You Saw It Coming

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When you walk into a blockbuster movie in the present day, I think it is fair to say, we are not going in waiting to be as shocked and surprised like we used to. Most of the time a film’s trailers will give away large amounts of information, sometimes to the extent where the entire plot is revealed. From there each frame from trailers and sneak peaks are speculated about on message boards, blogs and social media until, if we wanted, we could all have a good idea of where the movie is going in a narrative and character sense. I’m not saying this is a bad thing at all, in fact, sometimes the anticipation and speculation outweighs the excitement derived from the actual film. What I am saying, that in this day and age the movie has to understand that a large chunk of its audience will have been exposed to its money shots and best lines of dialogue already, so instead of insulting their intelligence it’s all about embracing the predictability.

Predictability is not a bad thing, some would say it is connected with a film being boring. However, the ubiquity of a massive summer blockbuster and the marketing associated with it will not change. Jurassic World has handled this fantastically and is a great example of producing a film with the knowledge that everyone is going to have a good guess at the storyline and will have watched the trailers quite a few times.

In the last month, the marketing team behind Jurassic World has been hitting us hard. Trailers, TV Spots, merchandise, magazine covers and not to mention the app where you can build your own Jurassic World (if you have the money to buy the £40 packs of cards to play the game via in store purchasing) my point is, you know there’s a new Jurassic Park film coming out and you know the basis for the plot and have already seen the dinosaurs. Add this to the fact that a lot of people going to see this film have seen Jurassic Park I-III or at least the first one which Jurassic World mainly derives it ideas from. It all looked set up for a potential disappointment where we’ve seen it all before. But director Colin Trevorrow was probably aware that this would happen which is why he just went all out.

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The best case and point would be that of the new park attraction, the hybrid dinosaur Indominus Rex. The early trailers tried to mask the appearance of this creature but with the merchandise coming out many months before in Lego form and as its design was starting to be shown online and on magazines, the cat was out the bag and from that stage you might as well show it as much as you can in the film. The Indominus is shown very early in the movie, unlike Jaws which this movie borrows from in some respects. Trevorrow mentioned in an interview these days you don’t get the luxury of just one trailer like Jaws had 40 years ago so you can keep your best secrets hidden, so, to his credit, he just went all guns blazing and it worked wonderfully. Also, the main reason the suspense was so great in Jaws was down to the mechanical shark not working and so Spielberg had no choice but to keep the shark hidden for the majority of the film.

In Jurassic World we knew the raptors we’re going to be smart and Chris Pratt was going to be their trainer, also the Mosasaur was going to play some part, as we also knew that Bryce Dallas Howard holding a flare in in front of an opening of a door can only mean one thing is coming up. The plot was massively derivative of the first film where two children, who are related to somebody very important in the running of the park are left to alone with carnivorous dinosaurs. However, it does it in a way that is still entertaining and because there isn’t the element of surprise that Jaws or the original Jurassic Park had in 1993, Jurrasic World presents us with huge amounts of action and a well written script from Amanda Silver and Rick Jaffa.

This isn’t the only franchise in which the movies must up their game to survive at the box office. Although studios know that lots of people like the same thing presented, there has to be some difference, something new to keep us coming back to the cinema. Studios that have become complacent and have churned out the same rubbish all the time have suffered bad financial returns. People are not that easily fooled and many franchises have needed a reboot to survive or been destroyed completely (Terminator Salvation, Speed 2, Batman and Robin, Spiderman 3, etc.)

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A studio like Marvel has to keep upping its game to create a sense of something you haven’t seen before with the huge amount of films they have produced in such a short space of time. When we had Phase One with Iron Man, 1 & 2, Thor and Captain America, that all culminated in The Avengers which was ground breaking because of the build-up and the sheer scale of the movie. Now, with Avengers: Age of Ultron, new characters are being established to give the audience something new but through marketing and the previous films we have already seen so much in the last few years. That’s why Guardians of the Galaxy was so great, because it was such an original choice of comic to adapt compared to the normal Marvel universe. Age of Ultron was a well made film but it lacked surprises and didn’t do anything special, besides establishing the vision, to remedy the overused formula.

Jurassic World is a great movie though, whether my opinions are deep seated in nostalgia is one for everyone else to determine but it was so great to go into a movie in which I had seen the trailer to death and not be disappointed with the end product. I can only hope that it is the same with The Force Awakens. Although J.J Abrams does like to keep a lid on his films and not give too much away it’ll be a big ask in the world we live in now. At this moment, we’ll just have to speculate.

