Tricked By Trailers

With the summer movie season almost upon us, Andy is here to try to make sure you don’t get fooled when spending your hard-earned money when you choose to take in the latest flick at the cinema.

When people ask me what my favorite type of movie is, I always say blockbusters. Don’t get me wrong, but with the exception of paranormal thrillers and torture-porn flicks like the Saw movies, I love all types of movies. As a movie fan, I believe in balance as far as the movies I see goes. I love to see a big budget summer movie, then follow up it with a comedy and then after that check out an independent drama. But there is one thing that I really hate, when I see an awesome trailer but then the movie is really disappointing and bad. And it’s not like you can really avoid trailers these days. There are at least fifteen minutes of trailers before every movie that you see in the theater. You can always be “that guy” who closes his eyes and covers his ears during them. I see where they are coming from, I like to go in with as little info as possible so that the reveals, twists and turns aren’t spoiled for me. For example, I didn’t try to avoid the trailers for Rogue One, outside of seeing them before other movies, I didn’t seek out more clips and info. It did pay off and I didn’t see some of the plot turns that occurred coming. Some trailers you will see for over a year before the film is released. And often the three-minute trailer can contain all of the best parts of a one hundred and twenty-minute movie, that really gets my goat, so to speak. Here are some of the worst offenders over the last twenty years.

Passengers, released December 21, 2016. Here is the plot summary, courtesy of A spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction in its sleep chambers. As a result, two passengers are awakened 90 years early. This is a great concept for a movie, so many possibilities and directions it could go in. Add in two of the biggest stars today: Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt with beautiful set design and visual effects, it should be a success, right? So where did this movie fall flat? A few places, but mostly on the script level. The characters were under-developed, and it tried to borrow from too many other movies. This film was derivative of “Cast Away”, “Titanic” and “Home Alone.” Also, one of the characters has a major moral dilemma, but I would call more a “dick move” for what they did. In hindsight, the trailer was a bit deceptive, but in their defense, they don’t want to give away the “plot twist,” so I do get why they did it. I just wish this film held up to the promise it’s trailer gave us.

Suicide Squad, released August 5, 2016. Here is the plot summary, courtesy of A secret government agency recruits some of the most dangerous incarcerated super-villains to form a defensive task force. Their first mission: save the world from the apocalypse. What a fun concept, right? Let’s get a team of the worst criminals we have and send them in to stop an even worse supervillain. This was probably one of the best trailers I’ve seen in a long time, especially with the classic rock hits, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Ballroom Blitz,” and “Spirit In The Sky” featured in it. It was so good that the studio had the team that cut the trailer take a shot at editing the film. They only had so much to work with, so they couldn’t even save this movie. I don’t hate this movie, I really liked some parts of it, but it was filled with missed opportunities. They didn’t really develop enough of the characters outside of Harley Quinn and Deadshot. The motivations of the characters weren’t fully defined either. Also, I think a lot of people are really getting sick of the heroes of movies having to stop the giant light in the sky. There were at least three other movies, although only one really got it right, that featured this that year, “Doctor Strange,” “Ghostbusters” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows,” so this needs to go away or least used minimally going forward. This gave a lot of concern that the DCEU was in trouble since with was is in such a rush to catch up to the MCU that they weren’t concentrating on the little things that matter and failing to properly set up the universe. Thankfully with “Wonder Woman” and “Justice League”, they have started to course-correct.

Transformers: Age Of Extinction, released June 27, 2014. Here is the plot summary, courtesy of Autobots must escape sight from a bounty hunter who has taken control of the human serendipity: Unexpectedly, Optimus Prime and his remaining gang turn to a mechanic, his daughter, and her back-street racing boyfriend for help. Honestly, the entire franchise should be on this list. Transformers was one of my favorite cartoons growing up and there are some cool and good parts to these movies. But, it is mainly Michael Bay shitting on my childhood. In regards to this entry in the series, there are so many problems with this movie: the swift and brutal death of the apparent comic relief early in the movie; the mention of the “Romeo & Juliet” law as part of a sub-plot; Optimus Prime being really pissed off and killing a human on purpose. But the worst offense (I will admit it was a cool scene when it happened) was saving the Dinobots for a short scene at the end of the movie after it was the biggest promise from the trailer.

