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

6. 300 (2007)

The Trailer: Director Zack Snyder truly knows how to use music to rile up an audience, “Just Like You Imagined” by Nine Inch Nails leaving me ready to drink diesel and eat metal by the end of the trailer. He would use music to the same powerful effect two years later in his trailer for Watchmen and likely again for his upcoming action flick Sucker Punch. Beautiful cinematography and raw masculinity combine to have us ogling at what is essentially a supremely badass music video.

The Best Moment: “This is blasphemy! This is madness!” “THIS. IS. SPARTAAAA!” Did I even need to tell you? The verbal repartee is just genius. Coming in a close second: “Our arrows will blot out the sun! “Then we will fight in the shade.”

The Movie: We have to deal with the one-dimensional dialogue and “manly” talk before any of the violence gets underway, and then we’re essentially treated with a one and a half hour music video. Even the fight sequences get a little weary after a while; this movie started the incredibly annoying fast-slomo-fast-slomo way of shooting action scenes. Balletic action sequences are fun, even encouraged, but continuously switching between Bourne-styled full-speed violence and bullet time arrow time without pause is not.

7. Youth in Revolt (2009) [Trailer NSFW]

The Trailer: Michael Cera playing a cigarette-smoking, no-nonsense character instead of just being Michael Cera? Superbad-style sexual comedy? The sweet suffering of awkward adolescence? Sign me up. The song of choice here is David Bowie‘s “Rebel, Rebel” — which can do no harm, except the good kind.

The Best Moment: “From the inside.” You know the world is close to Apocalypse when Michael Cera is talking dirty.

The Movie: Even the most damaged, precious, jazz-listening, Fellini-idolizing youth (read: myself at 18) won’t be able to stand the pretentiousfest that is Youth in Revolt. This is a prime example of trying too hard. We winced through excessively obnoxious proclamations of artistic preferences and rebellious love, and breathed a sigh of relief when it was all over. Hell, Steve Buscemi shows up as Michael Cera’s dad, and we still can’t forgive this mess.

8. The Fourth Kind (2009)

The Trailer: Capitalizing on the trend of fake documentaries and viral marketing, the trailer (and movie) blur the line between fact and fiction. The visceral scares of the cinematic, composed reenactments become truly scary when supported by “archival footage,” as we all start wondering whether these events truly took place. Throw in conspiratorial references to ancient Sumerians and alien abductions, and audiences are sold.

The Best Moment: Serious heart palpitations when the man sits up and screams. Reminds us of a Raymond Chandler quote: “She opened her mouth like a firebucket and laughed … I couldn’t hear the laugh but the hole in her face when she unzippered her teeth was all I needed.”

The Movie: Barring a few genuine scare moments, the whole premise falls flat on its face. Again, horror films work based on the suspension of disbelief. When Milla Jovovich — playing herself, performing the role of the abducted Dr. Tyler — is more convincing than the “real-life” protagonist, the movie loses all sense of credibility. Hell, cardboard is more convincing. And apparently, the filmmakers think white owls are really scary. We wish Jovovich could’ve just dished out dual pistol pain instead, Resident Evil-style.

9. Blood: The Last Vampire (2009)

The Trailer: This is one vampire movie geeks could get behind. Based on the hit anime film, its formula couldn’t be better constructed for success: A vampire-human hybrid schoolgirl in a sailor suit who wields a katana is recruited by a secret U.S. government agency, Red Shield, to hunt bat-like demons who are disguised among us as humans. Blood splattering and sword-slicing in a neon-lit Tokyo alleyway, introduced to us by the beautiful Korean star Gianna Jun, who plays the vampire hunter Saya. What more could we ask for?

The Best Moment: “I live for one purpose, and one purpose only. To kill bloodsuckers.” Jumpkick! Slice and spray vampire blood! SLEDGEHAMMER into wall!

The Film: I cannot even begin to say how much of a disappointment the live-action film was. Then again, live-action adaptations of Japanese animations almost always fail. (Exceptions: Great Teacher Onizuka, and arguably 20th Century Boys and Death Note.) The CG bat demons — which you don’t get a good glimpse of — are about as convincing as circa-1998 StarCraft cutscene imagery (which, to Blizzard‘s credit, was very convincing for its time). The dialogue may seem endearing in a B-movie action flick sort of way from the trailer, but it’s in fact seriously terrible: “I cannot believe this, you’re spying on me?!” “I don’t have to, Alice. You’re my daughter. People know you and people talk!”

10. The Last Airbender (2010)

The Trailer: Has M. Night Shyamalan really risen from the ashes? Not having made a good film since the highly underrated Unbreakable, I entered the (real) Avatar marketing frenzy with high dosages of skepticism. But holy moly, it was specifically this Superbowl TV spot that had me misty-eyed for what seemed like a successful adaptation. Rumbling guitar. A growled voiceover. A 30-second tease of live-action elemental warfare never looked so good.

The Best Moment: Gotta say, Aang‘s slo-mo slide under a Fire Nation warrior’s swing takes a page from Zack Snyder. But he does it so darn well.

The Movie: I’ll leave it to Roger Ebert to dissect. Sorry, did I say dissect? I meant destroy and obliterate into a gaping void of oblivion.

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As demonstrated above, the movie trailer is a tricky affair, straddling a thin line between art and marketing. How else can the studios fill seats? Trailers are like watching a striptease, but they also can also be like watching a striptease with beer goggles: dangerously deceptive.

Last month, in a piece titled “Movie Trailers Give More and More Away,” New York magazine cited as an example the marketing debate surrounding 2007’s The Simpsons Movie:

The studio versus filmmaker debate over how much to give away in a trailer is as old as the phrase “In a world … ” … Fox and producer James L. Brooks famously battled over how much to give away. … Brooks tells Vulture that he has now conceded that in today’s movie business, “as a general rule, you show your best stuff … It’s interesting, because [audiences] will still laugh at the joke a second time in the theater.”

There’s something a little sad about an entertainment culture in which we enter theaters merely to rehash the action set pieces that we’ve already memorized explosion for explosion, or to laugh again at quips we’ve already heard in the newest Judd Apatow trailer. Or maybe the blame should fall on the laps of the movie industry, which too often stitches the best jokes, sex scenes, and explosions together with mere filler or tiring exposition.

I wait in simultaneous excitement and fear for July 16, when Inception is unleashed and I settle into the theater cradling inflated hopes.

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