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The Spoiler Conundrum

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So far, we have seen a very strong summer for film. The majority of the blockbusters are making their money back and although some have been received with less than total enthusiasm by critics and audiences, including The Great Gatsby and Hangover III, many have held up as exciting, interesting and entertaining. With so many more to look forward to like: Kick-Ass 2, Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Pacific Rim, it’s going to be a great year for film.

This is all good, but, my question today is whether it’s socially acceptable to discuss important plot points of these films. Can critics, bloggers and people using social networking sites reveal any spoilers or will there be a huge backlash against them as they, in effect, ruin the film for those yet to see it.

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It is a very serious and complicated issue to understand and is an absolute minefield for those with blogs or Twitter accounts. When is it ok to spill the beans about a plot twist, which is some cases is intrinsic to reviewing or discussing the movie? I ask these questions because the two biggest films of the summer so far, Iron Man 3 and Star Trek: Into Darkness, both have huge plot points that are vital to the story. Once these are revealed they completely change the concept and direction of the movies and some would argue these have to be revealed to discuss the film frankly and fairly.

I will not reveal these plot points yet because the films are still at the cinema and I assume there are many yet to see them, despite their hefty box office takings, and this is our problem. I do not want to be accused of ruining a film for anybody, especially films I really enjoyed myself. I want people to discover things for themselves and be able to discuss their thoughts with an open mind devoid of too much external influence. Which is why I find trailers that reveal key plot points and jokes so offensive, such as Fast and Furious 6 which leaves nothing to the imagination.

For example, though, if I was going to be writing a review or feature about Star Trek, I would need to reveal this key plot point to explain the majority of the plot and thoroughly debate the movie. IMDB revealed spolierific pieces of information quite prominently on their page for a while before the film was actually released.

In my experience, the online public is very thoughtful of when to flash up the spoiler alert klaxon and will often over compensate by not revealing anything at all on various forums. There are some, however, who won’t wait and continue to blurt out the conclusion of a film the moment they get home from the cinema. Who’s to say they can’t though? Since the dawn of the internet the complication of the situation has certainly been exacerbated. Everything is at risk of being revealed, although, on the other hand, I certainly believe more people have become spoiler conscious and the fact audience members have a secret they know and other people don’t can be quite perversely intriguing.

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If we take the biggest plot twist in recent, cinematic history: Bruce Willis being a ghost in The Sixth Sense the big spoiler was still flooding the media despite the lack of the social networking. Once people knew that Willis had been dead all along, it spread like wildfire through word of mouth. Every form of popular culture would reference M.Night Shyamalan’s surprise finale and before long it was public knowledge. My mother, to this day, remembers the movie being ruined for her on a talk show as comedien Jack Dee made jokes at the expense of this “secret” piece of exposition. No one is safe from certain spoilers.

Which types of films are critics allowed to reveal though? Shakespeare, Dickens and Austen adaptations always seem to have their key plot points explained. We all know Hamlet’s going to die. There is a consensus that a piece of literature that is adapted isn’t safe from spoilers because there is a feeling it should be public knowledge. This is certainly the case with many of these century old works but what about more recent films. Many critics revealed who died in the Harry Potter series because they thought everyone had read the books. But, there are always those who won’t have and will have been disappointed.

So, when can we reveal these points? A week? A month? A year? Some would think it depends on the film and the magnitude of the film. Some assume that once the film has left cinemas, people have had enough time to watch it and if not it’s the viewers fault and not theirs. I usually take every case on its merit but it is getting increasingly hard to judge and one day I know I’m not going to be able to avoid spoilers. I just hope I don’t ruin anything for you!

The Curse of The Comedy Trailer

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I love trailers. I love them so much that I have often spent full days just watching trailers on YouTube until I fall asleep. They provide a ridiculous amount of anticipation for upcoming films or a nostalgia to films long gone. However, there is one type of trailer that acts as a double edged sword. This is the comedy trailer. The catch 22 here is that they have to sell their movie, make people want to see it, establish the tone and that it’s got a load of laughs. But, they can’t give away all the best jokes otherwise there would be little point in people seeing it. That’s the big problem many trailers have, it often renders the film unfunny if you know what’s coming next.

