100% of the time, and that’s why it’s an indisputable fact that all bisexual people are friendless hermits?” Were you confused as to why Daniel Radcliffe’s been talking on the press tour about how the friendzone isn’t a thing when he’s co-starring in some bastard, idiot brethren of When Harry Met Sally? (Which I enjoy, so put your pitchforks down.) Surprise! That’s not what What If is at all. It’s actually a charming film with charming characters! It never gets into the whole “can a man and a woman be friends” thing (because, as everyone knows: YES, DUH), focusing instead on the complexities of a relationship where one party starts off feeling romantic interest and the other does not. But hey, that’s tough to get across in a lazy-ass trailer.

And then there’s Earth to Echo.

You probably rolled your eyes at the Earth to Echo trailer. The mother of the person who made the Earth to Echo trailer probably rolled their eyes at the Earth to Echo trailer, because it makes director Dave Green’s movie look like nothing but an unholy ripoff of like three different movies.

But—and I’m in the minority here—I actually thought Earth to Echo was pretty damn good. Is it an original film? Nah, son. There’s E.T. in there. *batteries not included, Chronicle, The Goonies. I was feeling some 3 Ninjas and The Sandlot. But, if anything, it came off to me more as an homage to those classic kid’s movies (minus Chronicle) than a straight ripoff, which is a loaded, often useless term anyway. The characters were engaging, the dialogue was witty, and if I saw every beat of plot and character development coming from a mile away, well, at least I had a fun, nostalgic time. This trailer did its movie a massive disservice. I hope Earth to Echo has a nice life on home video, because as far as movies to show the little baby geeks in your life go, you could do a hell of a lot worse. Little me would’ve worn out the VHS.

And finally: Snowpiercer. You might have heard that I really fucking love this movie.

It’s by far the least bad trailer on this list. It’s actually pretty good. The problem is that it makes the movie look all The Dark Knight/The Hunger Games grimdark, completely missing out on the part where in between the terror and dystopia it’s a startling funny surrealist masterpiece. If you didn’t know it’s by the massively acclaimed Korean director Bong Joon Ho (which you wouldn’t know if you just watched the above trailer, because it doesn’t tell you), and if you don’t know that Chris Evans is actually a really damn talented actor, pretty much the only thing that keeps Snowpiercer from looking like it’s direct-to-DVD action movie material is the presence of Tilda Swinton.

I say make a Snowpiercer trailer that’s two minutes of that part where Chris Evans slips on a fish, but hey, what do I know?

TV bonus: Voiceover. It isn’t the ’90s anymore. What the crispy fried Jesusing fuck on a tinsel-laden pogo stick are you doing, Hannibal?!

I’ll turn this over to you now: What’s the worst trailer you’ve seen in your life? How about the best? In before OOGA CHAKA to suggest Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. They don’t make ‘em like this anymore:

Skip to :57 for Ruffalo booty shaking.

Rebecca is on Twitter and Tumblr, but you’ll have to pry the latter URL from her cold, dead hands. She’s also the Senior Editor at The Mary Sue.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Remember when the trailer for Where the Wild Things Are came out and everyone here went INSANE? God that was a beautiful trailer. For a sadly disappointing movie, but damn, that trailer made me cry.

    I also thought the first trailers for The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers (though that song has been used to death in trailers by now) were absolutely brilliant. Great music, great structure, and they told you about the movie without giving the whole thing away.

    Can't even think about a particularly bad trailer, but I know what a bad trailer looks like: It's the pulsing images (brief flash! brief black! brief flash! brief black!) set to either the sound of a beating heart or some burst of music that builds in intensity. The whole thing lasts way too long and gives too much away, and there's maybe some flashing words (MAKES. NO. SENSE. LOOKS. IMPRESSIVE.) and it tries really really hard to make it look like the most dramatic movie that has ever happened in the history of ever. That seems to be the M.O. for trailers nowadays and I'm sick to death of it.

  • Buck off


    You would not have thought it was the same film, Danny Boyle didn't deserve that at all.

  • Sunsneezer

    I fucking hate trailers.

    The difference between the very good UK trailer for Aardman studios 'The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists'
    And the rote pile of trailery bullshit we get in america for the same film

    Is why.
    99% of trailers make me want to punch a studio executive in the dick.

  • Red Rage

    I love trailers too. My favorite part of going to the theater. Probably one of the best trailers I can think of off the top of my head is the teaser trailer for the Coen brothers True Grit. The Peasall sisters' song in the trailer just sets the tone for the trailer. Black Swan was also great just showing the chaos that the film would have, and the perfectly haunting music from the score because I usually come to love the music in trailers. Most of my songs on itunes come from movie trailers. Loving the song from the Nightcrawler trailer currently.

  • Der Langhaarige

    I'd like to add two German movies: "Jetzt oder nie - Zeit ist Geld" (About a group of old women who try to rob a bank after they lost all their money) and "Good Bye Lenin" (About a young man who must try to convince his mother, who just woke up from a coma, that the German Democratic Republic still exists, to prevent her from dying from a shock or something like that), which both focused on the funny scenes and aspects of their respective movies and portrayed them as hilarious comedies, when they were both actually pretty depressing dramedies with focus on the drama.

