The term “trailer” comes from days of cinema past, in which advertisements for future releases would trail the conclusion of a feature film. This was eventually deemed an unsuccessful practice due to moviegoers leaving as the end credits rolled, impatient and uninterested in sticking around. The trailers were eventually moved to the start of a film to serve as foreplay for the main event. The drill changed but the name stuck, and the rest is history.
In the era of classic cinema, several methods and techniques were tested. One of the most memorable trailers was the one for Alien, which masterfully used edited footage while its iconic score filled the screen with suspense and dread, revealing very little.
Similarly, both Stanley Kubrick’s beautifully shot, gore-splattered teaser for The Shining, and the trailer for Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, where the director himself walked through the set, gave nothing away and provided more questions than answers. These trailers expertly delivered by filling potential audiences with anticipation.
For better or worse, in modern cinema all films generally involve a lot of promotional activity prior to its cinematic release, leading to the world having a love-hate relationship with teasers, trailers, and general promotional footage prior to the release of a film. The main problem with modern day trailers is the ever-more frequent inclusion of spoilers; too many production companies find it necessary to dumb down their promotional footage, effectively providing two to three minutes of highlights in a play-by-play micro version of a film.
Throughout these mini episodes, several crucial elements of the films are thrown away as though people don’t need to plot twists anymore, a sad occurrence that has ruined many films in recent years. The most notable recent offender would likely be Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, which holds your hand through a whole manner of events that should have been kept under wraps in order to preserve audience anticipation.
Despite this new phenomenon of compressing an entire film into a few minutes, some studios are doing a superb job of giving away minimal footage and minor information, selling movie tickets through the audience’s curiosity and a thirst to be surprised. A noteworthy example of this is Cloverfield, which paired fake websites with well edited footage, giving away scarce information about what was to follow.
Originally only accessible in a movie theatre, trailers are now everywhere thanks to the heavily commercialized and digital lives we lead, generally making them unavoidable. However, sometimes production companies capably engineer trailers that perfectly do their job and create an advertisement full of excitement that leads to packed cinemas, only for the main event to not live up to its expectations, or to even leave the audience wondering how a trailer could be so misleading. Here are 15 disappointing films that primarily produced great trailers and teasers.
15. Elysium (2013)
Director Neil Blomkamp, after the success of cult classic District 9, looked to create another unique universe full of its own rules and unforgettable entities, required ingredients for any solid science fiction film. Elysium’s trailer shows Matt Damon, a powerhouse performer capable of controlling the screen in a variety of genres, as the film’s bald front man who attempts to gain access to the titular location, a colony orbiting a dying Earth.
The film also stars Blomkamp’s previous collaborator, the excellent Sharlto Copley, as well as Oscar winner and acting veteran Jodie Foster. The trailer sported incredible visuals and an original, fresh science fiction idea, whilst playing with the social concepts of class wars and poverty, and most notably the surrounding political issues of healthcare and immigration.
On fiirst impression, the film looked like an imaginative concept likely to be full of social commentary and a distinctive design, but ended up feeling generic and routine. Despite a host of great performances by all the actors involved, it wasn’t enough to carry the lacking script to its expected accomplishments. Blomkamp’s concept was full of potential, but in practice it relied heavily on several science fiction clichés that unfortunately leave the genre overpopulated with mediocre entries such as this one.
14. Quantum of Solace (2008)
Despite a great deal of doubt and skepticism, Daniel Craig has made a truly unforgettable James Bond. First appearing in Casino Royale, he turned the much-loved character into a gritty, realistic spy in the vein of Jason Bourne.
The mid to late 2000s saw a number of movie studios fashioning much darker films grounded in realism, and the usually ostentatious, over-the-top British agent was to follow suit, stripping away all the gadgets and concepts that, during the years with Pierce Brosnan in the title role, had become quite flamboyant.
Casino Royale worked incredibly well, and was considered one of the best Bond films in many years, with director Martin Campbell (who had been absent since Goldeneye) back in full force. Quantum of Solace then—commissioned and handed over to up-and-coming director Marc Forster, along with Daniel Craig as the titular 007 for a second time—was highly anticipated.
It was even more so when the trailer was originally shown to the masses, opening with beautiful scenery and the plot’s background while apparently keeping a lot of the action sequences a secret.
The audience got their first look at the villain of the piece, played by Mathieu Amalric, hot off his recent success in The Diving Bell and The Butterfly. He looks perfectly comfortable as a Bond villain, playing the detestable Dominic Greene, with the saga again opting for the generally successful strategy of using a European nemesis (the previous installment’s villain was played by the consistently brilliant Mads Mikkelsen).
However, upon release, Quantum of Solace was deemed mediocre, leaving behind the smart script, stunning geography, and even some memorable characters that were previously showcased in Casino Royale. Fundamental aspects of the saga were absent, which resulted in a hollow shell of a film, watered down by its uneventful action sequences and incoherent plot.
Director Marc Forster seemingly got caught up in creating elegant art house visuals and chose style over script, forgetting at heart that James Bond is an action hero. The result is a disjointed, bland story with no outstanding characteristics.