One of the most blatant instances of this was when I recently saw a copy of Johnny English Reborn. The first one was very watchable, pretty funny and Rowan Atkinson, Ben Miller and John Malkovich were on top form. A comedy that didn’t that itself too seriously. You expect predictability but in a good way, not in a ‘I saw that in the trailer’ way.

Where that was appealing to me, last year, I didn’t much fancy Johnny English Reborn at the cinema, I didn’t think it would merit the ticket money. It may have been considered if I didn’t see the trailer about 40 times at the cinema, as well as the preceding adverts that showed the trailer again to sell the Odeon Premier card. I knew what was coming and it dulled the enjoyment of an otherwise bland film. These jokes and slapstick humour are what would of saved the film for me, but considering I knew when they were coming it just killed it for me.

Things I could expect included Johnny English hitting a woman with a tray repeatedly before getting hit again, mistaking Gillian Anderson’s mother with that of an assailant, driving a motorised wheelchair under a lorry whilst evading the authorities and of course, that old chestnut, getting hit in the testicles several times.

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This is why when I see a trailer like the Hangover 3, This is the End or 21 and Over I’m terrified that all the best jokes will be revealed and I won’t be able to enjoy the film. I sit in anticipation of the punchline in the cinema. As the build up progresses I half expect half the audience to blurt out said zinger. Too often,  I’ve been in a packed screening and what’s supposed to be the money line from the script doesn’t get the wave of laughs hoped. Instead it’s gets a silent hush as everyone already knew what was coming ten minutes before, this is a big shame.

There have been some things done in the past that have tried to amend this problem including creating jokes separate from the film. Or doing a little short skit like Monsters Inc to introduce the tone and characters but not the killer lines.

Often though, comedies don’t have this luxury and they must surrender their best lines for the sake of getting their audience. In some cases though the film will be good enough so we forget this and in context, the jokes are given extra depth. This doesn’t happen as much as we’d like though.

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Audiences these days are so attuned to comedy beats that these films have to be so original that they catch out their viewers. You have to be very smart or audiences and critics alike will find you out and make you pay. People surely no longer will stand for movies that machine gun the audience with swearing and star cameos and shocks. Trying and attract the lowest common denominator, shoving a load of predictable unfunny lines onto the screen and adding very outdated film references, not that I’m pointing fingers at Scary Movie 5 here, it’s just Inception was three years ago…

Have We Had Enough Of Horror Re-Makes Yet?

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Last Friday, the full trailer for the remake of the 1976 horror Carrie was released. It was fine, not outstanding and ultimately rather asked the question: what is the point in this being remade? Sure, it has been a few years and there is some money to be made if it’s released around Halloween time but it that it? Brian De Palma’s original film is a horror classic. Even though it was released 36 years ago it has aged very well and is still considered a classic of the genre. Many times in the past when horror films have been pointlessly remade it has left people pondering if they care for the original as much. Who remembers Van Sant’s shot for shot remake of Psycho with any fondness, or Rob Zombie’s futile rehash of Halloween? I fear that Carrie will be going down that same route.

My main problem with the Carrie trailer is it gives away the entire film. It admits that fans of the genre have already seen the film, or at least know the story, and so show pretty much everything, from the shower scene at the beginning to Carrie, covered in pigs’ blood rampaging through the town at the denouement. It looks seemingly as though very little innovation was bought to the 2013 version, mostly following the same lines as De Palma’s film from Stephen King’s book. So, if there’s not much new why remake it? Director Kimberly Peirce recently said in Empire that there were parts of the book that could be explored further. It doesn’t look like that much from the trailer, it looks like the money scenes from the original film spruced up by some CGI as Chloe Moretz does her best to glamorise the eponymous character.

I’ve been wrong with trailers before, we all have, I’m sure. I’ve seen them thinking ‘wow I’m not going near that’ and then the movie brings something completely different. Trailers are often made well before the film is finished so much of the time the filmmakers are forced by the money to show at least something they have done to rev up the audience. Trailers are now released about a year before the actual film (see The Amazing Spider-Man) before post production has probably even begun.

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However, this trailer just bored me, which cannot be a good sign. It left me wanting to watch the original because I’m terrified someone might collect all of De Palma’s copies, throw them in a fire and leave us with this. It left me yearning for Sissy Spacek’s wonderful performance and to see the young John Travolta and William Katt, Carrie’s rampage without explicit CGI everywhere. Unfortunately the reality is this. Although there have been some good remakes such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and 2004 Dawn of the Dead, which offer something new, why can’t we just see some original ideas and keep some films sacred, so we don’t have to refer to which version we are referencing. Too often we have hacks, who shouldn’t be going near the original, making a huge mess of the classics. (2011’s The Thing springs immediately to mind.) Not only ruining the film, but making them more family friendly to acquire a larger audience share.

