Trailers: they’re the bait on the hook when trying to reel in an audience on opening day. We’re already in the theater, captive, and we want to be excited. But too many truly great films are crushed into obscurity by the weight of their own poorly executed trailers—some are flat-out bad, while other are simply off-the-mark, misrepresenting what finally winds up onscreen.
So here are five Trunkworthy movies that were under-served by their trailers. Watch any of them and you’ll see why they deserve a much bigger audience.
EDGE OF TOMORROW
A slow, plodding succession of dramatic moments, set to music so anesthetic that the action scenes seem like flashy punctuation marks to the intense, romantically charged dreck on screen. Lots of Tom Cruise looking at Emily Blunt in poorly lit, dingy spaces . . . and some car chases. Strangely boring car chases. It has a sort of “When Starship Troopers Met Children of Men” quality, which is not the movie you actually get to watch.
A fast-paced, clever, hilariously shot action film, which plays with almost-nonlinear looping storytelling techniques. It’s as if Groundhog Day made out with Aliens while knife-fighting with the weirder parts of Memento. Power armor. Tentacled aliens. Time travel. Combat humor. And Tom Cruise dying with a frequency and flair that would put Wile E. Coyote to shame. You’d think a movie with all that couldn’t go wrong . . . AND IT DIDN’T! But you’d never know any of that from watching the trailer.
[We’re not alone on this one — following its miserable theatrical run, the studio went in to triage mode to salvage a movie that somehow failed in spite of its A-list cast and critical acclaim (90% on Rotten Tomatoes). They not only cut a completely new trailer, they created new artwork with the movie’s tagline, LIVE. DIE. REPEAT., recast as the movie’s title. It worked — Live Die Repeat: Edge Of Tomorrow debuted at #1 on the Home Video charts.]
Words. Big, white words. In the form of questions. Important life questions. Unfortunately, not the most important questions a trailer can answer, such as “What is this film about?” or “Why should I bother to see it?” Between questions, we see images of young, professional men, intensely pondering and discussing . . . something. Probably the aforementioned questions. Or perhaps some low-concept, high-tech devices that are important to the film and its very important questions. If it’s possible to be understated and pretentious at the same time, this trailer nails it.
A tight, compelling time-travel story, told with a computer programmer’s eye for logic and a playwright’s mind for interpersonal drama. Watch it once and it seems like a well-made indie sci-fi drama, but watch it carefully a second (or third, or 12th time) and you see the film’s brilliantly subtle time-travel intrigue unfold in the margins of the story. To say much more about the film would spoil it. Just watch it.
ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND
A clever infomercial advertising the central device of the film: a memory-erasing process that can be used to delete unwanted experiences from your history. And then . . . feel-good music, a long montage of people laughing, bouncing, smiling, and being whimsical. Oh, and Mark Ruffalo and Kirsten Dunst dancing in their underwear. To watch it, you’d think this was a low-brainpower rom-com with a faux science fiction edge.
This is a Michel Gondry film. You know, Michel Gondry . . . who before directing this film was best known by his experimental music videos for Bjork, The White Stripes, and Daft Punk. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a dark, sometimes comic and psychedelic piece on the value of broken hearts, failed romances, and painful memories. It is poignant in places, funny in others, and can create an almost stomach-churning sense of regret, none of which, it seems fair to say, comes across in either smiles, whimsical laughter, or people dancing in their underwear.
A film in which our female protagonist, some sort of highly trained combat operative (played by an ass-kicking Gina Carano), fights and potentially defeats Michael Fassbender, engages in crazed MMA foot-and-fisticuffs with enemies in a variety of locations, and then ultimately threatens revenge against Ewan MacGregor for betraying her. No real hint of a plot, except, presumably, some behavior that justifies a lot of serious kicking of ass.
A well-written, well-paced espionage-thriller, complete with Bourne-franchise quality action that is attempting to deliver a mystery payload. Unfortunately, the mysteries on which the film is trying to build its tension are entirely spoiled by the material in the trailer. In fact, one could argue that every question the film artfully raises is already answered in the trailer, with every villain outed, and almost every significant location where the protagonist fights revealed. Still a great film, but . . . really?
Another British gangster flick, carbon-copied off the pile of similar Guy Ritchie knockoff films that followed in the footsteps of Snatch and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, but with a more continental setting. Fast-paced, fast-talking crime-action schlock, which, in case you weren’t already twitching from the jump cuts provided, is backed by an entirely inappropriate pseudo-ska background track. In short, nothing you’ll regret missing unless you’re already a die-hard fan of the “Cockney Gangster Art Film” niche.
A surprisingly engaging character piece, written by esteemed playwright/screenwriter/director Martin McDonagh, about the relationship between two career hitmen living in the aftermath of a contract job gone wrong, complete with laughs, touches of pathos, and coke-fueled conversations about dwarf race-wars. Despite the trailer’s rush to bring Ralph Fiennes into the picture immediately, the film does a brilliant job of keeping him a hilariously menacing phone-presence until the last possible moment. All in all, a quirky, quotable, well-filmed dark comedy about friendship, loyalty, and consequences.