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The process of cutting together a great movie trailer has arguably become an art form in its own right recently, as previews for films like Avengers: Infinity War and Mission: Impossible - Fallout have blown audiences away. That said, there are some seriously tired trends in even the best movie trailers that we're sick of seeing.
To be clear, we're not saying that these trends never worked. All we are saying is that they've lost some of the impacts that they used to have, and therefore they should be retired for the foreseeable future. With that in mind, let's dive in and kick things off with a discussion about the use of slow and eerie pop songs in modern movie trailers.
Slow Covers Of Pop Songs
The Trend: If you have watched a trailer in the last few years, then there's a good chance that you have seen this several times. The trailer slowly fades in, and we're treated to ominous-yet-familiar renditions of beloved songs that tend to have some sort of thematic relevance to the plot of the film being advertised, such as "Smells Like Teen Spirit" being used in a horror movie set in a high school.
Why It Sucks: This one was definitely effective when we first started seeing it in trailers because it took something familiar and then made it creepy and alien. However, through overexposure and overuse, audiences have arguably become relatively inoculated to its effects. Now the use of these covers feels more like a move towards commercialism than a genuine attempt to capture the spirit of the film itself.
Example: The Gallows
Slow Covers Of Classic Themes
The Trend: We had to follow the slow and creepy covers of pop songs with the similar trend of slow and creepy covers of classic movie themes. This is a particularly common trope in the world of blockbuster filmmaking, in which many of the movies being promoted already have incredibly iconic theme songs that audiences can recognize from the first note.
Why It Sucks: Like many of the entries on this list, there are several examples of instances in which this has worked, such as the slow piano cover of the James Bond theme in Spectre. However, the process of recycling somber themes has also become incredibly repetitive, and it no longer has the effect of subverting our expectations and creating a sense of dread toward beloved franchises. Now it just feels tired; we want to hear the old themes come back.
Example: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Smash Cutting To Text
The Trend: This has, without a doubt, become one of the most widely-used methods of cutting trailers together in the world of movie marketing. Part of that likely stems from the fact that it's incredibly simple to do. All the trailer has to do is intersperse sequences of action or laughs with text to give audience information about the movie.
Why It Sucks: This trend initially worked because it helped lend a sense of intensity to the movies being promoted. Now it just feels lazy. It has become the equivalent of the old narrator saying "in a world," and it spoon-feeds exposition and release details to the audience in a uniform manner instead of conveying the tone of the movie. By using this technique, trailers are becoming far too similar to one another.
Example: Suicide Squad
The Trend: Movie marketing has evolved with the boom of the digital era, and that means catering to audiences who now have the ability to skip many YouTube videos after five seconds. As a result, we have seen a notable uptick in trailers that actually begin with rapid-fire teasers preceding the full preview that attempt to show off some of the most important action and drama highlights before an audience member would typically click the "skip" button.
Why It Sucks: These teasers suck because they give away vital footage to a trailer before audiences have a chance even to watch the preview. A lot of work goes into editing the best trailers, and those explosive, rapid-fire montages ruin the tone of many of them. It's like taking a shot of hot sauce before diving into a gourmet meal.
Example: Most trailers
The Trend: The horror genre has experienced a significant boom over the course of the last few years, and part of that stems from the fact that directors have shown increasing audacity in the construction of their scares. Alas, with such short time in a trailer, many fall back on the use of jump scares to jolt the audience and get the adrenaline pumping.
Why It Sucks: The use of jump scares in trailers sucks for many of the same reasons that jump scares suck in general. Horror movies often rely on the building of suspense to deliver their best thrills, and jump scares in a two to three-minute trailer don't have the same amount of time to pay off the build-up of tension that a horror movie can afford a filmmaker.
Example: Insidious: The Last Key
The "Inception" Noise
The Trend: Out of all the trends that we have seen in modern movie trailers, this one is intriguing because it can be directly traced back to one very specific movie: Christopher Nolan's Inception. It is the trailer-editing trend in which random horns (reminiscent of Hans Zimmer's iconic score) boom loudly in the background as action fades in and out of the screen.
Why It Sucks: Inception was a bonafide box office hit, and much of that stemmed from some truly great marketing. However, the horns in the Inception trailer were very specific to the tone of the score and the use of booming sound effects to convey the slowing of time. For other previews to adopt that method honestly does not make that much sense in the grand scheme of things.
Example: World War Z
Laying Out The Full Movie
The Trend: Movie trailers are mini-movies. The best of them tell stories that echo the themes and essential plot points of the movies they're selling. However, some trailers have taken that a step further in recent years by following the tentpole story beats of their respective films to the point at which many fans can dissect a trailer and accurately break down the movie.
Why It Sucks: We get the rationale of trying to construct a narrative, but laying out the entire plot of the movie in simple and easy-to-understand terms in a movie trailer sucks because it basically eliminates the point of actually seeing the movie when it finally comes out. This trend has turned trailers into Sparknotes versions of movies, rather than methods of selling films to audiences. That's the absolute wrong approach to cutting a movie trailer together.
Example: Spider-Man: Homecoming
Teasing Major Spoilers
The Trend: This one might actually be the most frustrating because it seems to go against the very logic of having a twist ending or a third act-reveal for a movie. As many of you have likely seen in recent years, there seems to be a disconnect between those who make trailers and those who make movies, as marketing often showcase major plot reveals before the movie event debuts.
Why It Sucks: Unlike the other entries on this list, teasing major spoilers stands apart because it was never an appealing trend in movie trailers. Spoiling anything that would have managed to surprise audiences in a pleasant way is never okay, and it is something that even the most mainstream trailers have an issue with in recent years.
Example: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Hiding Crucial Plot Points
The Trend: Have you ever seen a trailer for a movie and then found yourself absolutely flabbergasted by elements of the story that were left out of the film's promotional material when you sat down to actually watch the movie? That's what this trend is -- the omission of critical details that fundamentally inform what a movie is going to be about.
Why It Sucks: This one is the polar opposite of the significant teasing of spoilers because it involves the film withholding key information or design details that many audiences want to see. For example, if we know that a film is going to focus on an iconic character, then at the very least we want to look at that role teased at some point in the preview. Some elements of a story (particularly character design) shouldn't be kept secret.
Ending On A One-Liner
The Trend: Finally, we come to the trend of ending modern movie trailers on one-liners. You've almost certainly seen this before. It primarily involves giving the trailer one last joke, gag or humorous punch to punctuate the entire preview. In the cases of sequels, these often include calling back to a previous film in some way.
Why It Sucks: These work on a case-by-case basis. Of course, sometimes it fits the tone of a movie to tease one of the film's better gags. However, more often than not, one of these jokes is used at the end of a serious trailer to tell the audience that the film won't be all doom and gloom. In the end, it often ends up sabotaging tone and compromising the emotional integrity of the footage that preceded it.
Example: Independence Day: Resurgence