  • Krissy

    I know this is going to be an unpopular opinion but I felt this way about the Inglorious Bastards trailer. So much so that I almost didn't even like the movie when I saw it because my expectations were so skewed.

  • wonkeythemonkey

    The trailer for Django Unchained was pretty close to perfect, too. It doesn't belong in this article though, since it did a REALLY good job of communicating the essence of the movie itself.

  • csb

    Can I suggest an addition to your list of misleading trailers - Denzel Washington's Flight. The trailer teased us with what I thought would be a good, interesting film. Wat we got was... not.

  • Cowtools

    You already implied it Rebecca, but I gotta say it anyway: The best recent trailer was for Guardians Of The Galaxy.
    There wasn't anything really different about it, but it still felt like a whole paradigm shift. A trailer for an epic sci-fi action film that emphasized the FUN above all else? Surely that's illegal in Hollywood?

    The second 'Hooked On A Feeling' started up, I knew that movie would kick ass. Then they doubled down, with that second trailer featuring 'Spirit In The Sky', and I knew that if the film itself turned out to suck then part of me would die. Fortunately James Gun is a genius.

  • wonkeythemonkey

    Seconded! I actually liked the censored version of the flip-off joke from the trailer way better than the version in the film. "Obscene gesture imminent! Obscene gesture detected!"

    Also, I would be happy if all renditions of Hooked On A Feeling from this point forward included a mid-song transition to a booming action soundtrack before returning to the original song.

  • DarcyMcCarbomb

    "The Break-Up" was spectacularly misrepresented. It looked like a fun rom-com, but was actually sort of soul-crushing.

  • muscleman

    I remember seeing the trailer for a movie called, "The Shining" and all the blood getting off the elevator really freaked me out.
    The trailer for the 80's "Clash of the Titans" had my little 12 year old heart thumping out of my chest.

  • Alarmjaguar

    Fellow trailer lover here!

  • Remember Battle:LA? Remember the trailer with no dialogue, just the Johann Johannson song, "The Sun's Gone Dim and the Sky's Turned Black"? It was everything the movie wasn't.

    Also, the trailer for Whedon's "Much Ado About Nothing", with St. Germaine"s "Rose Rouge"?

  • John G.

    can I put a moratorium on the phrase "Nah, son"? Cause I'd really like to put a moratorium on the phrase "Nah, son".

  • emmalita

    I have a couple of recent trailers that I love more than the movie, and it does have a lot to do with the music, and the tension that a 2 minute trailer is able to maintain. I liked the movie, Burn After Reading, but the trailer was awesome. http://youtu.be/SVCHSiRWjJM. The other trailer I like more than the movie was Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy http://youtu.be/Aco15ScXCwA

  • emerald

    I felt the August: Osage County's trailer sold something different than the movie itself. Like it was going to be the cliché family get-together due to tragic circumstances but still they enjoy some funny moments and the usual discord that family reunions have. I liked the trailer but I think it was for a different movie.

  • Kate at June

    I had just finished a production of the play when that trailer came out; the rest of the cast/crew and I discussed how deeply disappointed people looking for a family holiday movie were going to be when they saw it.

    So incredibly misleading, though still not as devastating as the play.

  • Kala

    I agree.

    Trailer: "Hilarious but loony family comes together to ultimately learn about the power of love."

    Film: "Emotional devastation which leaves none of the characters intact."

  • fate.scion

    I remember seeing a trailer for "Hart's War" when I was a young teen ready to see some actiony war movie. Bruce Willis! That angry Irish Dude! "At three AM we're going under the wire". Oh hell YES! I was allll in. When I finally saw the movie and realized the driving force was a court martial case in a POW camp I realized I could never trust trailers again.

  • "Too many trailers"? I agree, no such thing. I think there was a solid half hour of trailers before a recent Guardians of the Galaxy viewing, and I loved it.

    Best trailer? SO HARD. I'm gonna pick a recent one and say Interstellar. Gave me goosebumps and made me tear up without revealing too damn much of the movie.

  • I've sen the Interstellar trailer three times now. (2x Guardians of the Galaxy, 1x before an IMAX movie) Seriously excited about that one.

  • 95 Sports Guy

    As a father of a young daughter, whose grandfather died when my dad was very young, I just saw all those scenes with Matthew McConaughey leaving with feels and "nope nope nope nope". Besides, if the science being the EmDrive comes to fruition, Interstellar is gonna get dated super-quick.

  • 95 Sports Guy

    Best recent trailers: Off the top of my head, I really enjoyed Man of Steel (Hans Zimmer can do no wrong - although I found a lot of the movie to be a mess) and Iron Man 1 (loved Cochise). I thought the Godzilla trailer was really, REALLY well done because you had NO IDEA what was going on with that HALO jump.

