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The whole point of movie trailers is to make audiences excited for what’s coming. But sometimes they do their job a little too well. Some move trailers inflate our expectations, only to leave us disappointed when the end product doesn’t live up to a well-edited, two-minute-long teaser.
From “The Phantom Menace” to “Man of Steel,” these are the trailers that wound up being better than the actual films.
“Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace”
It’s not often that people skip school and work just to watch a trailer, but that’s the appeal of seeing the first new Star Wars footage in over 15 years. The “Phantom Menace” teaser showed us glorious new sights like a droid army on the march and Darth Maul’s double-bladed lightsaber. And the movie gave us those things, but also a whole lot that we never bargained for.
All we really need out of our James Bond trailers is some cool action, a few shots of gorgeous locations and that iconic theme music. “Spectre” gave us plenty of those things in its trailer. And coming off the high that was “Skyfall,” we had no reason to doubt anything was amiss.
But then we watched the actual movie and were reminded at how quickly things can go wrong with this franchise.
The “Watchmen” movie had been trapped in development hell for so long that many fans refused to believe it existed until the teaser trailer finally arrived. That teaser had us believing director Zack Snyder could actually do justice to one of the most acclaimed graphic novels of all time. The way iconic images from the book synced up to Smashing Pumpkins music really left a strong impression. Sadly, the movie only wound up proving that some adaptations can be guilty of being too faithful.
“Die Another Day”
We should have been wary of this Bond sequel, given how poorly Pierce Brosnan’s previous two films played out. But we couldn’t help but be won over by this teaser’s stylish opening sequence, cool narration, and short burst of awesome Bond footage. It didn’t show much of the actual film, and — eventually — we learned there was good reason for that.
The original teaser for 1998’s “Godzilla” is unique in that it doesn’t feature any actual footage from the film. Instead, it acts as a short film that teases the Americanized reboot of the iconic monster and pokes a little fun at “Jurassic Park” in the process. It’s an effective trailer, but perhaps we should have been more suspicious of their unwillingness to show the final product.
After a progressively worse series of sequels and spinoffs, we were ready for Ridley Scott to return and bring the “Alien” franchise back to basics. The teaser for “Prometheus” showed every sign that he could pull it off, with plenty of evocative imagery and a terrifying soundtrack that called back to the original “Alien” teaser. What the teaser didn’t show us was how much of the movie centered around convoluted mythology and dumb characters doing dumb things for dumb reasons.
“Man of Steel”
Rarely has there been such a huge divide between a film’s trailers and the finished product. All three “Man of Steel” trailers offered a captivating look at a superhero reborn, one who represented all the goodness and wonder we expect from Superman.
By the time the final trailer debuted Hans Zimmer’s epic new score, we were all-in on the new Superman. Sadly, the actual movie proved far more brooding and depressing than the trailers.
“The Dark Knight Rises”
There was probably no way Christopher Nolan’s third Batman movie could ever have lived up to “The Dark Knight.” That doesn’t mean the final trailer for “The Dark Knight Rises” didn’t have our hopes up.
It showed us a tantalizing glimpse of the movie, one that paired epic superhero images with a slowly mounting score. And in some ways, the actual movie lived up to the hype. But between the numerous plot holes and head-scratching story choices, TDKR wasn’t everything it could have been.
“Where the Wild Things Are”
Flawed as it is, there’s a lot to like about Spike Jonze’s ambitious, emotionally charged adaptation of this beloved children’s book. The problem is that you basically get that same rush in much more concentrated form just by watching the trailer. After all, two minutes is about all the time it takes to read the book. Did we really need a two hour movie?
“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
Before “Thor: Ragnarok,” “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” proved that there’s no better way to deliver a memorable trailer than to pair some cool, tightly edited footage with Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song.” Sadly, where “Ragnarok” lived up to its own hype, “Dragon Tattoo” proved to be an underwhelming experience. We expected something of more substance from the director who gave us classics like “Seven.” In the end, we’re not surprised that this American remake failed to spawn a full-fledged franchise.
“X-Men: The Last Stand”
The third X-Men movie derailed the franchise in a bad way. But based solely on the trailer, we would have thought we were in for a worthy follow-up to “X2.” That’s the power of good editing. It can hide all the less savory elements like an underwhelming climax or the fact that certain key characters are killed off way too soon.
“Terminator Salvation” tantalized us with the prospect of a film entirely set in a wartorn future of which past Terminator movies had only shown small glimpses. Unfortunately, it was a formula that worked a lot better in trailer form than as an actual film. But hey, at least “Salvation” will go down in history as having the best use of a Nine Inch Nails song in a trailer.
“Pearl Harbor” is a textbook case of a trailer distilling all the good parts of a bad movie and inflating the expectations of viewers. Between the rousing instrumental music, Jon Voight’s delivery of FDR’s speech and images of America gearing up for war, the trailer shows all the makings of a historical epic. It leaves out the bloated story and awkward love triangle that bogged down the actual movie.
We were wary of the DCEU after being disappointed by both “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman.” Even so, the first trailer for “Suicide Squad” left us hopeful for a cinematic redemption. The trailer did a great job of teasing a violent, stylish romp featuring the villains of the DC Universe. The inspired soundtrack choices didn’t hurt.
The problem is that it teased a movie that didn’t really exist, no matter how many last-minute reshoots and re-edits WB tried to cram in.
“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”
It’s impossible not to be won over by the teaser for “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” In addition to its effective soundtrack choice, it presents a joyous look at an ordinary man who decides to finally venture forth and live out his dreams.
Unfortunately, the actual movie lacks the substance to back up that well-meaning story, meaning it’s a formula that just works better as a two-minute music video.