10 for '11

The Best Trailers for Upcoming Films

by Ben Travers

9 August 2011


Best Trailer for the Worst Movie

Best Trailer for the Worst Movie - Puss in Boots

Let me start by apologizing to my mother, who is looking forward to this movie more than my next visit home. That being said, the Shrek films have steadily declined in quality, and even though Puss N’ Boots is second only to Donkey in laugh totals, I can’t imagine him carrying his own film (a theory substantiated by the full trailer). There have been rumors of an Eddie Murphy cameo, but even if the whole cast showed up in spots throughout the picture this would still be terrible.

The trailer, or teaser to be more accurate, is paradoxically brilliant. The animated cat who has oozed more sexuality than any other is front and center throughout, discarding his garments along the way before delivering the perfect closing line – “All that I need…are the boots.” Then he rides away on horseback in front of a sunset. Yeah. That just happened. If only it was a more accurate predictor of its final product instead of merely a solid teaser.

Worst Trailer for the Best Movie - War Horse

Steven Spielberg helming a war movie with a late December release date. Sounds like Oscar bait if I’ve ever heard it. It will undoubtedly rack up numerous nominations from the Academy, but it won’t be getting a call from the Golden Trailer Awards. Terrific imagery is let down by a familiar but unremarkable score and cornball, clichéd text like “Hope Survives”. Ugh.

The lack of any star power or even a familiar face doesn’t help, but even if you were to recognize someone I doubt they’re a selling point. Spielberg’s name will carry this, and though I have more faith in it than Scorsese’s latest (Hugo, which would win “Worst Trailer for the Worst Movie”), the clips paired together here are just as alienating. There’s nothing to get attached to and no memorable shots. Spielberg, and his company, Dreamworks, should know better.

Best Trailer for a Movie It Can’t Help - Margin Call

Audiences made it pretty clear last September they weren’t interested in revisiting real world problems at the multiplex. From Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps to The Company Men, excellent films with A-list stars were widely ignored because of their too-true-to-life stories. So what do we have this year? Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Stanley Tucci, Paul Bettany, and Demi Moore try to sell us on a movie about the days preceding America’s financial crisis.

Good luck. Though some may be tempted to see the movie just so they can understand what happened (who really understands that stuff? I mean, other than me…), that’s not going to mark enough of a demographic to make back a substantial amount of money. People just aren’t in the mood for this, and a first time feature director with one or two Oscar friendly faces aren’t going to be enough to counter that lack of enthusiasm.

Best Trailer for a Movie That Doesn’t Need the Help - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I did not read the book, so questions of an accurate retelling should be directed to someone who has (or someone who gives a shit). What I can vouch for is the shockingly dark energy fueling the marketing campaign behind the self-described “feel bad movie of Christmas”. First, there were the scandalous international posters with Rooney Mara’s bare breast (and pierced nipple). Then came the red-band trailer with a bruised, bloody Daniel Craig, a few shots of the girl, and that thumping, rousing unreleased cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”.

The constant quick cutting subsequently allows die-hard fans to go back and analyze individual clips for clues while providing plenty of hooks for curious newcomers. Then comes those big, white, block letters dominating the screen with a tagline most conservative marketers would be too scared to implement. It all adds up to a stimulating minute and a half…that will in no way contribute to the movie’s success.

In fact, it’s rather surprising Columbia Pictures green lit such a black campaign for a potential franchise starter. Why not play it safe with a run-of-the-mill murder mystery teaser featuring James Bond? Your built in audience plus the many fans of Craig secure a big payout. Why mess with it? I don’t have the answer executives want to hear, but I do appreciate it. I say the darker the better, even at Christmas.

Best Trailer - Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Tom Cruise haters be damned – the first glimpse of the fourth installment in the Mission: Impossible franchise looks as action-packed with nail-biting thrills as, well, the first and third movies in the franchise. That is saying something quite specactular when coming from an ardent fan of those two underappreciated impossible missions. 

While the last Ethan Hunt adventure was a domestic box office disappointment, it was also arguably the best of the franchise. Thanks to J.J. Abrams the third picture carried an emotional punch and, thanks to Phillip Seymour Hoffman, a marvelously malicious villain. Cruise even got to expend his manic energy in more than just action scenes – he had to care about someone in a fierce and immediate manner.

Though Abrams isn’t back in the director’s chair for part four, he is still helping out as a producer while Brad Bird, director of The Incredibles, gets to step up and helm his first live-action feature. That’s one of many lively hooks provided by the bustling, pulse-pounding trailer for Ghost Protocol. We also get a few shots of Lost veteran Josh Holloway, including him jumping off a building, turning around in mid-air, and shooting back above him. Simon Pegg appears to be a bigger part of this one, which is always a welcome promotion. Plus…

Jeremy Renner isn’t the star! Ok, ok. That came out a little too giddy. Renner is a terrific young actor and a welcome second operative in the IMF. But we’re paying to see one man do many impossible things, and the two-and-a-half minutes we get here make it perfectly clear who’s front and center. Tom Cruise is running from an exploding Kremlin, sliding over the top of a car, and jumping from panel to panel on the world’s tallest building. All we really need to see is Cruise running, but the movie gods have blessed us with so much more.

The man formerly known as Maverick repeatedly refuses to draw the line at death-defying stunts, and the nausea-inducing shot from above the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, with Cruise running along its glass panels, seems to be the star’s boldest stunt yet. Throw in some talented stars (including Ving Rhames, the only other actor to appear in all four films), a working script (I hope), and a talented eye behind the camera, and all you need is a hook to convince those still holding a personal grudge to get over the hump. They got it with this trailer. The only thing that’s impossible is waiting for December.

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