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We all know that movie trailers have one purpose: to sell us on the idea of paying to see a movie! And since all’s fair in war and advertising, movie trailers have leeway to put their best, most exciting, foot forward, no matter how much recutting or remixing they have to do in order to achieve that sell.
Often, the right selection of footage and the right music to go with it can do all the work of convincing us that even the most unlikely movie may have something special to offer. In the case of the 10 films on today’s list, the vision present in the short span of a trailer was much more interesting, entertaining, and in some cases moving than the actual full-length film.
Do YOU have fond memories of the 10 trailers in our list? Read on (or WATCH above) and find out.
Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ acclaimed comic book Watchmen had been through so many failed movie attempts that for a long time it was deemed ‘unfilmable.’ When visionary ‘300’ director Zack Snyder was finally attached to direct the Watchmen movie in the late 2000s, fans believed that Snyder’s love of the source material could lead to a great adaptation of the story.
When the full-length trailer came along, fans went wild over how the footage looked lifted right out of the comic book, while the haunting melody of “The End Is the Beginning” by the band Smashing Pumpkins perfectly captured the dark and bleak tone of the Watchmen story.
….Unfortunately, when Watchmen finally hit theaters it was nearly 3 hours long; with some questionable performances (Read: Malin Ackerman as Silk Spectre II); a jarring ‘80s pop-song soundtrack; and a controversial change to the ending (IMAGE: NYC destruction finale). Comic book fans learned the hard way that having source material translated directly to the screen does not result in a great comic book movie.
A good mystery often lures people into the theater, and producer J.J. Abrams, writer Drew Goddard and director Matt Reeves used a veil of mystery and a hint of epic peril to sell their 2008 found-footage monster movie, Cloverfield.
At first we think we are watching a simple going away party in the the apartment of some NYC twenty-somethings - until things take a drastic turn. By the time a huge hunk of metal comes flying at the camera and is revealed as the Statue of Liberty’s head, we (and everyone else) just had to see what creature was behind all that destruction.
It may be fair to look back and see this trailer as a cheap ploy that played off post-9/11 fears (or copied another film on this list), but it worked; Cloverfield lured a lot of of people into the tent to see the monster show. Too bad the movie itself was also a painful lesson about why the found-footage movie format may not be the best trend Hollywood ever came up with.
Terminator Salvation (2009)
By the mid-2000s, the Terminator series had almost fizzled out of relevancy. Terminator 3 failed to revitalize the franchise after James Cameron’s departure, and despite the Sarah Connor Chronicles TV series being a cult-hit with fans, chances of getting another film on the level of Cameron’s seemed very slim. When it was announced that Charlie’s Angels director McG was directing the next Terminator movie, those chances dropped from slim to near-impossible.
Terminator Salvation was scrutinized from the moment it went into production, and the stories that surround it are still talked about today (that Christian Bale on-set rant anyone?). But somehow, out of that storm of scrutiny, doubt, and uncertainty, emerged what is - arguably still - one of the best blockbuster movie trailers ever cut together.
From the darkly beautiful resonance of Nine Inch Nails’ “The Day the World Went Away,” to the gritty futuristic world, thrilling action and genuinely intriguing sci-fi concepts, this trailer did everything right in selling a new vision of the Terminator franchise.
When Terminator Salvation finally hit theaters, it quickly became clear that the studio had front-loaded all of the best moments from the movie into the trailer. The rest of McG’s film was pretty forgettable - and ironically, the trailer, for all its epicness, spoils what is arguably the best twist in the movie . So much hype, for so little payoff.
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
One of the biggest movie events of a generation happened when George Lucas announced that he would end the 20th century with the release of Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace in 1999. All the world was buzzing for the prequel story of how Anakin Skywalker fell to the Dark Side and became Darth Vader, and when the first trailer arrived, it seemed as though Lucas would deliver the magic all over again.
The iconic John Williams music and sight of the all-too-familiar Star Wars design and aesthetic - and of course those fan-favorite characters - instantly tugged at fans’ nostalgia. For new flavor, we were teased with heroes, a fearsome villain, epic lightsaber duels, space battles, and an air of ominous mystery hanging over it all. Everything we could want from a new Star Wars adventure.
By now, debate over the Star Wars prequels has gone on so long that it’s pointless to try and sway opinion one way or the other. However, one thing I think everyone can agree on: The Phantom Menace trailer in no way prepares you for the abomination that was Jar Jar Binks.
Hopefully, J.J. Abrams has done better with the upcoming Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens.
Tron: Legacy (2010 )
The movie Tron may not be a mainstream classic, but it certainly was a milestone. The 1982 film looks incredibly dated now - and its ideas about technology may seem even more dated - but at the time of its release, Tron’s visual effects and two computer-generated action sequences pushed the boundaries of film technology closer to what we know of today.
Twenty-something years later, Disney found itself once again neck-deep in developing a new Tron movie - this time trusting the vision of newcomer Joseph Kosinski. The project started development in 2005 but wouldn’t make it to the screen until 2010; however, when the world finally did get a good first look at Tron: Legacy, it at first seemed like the wait had been worth it.
Kosinski’s architect background inspired a thrilling new Tron world for the digital age; we had Jeff Bridges back as both his character from the original - and as a younger, villainous program version of himself (INSERT: Clip of Bridges’ as “Clu” in the film); and like so many other entries on this list, the inclusion of Daft Punk’s original music for the film just elevated the footage to a whole new level.
For all the hype built by the trailers, the actual film would turn out to be somewhat mundane, undercooked, and filled with clear signs of Kosinski’s inexperience as a director. But one expects that lessons have been learned, now that Tron 3 is officially in development.