Are Movie Trailers Ruining It For Everyone?

Sigh. There's something wrong with the world when we need spoiler alerts for previews.

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Last weekend, I saw Oblivion at the movies. I knew very little about it, other than the fact that it was a sci-fi film starring Tom Cruise and that it featured a soundtrack by M83, one of my favourite bands. It was a beautiful-looking and exciting film, with an intriguing premise about the innate human desire to ask questions. I enjoyed it a lot.

My boyfriend saw it too, having watched the trailer beforehand, and his reaction was a little less enthusiastic. “It was good,” he shrugged as we walked out of the cinema, “but the trailer gave away far too much.” When we got home, I watched one of the three Oblivion trailers available on YouTube, and was stunned by how much it revealed.

While the trailer doesn’t spoil everything, it does give away at least one of the film’s big twists. The film itself does a very effective job of building mood and atmosphere before revealing its secrets, and watching it get there is an enjoyable experience. However, the trailer just lays these things right in the open, making for a far cruder experience.

“I’ve seen the preview, so I guess I don’t need to see the film…” is a common refrain, and you’ve probably felt this yourself at some point. It’s as if Hollywood is terrified to leave even one plot point, one gag, one explosion out of a trailer, for fear that audiences might get bored or might not understand what they’re watching.

In years gone by, if you were looking forward to a movie, the trailer was a great way to whet your appetite. These days, ironically, it’s better to avoid trailers altogether, unless you want the whole film spoiled in advance. As an experiment, I took a look at the trailers for four of 2013’s biggest upcoming releases, to see just how much they give away. I’ve avoided sharing any unnecessary plot details in the write-ups that follow, which is a lot more than you can say for the trailers themselves.


The Carrie trailer makes the entire movie seem redundant

Carrie is a remake of a film from 1976, which itself was an adaptation of a Stephen King novel. That being the case, there are very few plot details for this trailer to actually spoil. There are iPhones this time around, and the special effects are noticeably more slick, but Kimberly Peirce’s film looks like it follows many of the same beats as Brian De Palma’s.

True, the current generation of kids may not have seen the original Carrie, but if so, this trailer does its best to spoil the story. It’s practically a short film, laying out every detail of the plot: girl gets bullied, develops telekinetic powers, and then is all like “YOLO BITCHEZ, L8RS!” as she turns her prom into a fiery death trap.

The film seems to have a lot going for it. Chloë Grace Moretz is a star on the rise, Kimberly Peirce is a talented director who knows her way around touchy subject matter, and Julianne Moore always classes up the joint. It’s a pity the trailer has to give so much away.


The Conjuring teased brilliantly then gave away too much

The teaser for The Conjuring was damn-near perfect, showing you just as much as it needed to and setting up an atmosphere of fear and foreboding. It was terrifying, but crucially, it left you with a lot of questions, like who are these people and OH MY GOD WHAT THE HELL IS UP WITH THOSE SPOOKY HANDS?!

After such an effective teaser, the main trailer spoils the suspense by giving away far too much information. The teaser worked because it allowed you a small glimpse of something spooky, but the trailer puts a lot of the scares right there in your face and has Patrick Wilson’s character explain exactly what’s going on.

The teaser gave the sense that The Conjuring was more sophisticated than your standard Hollywood horror fare, but the trailer itself undoes all that good work.


The Heat gives away all the laughs

I love Melissa McCarthy. Everyone loves Melissa McCarthy. That’s why her movies make tens of millions of dollars at the box office. Melissa McCarthy is a thing; Bridesmaids was a huge deal and Identity Thief is one of the year’s most successful comedies. We no longer need to be beaten over the head with the fact that Melissa McCarthy is funny – WE GET IT.

Case in point: the trailer for The Heat. When you hear that Melissa McCarthy is going to be in a buddy cop comedy with Sandra Bullock, you know what to expect. She’s going to play a mouthy, uncouth loose cannon who will butt heads with Bullock’s more straight-laced character, before the two overcome adversity and become friends.

The Heat looks very funny. I’m looking forward to seeing it when it comes out, although thanks to this trailer, which lays everything out, I’m hoping that there are still actually some jokes that haven’t been given away here.


Kick-Ass 2’s trailer leaves a vague impression of what the film will be like

The irreverent Kick-Ass was a success a few years ago, so Universal were understandably keen to make another one. This trailer’s main job is to reassure you that the sequel is going to have all the same stuff you liked about the first. Exaggerated comic violence? They’ve got that covered. Chloë Grace Moretz cursing up a storm? You betcha.

The Kick-Ass 2 trailer flashes by so fast that it’s essentially a series of bright lights, dazzling colours, explosions, and dudes getting kicked in the nuts by costumed heroes. You’re left with a general impression of how the film will look and feel, but no real plot details, other than the reveal that McLovin is back and building some sort of evil army?

This vagueness actually works in the trailer’s favour. When it’s all done, you feel as if there’s still some movie left to see, and by default, that makes it the best of the bunch.


So, what’s to be done about this?

If you don’t want to be spoiled for an upcoming movie, there’s not an awful lot you can do. Avoid trailers on the internet, and if you’re going to a movie, plan to arrive at least 15 minutes late in order to avoid coming attractions.

If you’re in a cinema lobby or browsing TVs at JB Hi-Fi or something when a trailer comes on, just close your eyes, stick your fingers in your ears, and moan until it’s over. People might think you’re an enormous weirdo, but at least you’ll stay spoiler free!


Alasdair Duncan is an author, freelance writer and video game-lover who has had work published in Crikey, The Drum, The Brag, Beat, Rip It Up, The Music Network, Rave Magazine, AXN Cult and Star Observer.