They build it up, it lets you down

Movie trailers—I have this whole love/hate relationship with them. A well-crafted trailer is a rare gem, designed to run your emotions through the whole gamut in two minutes or less. If you’re a movie lover, trailers are a bit addictive: you watch one, it gets you hooked on something bigger, and before you know it you’re watching dozens of trailers a day and measuring your months in release dates. But there’s a pitfall to trailers, a side that most people don’t discuss. I’m talking about the trailer that builds up a movie to a peak of excitement, only to be followed by a crash of disappointment when the film just doesn’t live up to its promised potential. Rave Reviews covers two such movies in this edition: The King’s Speech and The Adjustment Bureau.

I imagine you must be asking yourself: The King’s Speech? Didn’t it win an Oscar? Sure it did. But that doesn’t save it from the trailer crash! When the trailer was first released last summer, I remember being very excited. Not only was the story about the British Royals, one of my favourite movie subjects, but the star-studded cast included Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, and Helena Bonham-Carter. The trailer portrayed a nation on the brink of war, a king racing the clock to overcome a personal impediment, and two men forging a bond of friendship that would ultimately save England. When I finally watched the film a few weeks ago, I was disappointed that the looming sense of urgency portrayed in the trailer was absent in the film. And while the acting was fabulous, I found the film dull and flat.

Now, when this happens to you once, you shrug your shoulders and chalk it up to bad movie luck. But when the credits rolled on The Adjustment Bureau, which I watched just a week later, I knew I had been zinged again! The trailer promised a riveting sci-fi thriller with a romantic twist, and another set of hard-hitting stars (Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Terence Stamp) were lined up to knock this one out of the park. Even more enticing was the fact that the film was based on a story by Philip K. Dick, an author whose stories have inspired other recent sci-fi hits such as Paycheck (Ben Affleck, Uma Thurman) and Minority Report (Tom Cruise). So what happened? The story was interesting and the acting was great, but overall the movie felt stale and underdeveloped. The writers and director were trying to cram in too much, and the whole movie fell flat on its face.

Trailers are a movie’s first chance to make an impression on its potential audience. While most trailers do this job with style, and even a bit of sizzle, be wary of the dark side of the trailer biz. You never know when a good trailer is going to take you to the wrong side of the movie tracks.

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