Five Trailers That Are Better Than The Movies They Tease

The movie trailer is an art form rarely celebrated, all too often written off as a piece of marketing unworthy of accreditation and praise. The truth is, however, that with millions of dollars riding on just about every movie facing a cinematic release, an inordinate amount of time, thought and – yes – talent go into making a trailer the best and most successful it can be.

While advertisement campaigns often provide fairly good insight into the movies they endeavour to sell, there is sometimes a considerable discrepancy between the trailer and the finished film. It is a truism often reserved for a handful of genres: comedies consistently exhaust their best material in an attempt to get bums on seats at the expense of inevitable enjoyment, while horrors sustain tension over two minutes with far greater proficiency than they manage over two hours. With some material it appears to be the case that editors can make a better quality trailer than directors can manage a feature film.

Below are just some of the trailers that have committed the ultimate crime. There may undoubtedly be more than five offenders, but these are the culprits that betrayed me personally.

Where The Wild Things Are (2009)

Opening with a drowsy Max being carried through the woods by a towering Wild Thing, James Gandolfini’s congested tones preceding our first proper glimpse of the impulsive Carol, dialogue is quickly forfeited in favour of Arcade Fire’s inordinately apt “Wake Up”. As the song carries us whimsically through the general thrust of the movie – the edit drawing an accomplished parallel between the real world and that of the titular Wild Things – the mini narrative takes on a disarmingly beguiling life of its own.

The song. The visuals. The hand-written logos. The creature design. It really is like being hugged personally by Spike Jones, the full trailer a ruthlessly heartwarming exercise in charm. Based on a children’s book barely ten sentences long, it was always going to be a challenge bringing Maurice Sendak’s story to the big screen. While Jones does a wonderful job, the finished film never quite reaches the atmospheric perfection of the film’s original trailer.

Eat, Pray, Love (2010)

Previously unaware of the self-help phenomenon that was Elizabeth Gilbert’s 2006 memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, the original trailer with its cod philosophy and the lyrical help of Florence and her machine persuaded me to type words into Google and order it online. Kick-started by one of Julia Roberts’ most Hell-conquering smiles, the trailer stars Pizza, Pasta and Ice Cream as they teach our heroine the truth to spiritual enlightenment.

Clocking in at just 2:28, the trailer gives no indication of the self-indulgent, bloated mess Glee’s Ryan Murphy is preparing to unleash on audiences. Ultimately forgetting about such narrative necessities as pace and drama, the film fails entirely to live up to the trailer’s joyful promise. Inspiring, uplifting and deliriously day-making, the trailer is everything Eat, Pray, Love should have been.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008)

Narnia has never matched Potter for that intoxicating sense of occasion, the Pevensie children and their occasional ventures to the land beyond the wardrobe never benefiting from the urgency of Harry, Ron and Hermione’s yearly arrivals at Hogwarts – with tight release schedules to match. If Prince Caspian was at such a disadvantage, however, there was no sign of it upon the release of the second installment’s delightfully brazen trailer. THE TIME HAS COME TO JOURNEY BACK TO NARNIA indeed.

A dramatic damp patch, the film would go on to bore, disenchant and condescend as Aslan once again forced his Christian allegory through every plot-hole he could find. But the trailer. The trailer makes it look like this is it, the sole reason we developed opposable thumbs and evolved eyes complex enough to tell the difference between a breathtaking water monster and an eye-popping blossom demon. Gone is the staid wardrobe. Narnia wants you back so badly it’s willing to disintegrate a train station – I’m all ears.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

While the same could be said about most of Platinum Dunes’ output (JASON IS RUNNING!!), it was A Nightmare On Elm Street that suggested more than any other that the studio might have had a change of heart and actually decided to make a good movie. Opening with the portentious death of Freddy Krueger, the trailer artfully introduces the iconic villain one trademark at a time. The striped sweatshirt. The hat. The glove. The burns.

Boasting some creepy imagery and a cast of dutifully screaming teenagers, it really did look like the studio was on to a winner. Accompanied by a haunting recital of the franchise’s infamous nursery rhyme, the visuals are both stylish and faithful to the original, while the final reveal of Krueger befalls a shockingly serious new direction. Pity, then, that the final product should turn out to be so characteristically vapid, offensive and entirely devoid of the subtext which made the original movie so timeless. Thanks Platinum Dunes. Thanks bunches.

Inception (2010)

“What’s the most resilient parasite?” Considering the impenetrable secrecy which surrounded production on Christopher Nolan’s bat-hiatus Inception, the first trailer goes some way to explaining just why audiences should be pan-wettingly excited for its release. Scenes showing a city fold in half, a cafe explode and a train tearing through a street of cars flash by as some random on a foghorn ramps it up to eleven. Tensions build and questions pile up as the tempo crescendos and water sweeps Leonardo DiCaprio from all directions. WILL SOMEBODY WAKE ELLEN PAGE THE FUCK UP??

While Inception is undoubtedly an accomplished movie, it adds little more to the narrative than an uncomfortable subplot involving Marion Cotillard attempting to act. Rather than escalating the freaky-deaky as our heroes travel deeper and deeper into some dream or other (you never once feel that Freddy Krueger or the Cheese Man could step out from some twisted dreamscape – or that you might discover you’ve forgotten to wear trousers to school), any jeopardy is unfortunately limited to the terrifying possibility that one impeccably dressed character’s shoe lace might become untied and any imagination limited to a few minor juxtapositions. From the trailer – a masterclass in intrigue – anything is still possible, it is a powerful amalgam of footage that holds up to repeated viewings with far greater success than the finished film itself.

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