  • Mentalcase

    Agree on all counts. Re: IM1, I remember see the Super Bowl ad with the Cochise track and literally screaming like a rock singer when he blew up the tank. But not a misleading trailer...obviously the movie rocked.

  • Sean

    The Man of Steel trailer was one of the best of all time. The movie...not so much.

  • Repo

    The best recent trailer I can think of was the Watchmen trailer with that Smashing Pumpkins song over it. Jesus, I remember being downright enthralled with goosebumps watching that thing over and over again.

  • watchmen

  • Ha

    ...he was saying "the Watchmen trailer" not "the trailer for The Watchmen"


  • Cole Juntila

    Boy oh boy do I love trailers too. Some of my favorites include the one and only (should be anyway) TMNT (1990) trailer with all of its temp voice over, score, and overall sound. Still the best! Psycho, The Master, Girl with The Dragon Tattoo, Jurassic Park teaser, TDK (all of them), Man of Steel (horrible film, great trailer), Inception, sin city, the shining teaser, alien 3, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE III, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, aaaannnnddd Master and Commander.

  • E Robb

    The Grey. They leaned hard on Liam Neeson making glass shard boxing gloves to punch wolves with in the trailers. They made it look right in the Taken and Non Stop and Unknown wheelhouse. Turns out that movie was a thoughtful and patient meditation on life and the natural order.

  • Adam Blackhat

    And garbage. You forgot to mention garbage.

  • The Butt

    You guys remember how the trailer for "Catfish" made it look like a horror film of some sorts?

    Or how the trailer for "Where the Wilds Things Are" made it look like it was going to be the most MAGICAL FILM EVER?

    I've been hurt before.

  • I am still pissed at the Catfish trailer. It looked like an awesome horror movie. Arrrrrrrrgh!

  • Linzer

    Even though the trailer for Where the Wild Things Are totally misrepresented what it actually was, I still love the film. But it's the kind of movie I can only watch on a rainy day.

  • OMG that trailer made me cry so hard. Also the trailer for Beasts of the Southern Wild. Basically I'm a soggy mess.

  • Adam Blackhat

    Oh my god, Where the Wild Things Are was deeply concerning. I forgot about that!

  • AngelenoEwok

    We made the mistake of going to see Where The Wild Things are when I was reeling from a job loss and needed some cute escapism. Whoops.

  • Adam Blackhat

    What about when the reverse happens? I have been surprised, quite happily once or twice by how different the film given is from the one portrayed. I...can't think of a single example of this, honestly, but I know it's happened, like, twice.

  • Jim Slemaker

    I thought the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer was awful. I didn't know these characters or the comic and I thought the movie looked horrible. Much to my surprise, I loved it.

  • 95 Sports Guy

    My biggest problem is that I have a pretty good memory so if I recall a scene in the trailer that I haven't seen on film yet, it creates a mid-movie spoiler. The biggest example would be Winter Soldier.

  • That happened to me with the trailer for The Dark Knight Rises, which showed the entirety of that awesome scene where the football stadium collapses. All of it! It was supposed to be this horrifying moment that showed you just what Bane was capable of, but having seen the whole thing in the trailer I just felt a big blah of nothing when I watched it in the movie.

  • Adam Blackhat

    I've noticed two movies that seem to deliberately leave in titillating scenes that don't make it into theatres: Gamora disrobing and being caught by Quill in Guardians and the little kid filmmaker's older sister walking through the rows of refugee cots in Super 8, the camera zeroed in on her swaying hips and butt (presumably, this would take place when she entices the stoner into driving her little brother into town).

  • Rebecca Pahle

    That's what Earth to Echo and What If were for me. But it's still a crime, because why would you make your movie look WORSE than it is? It's blasphemous.

  • Adam Blackhat

    Yeah...that wasn't even a between the lines kind of thing, you obviously said that, I'm just a goof. Sorry.

    I think, in a way, the big failing of Snowpiercer was cramming so much of Tilda Swinton's false teeth into the trailer. It looked like a bad B-movie version of 1984 but on a train...not a fantastic B-movie version of 1984 but on a train, which it was. And Tilda's spectacular in the film, but I don't think her character would work as the super boss adversarial role I think the trailer set her up in.

  • BlackRabbit

    The best: The first Mortal Kombat trailer. Yes, the movie was third-rate garbage, but being a kid in a theater full of kids when that showed up for the first time? Madness.

  • Third-rate garbage?! You bite your tongue.

  • BlackRabbit

    Your soul is mine.

  • This is where you fall down.

  • Rebecca Pahle


  • THAT SOUNDTRACK! Face-melting awesome. My husband and I still burst out singing it a cappella at random moments.

  • And now for a taste of things to come.

  • 95 Sports Guy


  • Blake Shrapnel


  • Adam Blackhat

    Those were $500 sunglasses, asshole.

  • Andrew J

    This is the first good thing I've heard about "what if" all the other review make it sound like it didn't really understand the point of 500 days of summer but wrote a similar film anyway

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