Bad Trailers

23:57 Tue 11 Mar 2008
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When I went to see Michael Mann’s 1981 directorial debut, Thief, this evening, I was struck by the two trailers accompanying it, the original trailers for Robocop and The Terminator. (There will be spoilers for those movies in what follows, so if you somehow haven’t seen those movies yet, you probably shouldn’t read on.)

The trailers for both were awful. Both selected what seemed to be carefully chosen bad dialogue from their respective movies. There was more of that to choose from in Robocop. Both trailers managed to make their films appear stilted and choppy. My impression while watching was to think that somehow decent trailer technology hadn’t been invented until the late 80s…

This is the version of the Robocop trailer I saw tonight:

Somehow it doesn’t seem as bad on a small screen. I think this is mainly because the music isn’t as noticeable. In the theater, the music really made it seem hokey.

The Terminator trailer is worse in terms of comparison with the movie itself:

I get the impression from this that the producers decided audiences would be much more interested in the idea of the future war, as much of the trailer is clips from that, despite the fact that those are very small parts of the film itself.

I really like both of these films, and think that The Terminator especially is a classic. That makes it all the more painful to see both represented by what look like slapped-together action clips.

One note, however, is that both trailers are relatively good at not giving away too much. Robocop‘s trailer is clearly better, thankfully not referencing OCP’s connection to the criminal enterprises in the city. I get the feeling that modern trailers, at least in the US, are a lot worse about spoilers. The Terminator‘s original trailer could have been a little better—really, it shouldn’t give away the fact that Kyle Reese is there to save Sarah, although that does become clearly early on.

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3 Responses to “Bad Trailers”

  1. Brett Says:

    Wow, those are pretty amazing. Classic 80s. I agree that modern trailers give away too much… so often you feel like you’ve seen the whole movie. The worst part is when you later actually watch the film and discover that you did, indeed, see the whole movie in the trailer.

    My favorite trailer of all time is from the original Psycho. Let’s see if YouTube can deliver… yep, here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oGUhBRCW14U

    You’d never get that by the short attention spans of people today, though. Also, it does kind of contain spoilers, but it does so in a way that doesn’t really detract from the movie.

    Honorable mention to this meta-trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXbFuNQwTbs

  2. kevintel Says:

    I think it’s important to note, particularly for The Terminator, that at the time the studio thought it was making a trailer for a half-baked turkey. They had no idea that they were selling what would become an iconic cultural event, which is how we’d see it now. The movie was only made because of James Cameron’s single-mindedness. So from their point of view at the time, they needed to sell what in their minds was a ludicrous b-movie to a sceptical audience using a method they still use to this day, of showing all the good stuff in the trailer. I’d venture to say, that although the Terminator trailer is bad, there’s nothing in this technique that has changed to this day, only our perception of the movie.

    I don’t know what to make of the Robocop trailer, because this was a big-budget production from a well-known director. They seemed to have been focused on the film-in-film nature of the movie, with the CCTV and video footage, rather than the quite traditional action-movie structure of the movie itself. It’s not too bad though. It’s possible that they didn’t think it was going to take off, and so didn’t give the trailer edit the money it should have had, meaning a less talented team might have worked on it, or rushed it…

  3. Seth Milliken Says:

    I’m not quite sure what the actual temporal demarcation line is, but before some point trailers pretty much just sucked. Here is my trailer contribution, Zardoz: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kbGVIdA3dx0

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