10 Trailers Better Than the Actual Movie; Or, Why I Might Already Despise Inception

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With only three days to go before the opening of Christopher Nolan‘s mindbender Inception — its hype having escalated to unbearable, volcanic levels — I can only feel … disgruntled at the deluge of previews Warner Bros. still smashes into my eyeballs at every turn, whether on the computer at my office, or on a TV screen at home, or on a giant building as I attempt an innocuous stroll down the street. One of the more recent trailers, though admittedly awesome, pretty much introduced every major character. This is part of the marketing effort toward the mass of moviegoers, which FilmDrunk reports is a big concern:

Director of the Dark Knight, Leonardo DiCaprio, huge budget — easy sell, right?  Well apparently, the marketing people are having a hard time with it.  Because these days, people only know how to sell stuff they’ve already seen other people sell.  Inception?  Sounds risky.  How about a Knight Rider reboot?

We daresay trailers have often worsened our moviegoing experience. Does anybody even remember the sheer joy and suspense of entering a movie cold? Admittedly, if Inception doesn’t do well, then these sort of original, cerebral films (if reviews are to be believed) won’t get the big budget go-ahead in the future. So it is important that people’s curiosity is piqued; but still, is it just too much?

1. The Strangers (2009)

The Trailer: Slides of quaint suburban homes flicker by, set to a peaceful 1950s Middle America-type tune. Well isn’t this quaint — aw shit, a crescendo of eerie music and scrawled red x’s. Intimate handicam shots of a couple deeply in love quickly segue into quick scratched photographs of killers in horrifying sack masks, knives, and seemingly futile attempts at escape. All punctuated by the sounds of gasping. The worst sound to ever hear is perhaps the labored sounds of human fear.

The Best Moment: “You’re gonna die,” says the quiet whisper. AXE THROUGH DOOR.

The Movie: Home invasion flicks work only if we are invested in the disturbing idea that the same thing could happen to anyone of us. But with no trace of self-irony, characters make stupid never-do-that-in-a-horror-movie mistakes (e.g. boyfriend exits the house, leaving girlfriend alone after creepy girl rings the door and asks for “Tamara”). What’s worse, there’s almost no palpable trace of chemistry between Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman. And plus, Dennis from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia shows up in it. Seriously. Dennis. How can you be legitimately scared by a movie after that?

2. Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005)

The Trailer: Sure, Episodes I and II were shoddy productions. And we didn’t know one Gungan could drastically degrade my opinion of a Star Wars movie, but Jar Jar Binks did. But this trailer is clever. It starts with a flashback forward to A New Hope, reminding us with Alec Guinness’ voiceover that events would soon unravel into the universe we truly loved: How the Rebel Alliance and the Empire would rise from the ashes, how the surviving Jedi after the execution of Order 66 would scatter into hiding, and how Luke Skywalker came to be. Teasing glimpse of Obi-Wan vs. Anakin with lightsabers, and soon-to-be Emperor Palpatine with red lightsaber in hand. It made us forget the first two prequels for a moment, and think to ourselves, “Wow, this might actually be amazing,” and that’s an impossible feat.

The Best Moment: Three words: James Earl Jones.

The Movie: Darth Vader‘s appearance was near the end of the film, which disappointed. What’s more, in the meantime we were forced to continue investing in a silly prequel world in which Padmé Amidala whispers sweet words of nothing like, “Hold me, Ani. Hold me, like you did by the lake on Naboo … where there was nothing but our love…” When it comes to prequel material, I’ll stick with the KotOR and Jedi Knight games, thanks.

3. Cloverfield (2008)

The Trailer: We all remember how absolutely floored the audience was when this first played, right before Transformers. What starts off like a bro-comedy abruptly becomes a horrifying handicam vision of New York being destroyed by an unseen force. There wasn’t even a title, only a date. J.J. Abrams was genius to withhold showing the monster until Cloverfield‘s actual release. Obviously, not all genres of movie can afford to employ mystery to this degree, but my point stands: The explication of movie plots is often too much.

The Best Moment: Statue of Liberty’s head rolls through the streets, as someone screams “OH MY GOD. OH MY GOD.” And we’re thinking exactly the same thing.

The Movie: Though adrenaline-filled, but nowhere as well-paced and visually believable as the first teaser. Also, the shaky camera movements, though seemingly authentic, destroyed our brains after 15 nausea-inducing minutes. As J.R. Jones of the Chicago Reader wrote in his review: “A momentary image can have greater impact than a prolonged one.”

4. Iron Man 2 (2010)

The Trailer: Jon Favreau‘s trailer for Iron Man 2 knew it ought to embody everything we loved about the first movie: A snarky and flashy Robert Downey, Jr., and explosive battle sequences that end up destroying everything in sight. Plus, flashes of the ridiculous line-up, giving us fangasms aplenty: Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson playing the Ultimate comics version, based on himself), Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell, ever the chameleon), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson in latex), War Machine (Don Cheadle, looking quite un-Terrence Howard), Whiplash (Mickey Rourke with a Russian accent and badass tattoos). It’s almost like reading a comic book in video, it looks so good.

The Best Moment: Stark: “Okay, give me a smooch for good luck, I might not make it back.” Potts: (sensually kisses the Iron Man mask, and throws it out the plane) “Go get ’em, boss.” Stark: (hops out) “You complete me!” AC/DC‘s “Shoot to Thrill” kicks up a notch as he soars through the air. Perfect.

The Movie: Amidst the childlike glee over seeing so many great comic characters come to life on a theater screen, we forgot that, in order for a movie to be good, a unified narrative is typically required. Too concerned with setting up future franchises (The Avengers, Captain America: The First Avenger, Thor, and perhaps spin-off Nick Fury, S.H.I.E.L.D., and Black Widow films), Iron Man 2 was a sprawling mess that didn’t amount to a hill of beans.

5. Terminator Salvation (2009)

The Trailer: Menacing T-800 factory models, a post-apocalyptic wasteland, a gruff Christian Bale voiceover recounting the noble human struggle against Skynet, and a haunting croon by Nine Inch NailsTrent Reznor. Booming rock music as Bale HEADSHOTS a Terminator with his rifle and a truck erupts into a FIREBALL on a bridge. The well-paced switches between ominous plot set-up and inevitable violence promise a rollicking and emotional ride.

The Best Moment: “If we stay the course, WE ARE DEAD! WE ARE – ALL – DEAD!” Still gives me chills. Also the only time we really understood what Bale was yelling.

The Movie: Sadly, they pulled all the punches in the trailer: the main plot arcs and action scenes. Why would the trailer give away the big reveal halfway through the movie, that captured man Marcus Wright IS IN FACT A MACHINE? Plus, John Connor ran around screaming incoherently the whole time. Nothing made much sense.

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