For mine, one of the more interesting trends in films over the decades isn’t anything to do with the films themselves, but the trailers used to advertise and promote the film and how they’ve changed over the years.
The first era of the movie trailer lasted roughly from the 1930s to the mid-1960s where virtually all the ones I’ve seen seemed to be done in the tone one imagined how a salesman at an old-time carnival would’ve tried to lure people into a freak show – full of breathless energy and bombast, lots of emphasis on the stars, lots of adjectives in big font appearing, not much conveyance of the tone (let alone plot) of the film (this trailer for ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ being a good example). As a general rule, these types of trailers haven’t aged well and to be honest, it’s hard to envisage how people were enticed by such lured trailers back then.
As reflective in the change in culture and increasing experimentation of mainstream Hollywood in that era, in the 1970s there were examples of movie trailers that were highly unusual. Take for example this trailer for the 1972 film ‘What’s Up Doc?’ which hardly shows any of the film and relies mainly on director Peter Bogdanovich and his stars goofing around on the set. It’s inconceivable to think of a major film being given such a trailer today.
The main change that one notices in movie trailers is that – while many of them are still quite conventional – they are done in a more mature manner and treat the audience like adults, whereas 1930s-1960s trailers treated the audience like kids.
Then, from the 1980s to today we have seen the trailer become taken far more seriously. They are far more slicker than trailers of previous eras are and often give a general idea of the plot (too much in fact it’s been argued) and tone of the film better. Clearly the studios take them far more seriously than they used to.
But despite that, I find watching trailers an often tedious experience now (especially for blockbuster mainstream films) as they seem all done in the same way, even down to the same rhythms. They usually start off slowly, then get more and more frenetic and hyped up (with the obligatory bombastic background music), reaching a crescendo by the end (and the obligatory one-liner from one of the film’s stars) (the Captain America trailer is a good example).
For all the technical expertise that is now on display in movie trailers, they feel so heavy-handed and obvious it feels like a hyped-up version of what we used to see in the 1950s and we’re being treated like children again. Hopefully there’s a change in mindset and some inventiveness comes back into movie trailers in the near future.
But then again, it’s all a subjective thing. In many ways this movie trailer has all the aspects of a movie trailer I dislike but I absolutely love it.
Is there any movie trailers – good or bad – that stand out for you?