Sure, it is interesting to see reinterpretations of narrative, hence why Shakespeare or classic works of fiction have multiple reincarnations but King’s narrative is so simple, no matter how great it is, that it doesn’t need this big money, Halloween release. It has a fan base and people can enjoy it still considering how well the story and performances have aged. Sure, no movie is perfect and perhaps could be improved but this doesn’t look like an improvement to me. Besides the inclusion of Julianne Moore, I can’t think of many positives and plea that films stop being rehashed like this. There are many wonderful, indie horror film makers out there with exciting, original ideas that can’t get the funding or find an audience because everybody in the cinema are watching new versions of old films. Horror fans have been stung too long by these remakes, also having a new Evil Dead to look forward to, and we all deserve some new ideas to kickstart the genre into the next phase.

The Teaser Trailer

2012 is going to be a huge year for films with a mixture of Oscar Friendly and Big-Budget Blockbusters to look forward to throughout the year. Therefore it is about this time, a year before most of the blockbusters grace our screen that the wave of teaser trailers amass in order to whet the appetites of film fans.  Just to make sure everyone is aware, a teaser trailer is a small glimpse into the film without giving much away. It could contain little to no footage of the actual film and is used to alert the viewer to anticipate more trailers and footage coming in the following months. Their ambiguity usually is discussed again and again on fan forums to try and get any lead about the movie. One of the best examples of this was the first trailer for Attack of the Clones. Although many were disappointed with The Phantom Menace this trailer made fans crazy as they predicted what everything meant and how the story was going to play out. So much so that people would pay their admission for a different film just to see the trailer and then leave. This is opposed to the theatrical trailer which is the more traditional trailer that would be seen at the cinema, they are about two or three minutes long and contain footage of the finished film in the order of a faint narrative to get people wanting to watch the film.

In the past few weeks there have been a few trailers to grace the cinema, internet and comic conventions. This includes The Dark Knight Rises which is a perfect example of a teaser trailer. There is not much footage from the film only giving a few glimpses at shots so that one could not acquire the narrative at this stage. These shots however are enough to garner excitement and anticipation.  People are aware from this that the film is coming and thereby preparing themselves for more footage. Another example of teasing the audience is with The Avengers advertising campaign. First, the only thing to come from the film was a picture of four chairs belonging to the superheroes of the movie. Next were a few pieces of artwork shown off at Comic-Con before a short trailer with no footage of the actual film. There is only a voiceover from Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and the Avengers sign. Since Cloverfield wowed everybody with its marketing campaign and the advent of viral marketing, this teasing of the audience is usually how films are now advertised. A huge buzz is created through the snippets of information that is gathered before the theatrical trailer where fans can eventually see the film taking shape. The fact that at this stage there is usually very little footage available because the movies are still in production or need to go through post-production is why audiences can only be teased.

The point of all this trailer talk is that The Amazing Spiderman has gone against everything that its fellow superhero movies have done. As opposed to relinquishing small pieces of information every so often it has done what must be considered a theatrical trailer a almost a year before its release.  It is a very strange tactic from the marketing team behind Spiderman and could be deemed as giving away too much too early and killing any buzz for fans who like to debate rumours and different narrative possibilities. Everyone already knows that Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) will be spending most of the time through high school with Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone) as his love interest. Everyone also knows that Rhys Ifans is Dr Curt Connors and therefore know the chief villain will be The Lizard. Everything seems to be revealed too early as opposed to the Avengers where nobody even knows who the villain is. Although the trailer looks good and there’s an excitement about what different approach they are going to take from Sam Raimi’s films having the trailer a year before just leaves audiences playing the waiting game and unless something amazing comes out of the future trailers people may be a little disappointed that everything was revealed so quickly.

A possible reason why they have realised this trailer earlier than expected is because of the previous very successful series of Spiderman films. Perhaps this trailer was made to  assure viewers that this is different and getting the dubious audience members early with an interesting glimpse into the new angle taken by director Marc Webb. Only time will tell whether playing your cards to your chest or showing all the footage you have will win at the box office. All the teasers so far are looking good so far and when the film is finally released if it is a good film everyone will forget the marketing campaign and enjoy it for what it is.