Man Of Steel, released June 14, 2013. Here is the plot summary, courtesy of Clark Kent, one of the last of an extinguished race disguised as an unremarkable human, is forced to reveal his identity when the Earth is invaded by an army of survivors who threaten to bring the planet to the brink of destruction. We didn’t know it at the time, but this was the first entry in the DCEU. But man, this was no “Iron Man.” The trailer had some cool visuals and it seem to set up an epic battle between Superman and General Zod, which we did end up getting, but the tone of the movie was totally off. I’m not a comic book guy, but even I know that the tone of this movie was way too dark. Superman is the light, “boy scout” of the Superfriends. Batman is the dark character, which is what keeps the balance in the team. This movie was just in the wrong hands, Zack Snyder’s. Superman was too gritty and pissed off for most of the movie. He behaved more like Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. Plus, there was way too much imagery portraying him as a Christ figure. This is a prime example of that when it comes to a comic book movie, you need to put it in the hands of someone who knows and cares about the source material.

Elysium, released August 9, 2013. Here is the plot summary, courtesy of In the year 2154, the very wealthy live on a man-made space station while the rest of the population resides on a ruined Earth. A man takes on a mission that could bring equality to the polarized worlds. After seeing “District 9”, like many, I was looking forward to Neil Blomkamp’s follow up. The trailer was great, but it basically gave away the entire movie. Yeah, a few plots points were omitted but anyone who has seen a movie before could piece together what the missing pieces were. Where “District 9” was sci-fi futuristic take on Apartheid, this film tried to do the same with the theme of division of classes and what could happen in the future. It gets too on the nose throughout and story goes off the rails by the end. Jodie Foster, much like Kate Winslet in the Divergent series, is missed-cast and gives a disappointing performance. When Blomkamp came out with his third film “Chappie”, I decided to skip it and from what I heard about it from people who saw it, I made the right decision.

John Carter, released March 9, 2012. Here is the plot summary, courtesy of Transported to Barsoom, a Civil War vet discovers a barren planet seemingly inhabited by 12-foot barbarians. Finding himself prisoner of these creatures, he escapes, only to encounter Woola and a princess in desperate need of a savior. When this movie came out, most people found it to be too derivative of other movies in the genre, “Raiders of the Lost Ark” & “Star Wars.” The funny thing is that the book it is based-on inspired filmmakers like George Lucas and Steven Spielberg when they were making their early action-adventure films that I just mentioned. And that where the main problem is. The action sequences and special effects are good, but there many similar movies that did them better. Again, like many others on this list, it suffers from poor plot pacing and uneven characters. It was a shame because it was director Andrew Stanton’s first attempt at live-action after having such great success in animation with “Finding Nemo” & “Wall-E.”

Sucker Punch, released March 25, 2011. Here is the plot summary, courtesy of A young girl is institutionalized by her abusive stepfather. Retreating to an alternative reality as a coping strategy, she envisions a plan which will help her escape from the mental facility. Surprise, surprise, Zack Snyder is on the list again. This is his attempt at an “Alice In Wonderland”-type story. This movie is visually stunning but not much else is there. The plot is similar to that of a video game with quests and levels that have to be beaten by the main characters. Except for Oscar Isaac & Jon Hamm, all the leads in this movie are all women, which is one positive that can be taken away from this film. However, that positive is almost turned into a negative by the way the characters are depicted and objectified.

