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Stop Watching Movie Trailers

Image: Paramount

Image: Paramount

Seriously. They spoil everything. Art is so much better when we go in blind.

I’ve adopted a new policy that has increased my enjoyment of movies immensely. It’s a simple policy. In fact, it involves doing LESS. What’s not to like? Anyway, I’ve stopped watching movie trailers. They show too much. They show pretty much every beat and, at worst, spoil actual plot points. (I'm looking at you, Terminator Genisys.) Anybody familiar with screenwriting or has seen a couple flicks can glean a lot of information from a modern trailer. With a basic understanding of plot and narrative structure, you can easily figure out what scene will be the opening setpiece, what will be the midpoint setpiece, and what will be the ending. Do we get a shot of the hero, bloodied and limping, while a battle rages around her? That’s probably the end. Great! We’re now visually spoiled and we'll know what locations to look for. This saps tension from the narrative. This also may sound pedantic, but hear me out.

Some of the best experiences I’ve had recently at the movies came from seeing films I knew nothing about. For some, like Blair Witch, I knew the premise. Green Room is another great example. I already knew it was a thriller pitting punks against nazis. As soon as I decided to go see it, I abstained from any trailers and promo materials. And damn, did that movie floor me. Everything was fresh. I had no idea what the set looked like, who was playing the villain, or where the gruesome bits were going to take place. In short, I experienced the film as it was meant to be.

Even earlier in my life, I went into The Dark Knight without knowing anything about the film other than, obviously, it was Batman. Can you imagine witnessing Heath Ledger’s transcendent performance without seeing any part of the movie beforehand? I was lucky enough to do this. While it may be too late for a truly cold viewing of The Dark Knight, the option is still available going forward. Try it! Pick any movie you want to see. Then, cut yourself off. Stop consuming any and all promotional materials. No trailers, no interviews, no production photos, no nothing!

If that’s too hardcore for you (and it is, sometimes, for me too), then try this lite version of my technique: only watch the teasers. Movie trailers nowadays are a convoluted affair. First, a movie teases the teaser with a countdown on social media. Then, the teaser drops. Then, the trailer reveal gets a countdown. After five more trailers and endless promotion, the movie itself comes out. And we’ve seen it all. I’d really like for someone with better editing skills than me to pick a modern movie and try to recreate it with the trailers, commercials, teasers, and clips the marketing team releases. I bet they'd be able to cobble together a significant version of the film itself.

And if you’re wondering, I do my eyes and ears when I’m at the theater and the trailers come on. It’s not the perfect strategy but it works in a pinch. I literally cover my eyes when any trailer comes on for a movie I want to see. And yes. I look very silly. But I’ll have the last laugh, because I won’t be the one spoiled by ridiculous movie trailers that look and sound exactly the same.

You know exactly what I’m talking about. They all start with an eerie, slowed down pop song (or children’s song if it’s horror). Sweeping establishing shot of a city. Snippet of action. Part of a conversation chopped up into a one-liner. Another action sequence. At the halfway point, the images get quicker and there’s a siren or a trumpet blast a la Inception. All of this happens, of course, while giving away almost every major plot point. Sadly, this is the rule and not the exception.

So here I am, humbly suggesting you stop watching movie trailers. Tease yourself with a teaser and half a look at a poster. Research the director, the writer, and the stars. There’s nothing more exciting than going into a movie cold. Stop spoiling yourself and take a risk with that 12 bucks.

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