Welcome to Answering Machine, a column where Editor-in-Chief Michael Roffman will voice his opinion on the latest top headlines, which might include new music, various controversies, and publicized conflicts. He’s likened this to a Town Hall discussion of sorts, so please feel free to voice your own two cents below.
This morning, Marvel dropped the much-hyped trailer for their forthcoming comicspalooza, Avengers: Infinity War, and as expected, it delivered everything fans wanted. In fact, it was a little too much. We learn that Tom Holland’s Spider-Man is going to backtrack on his Avengers plea and take the suit. We know that Captain America will return. We know that the Guardians of the Galaxy will show up somehow. We kind of even know what Loki plans to do with the Tesseract now.
Great. Grand. Wonderful.
Granted, everyone and their geeky mother probably knew a lot of these things going into the trailer, especially since everyone and their geeky mother probably dissects this shit on a daily basis via Reddit, but here’s one question: Why would you confirm these things? What do these soft confirmations do except spoil what could arguably be an incredible reveal, one that’s totally lost by a short trailer that really needs to just say: “You’ve been doing this for 10 years. You’re going to be here.”
It’s annoying. It’s preposterous. It’s another desperate sign by Hollywood, one that continues to struggle economically as people with half a brain realize it makes more sense to stay home, save money on streaming services, and avoid the George Miller-esque wasteland that is the modern cinema experience. You know, the place where candy costs a mortgage, bars have turned moviegoers into town drunks, and glowing cellphones are as welcome as bags of popcorn. Fun times.
But, here’s the thing: If these colossal trailers can’t exhibit a little restraint, and withhold some mystery, what can? This is a guaranteed hit — scientifically proven, especially based on the recent box office receipts for Thor: Ragnarok, one of the weaker brand names of the franchise — and so, you have to wonder why Disney and Marvel feel compelled to show anything at all. What do they stand to lose by exercising some mystery and withholding the details? That’s the only mystery at this point.
Unfortunately, it’s not just Marvel. Disney has done the same thing with Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Did you see that last trailer? The one that includes that head-scratching twist involving Rey and Kylo Ren? Why would you show that? Seriously. It’s Star Wars. They could plaster a 1997 photo of Mark Hamill from the red carpet premiere of the re-releases with the words, “Koming Soon to a Galaxy Near You, aka Dec 15”, and it would still break all kinds of records. They wield that kind of power.
Yet they continue to resort to cheap tricks and pandering fan service. Do they not remember the glory days of the ’90s? Back when blockbusters were a dime a dozen? They sure as hell act like they do. After all, today’s entire filmmaking economy seems indebted to those days, what with all the nostalgia mining going on. Well, here’s one thing to get nostalgic for: classic trailers. Think back to the piece of amber for Jurassic Park. Or even the looming shadows of Independence Day.
Curiosity will never go away. It might not seem that way given that the Internet tends to answer every question within a simple Google search, but what these studios need to realize is that they ultimately hold the keys to that curiosity. They have all the power in the world to withhold the details, allow things to simmer, and right now they’re not. Instead, they’re just tossing it out there as if they’re Jack Nicholson’s Joker, tossing out loads of cash to the idiots who yammer away.
Just stop. Hold your cards close to your chest. It’ll lead to better experiences. Don’t believe me? Take a look at Showtime’s Twin Peaks from this past summer. For 18 hours, David Lynch had his fans in a vacuum, leaving them to bask in the mystery as they lost sleep over whether they’d ever see Audrey Horne again or if Bobby Briggs might get to beat the shit out of Balthazar Getty. The waiting was the hardest part, as the late bard said, but it was always fun. It was part of the experience.
Right now, that experience just doesn’t exist in Hollywood, which may be a part of the problem. More and more trailers are beginning to represent short movies, a recap of sorts to let you know, “Well, A and B and C happens, and yes, we’ll even hint at D. Please come.” Sure, that won’t stop the diehards from seeing Luke Skywalker jump over shit, but it also will never equate to an experience on par with, say, when audiences first saw Jaws, or Back to the Future, or even The Dark Knight.
Hell, even when experiences do deliver — like, say, one of our favorite films of the year: Denis Villeneuve’s outstanding and severely underrated Blade Runner 2049 — they’re still less than because of the trailers. By that film’s first teaser trailer, we not only knew that Harrison Ford would return, but how and when. In hindsight, it would have been so much better to not even know if he was in the goddamn movie, and that reveal would have shook the theater. That is, if more people attended.
One solution — and one that I’m sure countless readers have already left in the comments without reading this — is to just stave off trailers. Sure. Noble. Okay. Our former Film Editor Justin Gerber does this. He closes his eyes like he’s that underwritten character from Rogue One every time we sit down to watch a movie. He looks like an idiot. But it works for him. At the same time, it doesn’t stop him from learning about various details, namely because once the cat’s out of the bag…
Well, everyone gets scratched.