Ever wonder why movies flop? Why is it that some movies just take over the box office while others that seemed like winners moisten their pants?
Is it the actors in it? Nope. Is it the cinematic style it’s shot in? Not quite. How about the plot and character development? Kind of, but not exactly. To simplify this whole process, I’ll give you the answer: a great movie trailer makes a great movie. And having watched over thousands of movie trailers in my life, I think I have discovered the keys to a great trailer: setting the right expectations and a wow factor.
Expectations are key to anything in life. If you love ribs but were expecting chicken parmesan when you get home, dinner is a disappointment (personal example). In the words of Entourage’s Ari Gold: “Expectations, you beat ’em by a dollar, life is great. Get under by a dollar, put a gun in your mouth and make sure I’m standing behind you”. And the very first expectation for a movie comes in the form of a trailer. It’s more concrete than casting rumours and showcases a flavour of what a movie is about. Sometimes, the trailer is actually the first piece of film where one can see the director’s take on the project. Thus, the expectations made at this point in time will completely guide the viewer’s perception of the film both leading up to release and upon viewing.
To highlight this, I will use one of my least favourite trailers in the world, the first Avengers trailer. I would love to link the trailer, but it seems Marvel has taken it down (thank god!). In summary, it showed action clips from the Avengers (such as Nick Fury using a rocket launcher) and quick shots with characters looking thoughtfully into the distance, all set to the metal tune of We’re In This Together by the Nine Inch Nails. What kind of expectations does this set for you? For me, it felt like a late 80s Schwarzenegger action film with cheesy lines after over-the-top action sequences coupled with huge explosions. This is not a bad thing, if the production company is trying to sell that kind of movie. In the case of the eventual Avengers movie, this is not the right message!
In regards to expectations, a trailer must depict the appropriate content that allows a viewer to understand what type of genre the movie will be. This is where a trailer will highlight the targeted audience, and thus where the first Avengers trailer failed. A Nine Inch Nails song targets fans of that genre who may expect constant action with a thin plot and non-stop one-liners based on the trailer presented. Where do the adoring Marvel fans fit into this? They don’t. Thus, the trailer no longer exists. Expectations couldn’t be met as the intended final tone wasn’t depicted appropriately, and Joss Whedon knew this.
The second key to a great trailer is the x-factor (not the godawful show). If a trailer is representative of the intended final product, expectations have been set. But a trailer’s key job is to great excitement for a movie and bring in interested audiences. The x-factor, the wow, the pzazz: this is a subjective idea that will create buzz. The first Avengers trailer lacked this, since it was a series of fast cuts with little discernible focus on one particular wow moment. The second trailer, on the other hand, more than made up for it with the pan around the Avengers fully assembled and about to enter battle. What a shot! That moment solidified the united feel of the film and made audiences curious to see how these various characters might be brought together without outshining one another. More so, for the first time ever audiences saw the whole team side-by-side! On the other hand, this x-factor cannot reveal too much, as the remake of the A-Team did. The big money-shot in the movie, the flying tank, was revealed prematurely and there was nothing in the entire movie to match it (hence the box office flop).
So there! To have a great movie, one must have a trailer that both sets the right expectations and brings in audiences with a memorable wow factor.They say that first impressions last, so why is it that companies put out crappy trailers and expect their movies to rank in the cash and praise? Marvel embarrassingly destroyed all evidence of the very first Avengers trailer, but made up for it with two subsequently incredible trailers and a Holy Grail of a final product!
With the current Age of Ultron trailers creating both great expectations and having an amazing wow-factor in the form of Ultron himself, Marvel is setting itself up to have the greatest movie of our time!