Remember the last time someone had something important to tell you and then instead of just telling you what they could, they spent months telling what you already knew and expecting you to be excited about it and, you know what, you loved every damn second of it? Yeah, me neither. And yet, this is what those Hollywood sadists get paid the big bucks to do to us over and over and over.
It’s no longer enough for a trailer to hype a movie, there has to be hype for the trailer. But as if that weren’t enough, there’s hype for teaser trailer which in turn hypes the actual trailer which hypes the movie. You’d think, as humans in post-truth world, we’d have a fairly low hype tolerance. And yet, it works. Marvel gives us a movie announcement for Avengers 4, years before the movie is even set to come out. Then we get Avengers 3. Then some one-off movie about a side character with a minuscule tie-in. Then we get casting, which we already knew thanks to the last three. Then ambiguous social media posts intended to confuse and tantalize. Then another one-off movie about a side character with a minuscule tie-in and an end-credits scene which may as well be a trailer in and of itself. Then more ambiguous social media posts. Then a trailer announcement. Then we get a trailer. Not the trailer, mind you, but a trailer, and usually a teaser at that. At this point the movie hype really starts and we get more posters and cast photos and promotions and then a real trailer. Then we get the red carpet premiere, where a bunch of people who aren’t us get to watch the movie. Then we get the movie, six roller coasters worth of hype and fan theories and internet arguments later.
And Marvel isn’t the only one who does this. Every major media conglomerate has their finger in the over-stirred pot of franchise movie hype, though Disney, and everything they own, is by far the worst.
Walt Disney Pictures has recently released teaser trailers for their upcoming live-action remakes of both The Lion King and Aladdin—neither of which bring anything new to the story, only announcing that the movies will be released sometime in the near future. Something we could have looked up ourselves considering we have the internet and a website called IMDb, whose entire purpose is to make it easy for people to learn about new announcements in the entertainment world.
Pixar Studios did much the same with The Incredibles 2 trailer, which was literally just Jack-Jack crawling around using his powers. While adorable and clever—using him to create the “II” in the title—it didn’t give us any information on the main plot of the movie or any potential villains. The second trailer, which was the official full length trailer, did. So why bother with a teaser other than to let adoring fans know they are finally getting a sequel fourteen years after the original released? Even though they all already knew?
The teaser for Mortal Engines, while cool, barely scraped the surface of the movie. Sure, it showed the moving city of London gobbling up a smaller town, but it didn’t explain why London is on wheels or who the girl with the scarf over her face is. It was essentially created to let you know Peter Jackson and Philippa Boynes are adapting another book into a movie.
Even when a trailer does tell us something, the creators have—and often abuse—the power to lead us down the wrong path, creating the fandom panic equivalent of shouting fire! in a crowded theater: shouting spoiler! in a movie trailer. Even if those spoilers don’t actually end up being true to the plot. Take The Last Jedi, for instance. By splicing together certain scenes, the trailers gave us the wrong ideas about Luke and made us think Rey was going to join Kylo Ren. Fan theories—and rants—abounded. Only for all of us to get to the movie theater and see what amounted to a giant, disembodied, PSYCH! from the creators.
But what does all this movie hype and emotional manipulation do? Well, for one, it makes us tired of these movies before they even come out. Not only are we ten or twenty years into a series in a lot of cases, there’s just only so long we can hear rumors and teasers and hints about one single movie before we just stop caring. Especially when the same rumors and teasers and hints circulated about the last movie. But that’s not all. It’s a vicious cycle. Because film studios are forced to release more and more content over a longer period of time—sometimes before the movie has even started filming—just to keep up with competition and fan demand and leaks, they release what amounts to a pile of excitable, emotionally manipulative nothing.
The Avengers: Endgame trailer only reminded us which characters were wiped out by Thanos’s “snap”—as if we could forget—and that the original Avengers team (sans Tony Stark) isn’t going to sit by and let it happen. All plot aspects we could have already figured out based on how they reacted to other catastrophes in the previous twenty or so Marvel movies. The only things the teaser does for us is finally give us a lame title for the next film, let us know that Clint is alive, and show us that Tony Stark is drifting aimlessly through space by himself. No whys, no hows, no context. The less-than-forty-second Super Bowl commercial for Stranger Things season 2 told us more than this super-hyped, anxiously awaited trailer.
Then there are the Aladdin and The Lion King teasers. Gorgeous? Always. Nostalgic? Of course. But revelational? Jaw-dropping? Nope. The trailers are actually shot by shot re-creations of the original teasers Disney made for the animated movies’ original releases. While that’s a nice sentiment, it does nothing to add to the narratives or characters. I’m not sure I want to watch the same movie I’ve seen dozens of times just because it’s live-action—or, more accurately, still animated, but high-quality CGI this time.
Sometimes, though, the teaser trailers give up all pretense in a fit of preening self-love and don’t even pretend that they have something new and exciting to show you, other than the movie is going to exist. Which, of course, we already knew, because the internet. Take this Toy Story 4 teaser, for instance. The only purpose it serves is to show its fans—most too old for kids movies anymore, despite being the Peter Pan generation—that hey, even though we wrapped up the series eight years ago, we’re not done taking your money yet! A four-second clip with the overlaid words “WE’RE BACK, BITCHES” would have accomplished the same thing.
This isn’t to say that all trailers are wastes of time. The teasers for The Crimes of Grindelwald and Into the Spider-Verse gave us enough information to tantalize and actually provide some insight into the films. But I, for one, am tired of all the hype, only be let down over and over again. We get enough of that from the news. From clickbait articles that people somehow still share on Facebook. From commercials. Hyped trailers are just the tip of the iceberg, but it’s one that we as fans can actually do something about. We may not be able to influence films as much as we want to—and for good reason—but we can stop contributing to the hype. Mob mentality sells movie tickets. But I suppose, if at the end of it we get another Avengers movie, what does it really matter?