Cowboys & Aliens, released July 29, 2011. Here is the plot summary, courtesy of A spaceship arrives in Arizona, 1873, to take over the Earth, starting with the Wild West region. A posse of cowboys and natives are all that stand in their way. Spaceships attacking cowboys in the Wild West? Yes, sign me up. This film also had an incredible pedigree out of the gates. It was produced by Steven Spielberg, directed by Jon Favreau, written by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, and starring Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford and Olivia Wilde. However, this was one of the biggest disappointments I’ve ever seen. Again, the movie’s failure starts at the script level. There were so many character motivations that didn’t make much sense. Underneath the main leads, there was a tremendous amount of miscasting with some of the supporting roles. These were good actors but they shouldn’t have been in this movie. This was a rare misfire by Jon Favreau as a filmmaker. Outside of the concept, there’s nothing much original in this film, most of the set pieces and characters are paint-by-numbers for a western.

Where The Wild Things Are, released October 16, 2009. Here is the plot summary, courtesy of Yearning for escape and adventure, a young boy runs away from home and sails to an island filled with creatures that take him in as their king. Many of us read this story when we were kids. Film adaptations of books can be difficult, especially when the source material is so short, only about ten sentences long, in this case. Spike Jonze is a director with a great vision. What we ended up getting is a movie that slogs and bores both kids and adults. It is so dark, bleak and depressing that one wonders what the filmmakers were trying to say from the get go.

Jennifer’s Body, released September 28, 2009. Here is the plot summary, courtesy of A newly possessed high school cheerleader turns into a succubus who specializes in killing her male classmates. Can her best friend put an end to the horror? This was screenwriter Diablo Cody’s follow-up to her Oscar win for the critically acclaimed film “Juno.” This film had a lot going for on the surface. It starred Megan Fox, who was red hot coming off the “Transformers” franchise, the aforementioned Cody and horror was on an upswing at the time, especially horror comedies. However, this movie was neither very scary or very funny. There is plenty of witty dialogue, and some very sexy scenes that teenage boys will dream about, but it seems like there was some unfulfilled potential that the trailer promised.

Watchmen, released March 6, 2009. Here is the plot summary, courtesy of In 1985 where former superheroes exist, the murder of a colleague sends active vigilante Rorschach into his own sprawling investigation, uncovering something that could completely change the course of history as we know it. Based on a graphic novel, many said that the source material was unfilmable. They were half-right. This was a pretty movie but the filmmakers (cough, Zack Snyder, etc.) spent more time on the look of the film and neglected character development and plot. There were also questionable casting choices as well as misplaced songs from the 80’s featured in the movie’s soundtrack. The biggest drawback of this movie is the run time, at an excruciating three hours plus.

X-Men: The Last Stand, released May 26, 2009. Here is the plot summary, courtesy of When a cure is found to treat mutations, lines are drawn amongst the X-Men, led by Professor Charles Xavier, and the Brotherhood, a band of powerful mutants organized under Xavier’s former ally, Magneto. Bryan Singer did a very good job directing and world-building in the first two movies in the franchise. And in one movie, Bret Ratner flushed it all down the toilet. This film really messed with the canon of the franchise by killing off too many characters, namely Professor X and Cyclops. With the main plot being about a cure for mutants and the questions and decisions that come along, a much more capable director would have made a smaller film and focused on a few characters dealing with whether or not they should be “cured.” Instead, we got basically an assassination of a major comic franchise that Bryan Singer had to be lured back to in order to save it with “X-Men: The First Class.”, in which they thankfully ret-conned this film from the cinematic universe.

King Kong, released December 14, 2005. Here is the plot summary, courtesy of After a movie crew travels to a mysterious island to shoot their picture, they encounter a giant and furious gorilla who takes their leading actress and forms a special relationship with her, protecting the beautiful lady at all costs. This one almost didn’t make this list, there are a lot of positives with this movie. Peter Jackson had just delivered on “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, so why not remake a classic monster movie with today’s money and technology behind you. This is another movie that suffers from being way too long. There are so many sequences that can be shortened, especially the one with the giant insects on Skull Island. It takes forever for them to get off the island and to New York. We could do without the ice skating scene in Central Park. The casting for this movie was actually very good along with great special effects. This is a tough movie to re-visit though because of the slogs between great action set pieces.

