Guest Blogger: Mike Discusses Laying the Bait--The Disconnect Between Movies and Trailers

A couple years ago, I caught wind of an announcement of what I suspected was a very bad idea: Fox had decided to remake--or in modern terms, “reboot”--the Spider-man franchise. While the first two movies had been pretty successful and pretty well received by comic fans such as myself (fans, I should point out, just entering the Geek Golden Age), the third movie was something of a disaster. While it made money, the movie was panned critically (especially by fans, who took the movie, as a whole, as a personal insult), threatening to end the franchise.

Sensing there was still money buried in the franchise, Fox followed the lead of two recent superhero franchises that had started from scratch: Batman Begins and The Incredible Hulk. Hoping to appeal to the sore and angry fans (who get far more service than they probably deserve), the studio decided to rename the franchise, going with the traditional adjective-toting title of the comics.

And thus, The Amazing Spider-man was made and has been widely advertised for nearly a year with footage, clips, TV spots, and trailers. While many fans feared a rehash of the story seen in the Raimi movies, the new director, writers, and actors of the reboot all promised a take on Peter Parker’s origin story that explored the disappearance and death of his parents.

The second trailer from the film sells the new premise with vigor. The two minute preview features several clips from the film that not only emphasize Peter’s search for answers regarding his parents but the villain’s ability to grant these answers. Featuring such phrases as “If you want the truth about your parents, Peter, come and get it,” and “Do you think this was an accident, Peter?” the trailer aims to reduce nearly every comic geek who sees it into a driveling, drooling pile of excitement.

That the trailer nearly succeeds is saying a lot, especially considering the general pessimism that most fans felt towards the reboot (and, yes, I was among them). No comic fan can resist the promise of revealed secrets and hidden histories. The trailers promised this and more.

(Beware: mild spoilers ahead!)
 
The only trouble is, when the film was released, those of us who were successfully tempted into seeing the film for these reasons came away completely empty-handed.

Despite my fears and pessimism, I did see the film. And while the purpose of this writing is NOT to present a review, I will say that I found it satisfying on some levels, though it never reached the level of the originals (even considering how dated they feel to me these days) though it does rehash earlier ideas.

The biggest disappointment of the movie, however, is not the quality or even the inevitable revisiting of many plot points from the original films. The main disappointment is the film’s failure to explore the mystery promised in the previews. In fact, many of the scenes and lines featured in the trailer, all of which addressed the mystery directly, are missing from the theatrical release altogether.

While this is certainly disappointing, the sad reality is that modern previews and trailers do this ALL THE TIME. While there have been some famous missing scenes in the past (Twister has long been mocked for a scene of a flying tire hitting a windshield that was seen in the trailer but not the film), the last several years have seen an increase of these incidents.

Even Avengers, the only summer release I’ve seen this year that wasn’t a disappointment, featured a couple trailer moments that were either cut from the film or replaced by a different take (the “billionaire playboy philanthropist” line being the most notable replaced scene).

While many will argue that this is par for the course for Hollywood, I feel it’s a genuine problem.

I am a movie news junkie. I have several websites that I visit several times a day, eagerly scoping for news on upcoming films, new scenes, and trailers. And Hollywood, in its goal to make money, desperately tries to appease me. The fear, however, is that while we fans love these tastes, no one will want to watch the final product (which we've mostly seen through bits and pieces by the time it comes out). As a result, studios are being put in a difficult position by their customers. We movie fans may partly have ourselves to blame when studios oversell a film.

Partly to blame. Studios aren't just overselling; they are making false promises to their audience, and we as consumers shouldn’t just accept that. A couple years ago, the film Drive was sued by consumers, claiming false advertising, as the trailers of the film made what was a slow, violent drama seem like an action-oriented Fast and the Furious rip-off.

While a lawsuit may seem a bit melodramatic, this needs to happen more often. A piece of art (which, despite some strong arguments to the contrary, I still believe film to be) should be sold on its own merits, not for what it pretends to be. If a studio suspects that a film is not what an audience wants, it will advertise the film as the desired product rather than change the film itself. I’m all for artistic integrity; money or not, studios should deliver the product they promised!

The sad truth is that things probably won’t change. The “bait and switch” is an age old concept of sales and trade and will be a part of humanity for a long time to come. But when untruth is prevalent, it’s hard to take pleasure in much of anything, especially those things we SHOULD enjoy, like a trip to the movies. I’m not giving up yet, but if The Dark Knight Rises turns out to be a romantic comedy, my next stop will be the library.

Mike can be reached at his Facebook page and at the Mike-Kate Video Club.

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