Skip the next paragraph if you want to be surprised by August’s Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw.
Released last month, the second trailer for the upcoming odd-couple spinoff of the mega-successful street racing-turned-world saving franchise is three-and-a-half minutes long. It opens with what looks like the entirety of a very entertaining hallway fight scene. It then spells out how the film’s unlikely team of heroes get together and how action badasses Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham are entirely outmatched against a genetically enhanced Idris Elba (“I’m black Superman,” he quips). The clip ultimately reveals that the movie’s final showdown will come after Johnson’s Hobbs brings the team to his childhood home on a Polynesian island, fighting baddies with traditional weapons alongside his equally yoked brothers and attempting to pull a helicopter out of the sky with a chain and a tow truck.
I definitely trust the ingenuity of director David Leitch, who packed 2017’s Atomic Blonde and 2018’s Deadpool 2 to bursting with kinetic thrills and surprises. But after this trailer, it’s hard to imagine that his new film has many mysteries left to reveal.
And this Hobbs & Shaw preview is but one particularly egregious example of an irksome reality: Today’s trailers are designed to show you exactly what a movie is before you pay to see it.
“Increased reliance on data and chase for view numbers is also responsible for arguably the biggest trailer pet peeve of all: spoilers,” Anton Volkov, owner of the popular Trailer Track website, wrote last month in his Film Stories post “Are movie trailers giving too much of the game away?”
He describes the way, in our age of internet marketing and social media buzz, that trailers have become more hyped than ever, with studios often teasing the release dates for their teasers.
“While those of us excited for films may hate seeing major plot turns or character appearances ruined, the similar focus group testing process used on feature films reveals that the more of the film the average potential audience member sees in the trailer, the more they will connect to it.”
This week’s big blockbuster release, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, has steered hard into this curve. 2014’s Godzilla was a monster movie that left many viewers miffed that there weren’t more monster scenes, and Warner Bros. seems bound and determined to show that this isn’t the case with the sequel, releasing three trailers filled with up-close, action-packed looks at Mothra, Rodan, the three-headed King Ghidorah and their clashes with our titular champion.
The strategy makes sense given the audience trends Volkov describes. Warner Bros. has a lot riding on this movie, as the studio looks to amp up excitement for next summer’s Godzilla vs. Kong and its attempt to build an extended cinematic universe of colossal creature features. King of the Monsters has to succeed, and you can rest assured that Warner would spoil each and every frame if it could guarantee a hit.
But is there a better way? Perhaps.
Consider the recently revealed teaser for September’s It Chapter Two. The bulk of the clip comprises one tense and intriguing scene, as Jessica Chastain (stepping into the now grown-up shoes of Beverly Marsh, who we last saw as a teenager) returns to her childhood home and has tea with the new resident, an old lady who gradually reveals herself to be something monstrously unhuman. The trailer ends with quick snippets that display the continued spine-tingling clown presence of Bill Skarsgård’s Pennywise and the rest of the impressive actors in the grown-up Losers Club (James McAvoy and Bill Hader are also along for the ride).
It’s a perfect modern trailer, revealing little but promising plenty, giving you a clear idea of the experience you’re likely to have without spoiling its substance. If only more movies embraced such tactics.