Be Cool, released March 4, 2005. Here is the plot summary, courtesy of Disenchanted with the movie industry, Chili Palmer tries the music industry, meeting and romancing a widow of a music executive on the way. This movie made me mad when I saw it. I loved “Get Shorty.” I thought John Travolta did an awesome job in that film as the follow up to his comeback performance in “Pulp Fiction.” It was also touted as an on-screen reunion of John and Uma Thurman. Again, another movie with a great cast, but it seemed like a retread of the first movie, just a different industry setting and without the charm. It seemed to get lazy and go through the motions from the start of the movie.

The Matrix: Reloaded, released May 14, 2003. Here is the plot summary, courtesy of Neo and the rebel leaders estimate that they have 72 hours until 250,00 probes discover Zion and destroy it and its inhabitants. During this, Neo must decide how he can save Trinity from a dark fate in his dreams. The first “Matrix” was groundbreaking and revolutionary so when they announced a sequel, who didn’t want to see what the filmmakers would do next. This time around, they focused too much on the action scenes and not enough on the characters in the world they built. There was too much exposition in the dialogue, and many of the subplots went unresolved. And what’s worse, they did it again in the next film in the franchise, “The Matrix: Revolutions.”

Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace, released May 19, 1999. Here is the plot summary, courtesy of Two Jedi Knights escape a hostile blockade to find allies and come across a young boy who may bring balance to the Force, but the long dormant Sith resurface to reclaim their old glory. Where do I start? We waited 16 long years for a new Star Wars movie and because of that, they were able to sucker us in. They played off our hunger for the episodes of the saga that we had all heard about for years. They took advantage of our nostalgia for our beloved trilogy. It opened with the 20thCentury Fox and Lucasfilm logos. They gave us the John Williams score; an image of a desert planet with a spaceship; imagery of worlds we haven’t seen yet; podracing; Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor & Samuel L. Jackson as a Jedis; Yoda; Darth Maul with his two-handed light saber and R2-D2 & C3PO. What could go wrong? That’s a discussion for a whole other article. In a nutshell, too much CGI, an immaculate conception, Jar Jar Binks and the history of the trade federation. There are some good parts in Episodes I-III, but those are few and far between.

Pearl Harbor, released May 25, 2001. Here is the plot summary, courtesy of A tale of war and romance mixed in with history, the story follows two lifelong friends and a beautiful nurse who are caught up in the horror of an infamous Sunday morning in 1941. This was great trailer that showed the promise of what could have been a rare big budget movie that went on to win numerous awards. The story of one of the most tragic and at the same time heroic days in American history was tailor-made for the big screen. What we ended up getting was overblown special effects, an underserved story with a love triangle shoved in. This is another case of an overall bad movie having some great scenes and imagery but it’s not worth sitting through the almost three-hour long slog.

Godzilla, released May 20, 1998. Here is the plot summary, courtesy of A giant, reptilian monster surfaces, leaving destruction in its wake. To stop the monster (and its babies), and earthworm scientist, his reporter ex-girlfriend, and other unlikely heroes team up to save their city. Coming off the success of “Independence Day”, the team of Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich could do no wrong, right? Wrong! They decided to take a crack at one of the most famous monster/disaster movie icons, Godzilla and boy, they got it wrong. This was a case of egos getting in the way of making a great film. They threw out the original script and wrote the film themselves. They also changed the design of the title character. The casting was all wrong. Your protagonist is a worm expert played by Matthew Broderick. Really? The plot lacked logic and there wasn’t much in terms of dramatic tension throughout the entire movie. The tagline of the movie was “Size Does Matter.” Guess what? So does the script.

Leave a Reply