13. Man of Steel (2013)
Man of Steel arrived after the conclusion of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy and was, therefore, widely regarded as DC’s first attempt to rival Marvel’s established cinematic collection. Although Man of Steel was not linked officially to the Dark Knight trilogy, director Zack Snyder was clearly going for a similar atmosphere, taking cues from the dark and gritty visuals and the choice to remain grounded in reality, as much as a superhero movie can be.
Christopher Nolan was on production duty, as was Hans Zimmer, who provided a goosebump-inducing score similar to that used in the Dark Knight saga. Anticipation grew when the teaser trailers arrived, featuring fragmented messages from another world, and the looming arrival of an alien race.
The first full trailer included voice-overs from Superman’s (Henry Cavill) two father figures, played by Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner, laid over the building tones of Hans Zimmer’s score. It was elegant, powerful, and uplifting, and it made the hairs on the back of your neck stand to attention. This trailer was both beautiful and exciting, expertly cut together and providing enough information for people to expect the best.
Deceptive mastermind Zack Snyder has time and time again misled audiences into believing he is capable of making good films, with an eye for visually striking cinematography, which is always evident throughout his trailers, but he has frequently chosen stylized violent sequences over substance. Man of Steel is no different.
Beginning with another retelling of Superman’s origin story, this seemingly deep and intricate tale of acceptance and of the moral implications of a higher being arriving on Earth instead gives way to numbing action sequences and throwaway conversations, eventually culminating in the obliteration of an entire city and the death of a formidable villain.
This conclusion sums up the film, in a sense: aliens destroy not only buildings, but countless innocent lives—especially the lives of hardcore fans of Superman who expected more and deserved better from Man of Steel.
12. The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
The trailer for The Day After Tomorrow is an impressive preview. It uses a combination of fake news bulletins, public warnings, and brief glimpses of natural disasters colliding with famous landmarks. The Day After Tomorrow looked to be one of the original films to tackle the issue of global warming by exploring it through the lens of the Disaster Movie genre.
The trailer’s impressive visuals include a tsunami heading for New York City and a tornado destroying the Hollywood sign. These images capitalize on the possible real-life horror of one day seeing such events take place, and in the background, drawing together this carnage, is the intense score composed by Harald Kloser.
Although praised for its stunning visuals, the film suffered due to a lack of substance, a poor script, and clunky pacing; it became all too apparent early on that the special effects alone couldn’t carry the film. The script, written by director Roland Emmerich, makes little room for emotion. It looks as though a new ice age causing the horrific deaths of millions of people would only be mildly upsetting to the survivors.
By this point, it was evident that Emmerich’s glory days of Independence Day and Stargate were behind him, a fact which was later confirmed by his devastating (pun intended) films, 10,000 BC and 2012. Based on the novel The Coming Global Superstorm, The Day After Tomorrow has also been frequently called out for its complete disregard for plausibility and science. In short, this disaster of a film was the beginning of the end for Disaster Films everywhere.
11. Sucker Punch (2011)
Written, directed, and produced by Zack Snyder, at first glance Sucker Punch looks like a beautifully-shot Fantasy-Action film, complete with a number of tough female characters played by Emily Browning, Jena Malone, and Vanessa Hudgens. This made for a refreshing change, as generally the Action genre is overpopulated by male grunts.
The scenes shown in the trailer look effortlessly cool; the disjointed nature of these scenarios[What were these scenarios exactly?] only adds to the excitement, as this allows audience to piece together how these scenes might factor into the feature length film, or so they were hoping.
What the film actually had in store was far from what was expected. If a film studio asked an adolescent boy to write and direct a film with no instructions but “Make sure there are some kickass babes in the movie,” he would likely produce Sucker Punch, a brainless fantasy that paints strong and powerful female leads entirely in the wrong light.
By the end of the film, the only question anyone had was, “How could something that looked so beautiful be so badly executed?” Collaborating with frequent cinematographer Larry Fong, Zack Snyder’s Action film, despite being a technical work of art with regards to visual effects, surges from one disorganized scene and smashes into the next without logic, coherence, or remorse for what is being displayed.
10. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (2013)
The first film in the Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief franchise breathed new life and energy into the Young Adult genre, and moved the subject of Greek mythology to the forefront again. It paired a cast of well-known actors and charismatic youngsters in this Clash of the Titans-style modern road trip. Despite its many flaws, it generated a family-friendly Adventure film in the vein of Harry Potter.
The trailer for the second installment, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, also shows adventure and peril for the titular character and his friends, this time on a quest to find the Golden Fleece in the Sea of Monsters. The trailer presents teasers for more mythological creatures and plenty of set pieces at the heart of this coming-of-age demi-god tale.
Providing a very similar set-up to the first chapter, it became obvious that this Fantasy Adventure saga had already run its course by the end credits of The Lightning Thief. The film provides nothing new and improves on nothing from the previous entry, sauntering along as if there is no peril or threat to the characters or their world.
The film is lacking in vitality, adequate CGI, and exciting set pieces, and the spectacle of fantasy is absent, making even the mythological creatures monotonous. Despite grasping desperately for the Golden Fleece, this film leaves behind nothing to hold onto.
9. Terminator Salvation (2009)
The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day stand as seminal masterpieces within the Science Fiction genre, the latter of the two films even surpassing its forerunner, though both are often considered the pinnacle works in influential director James Cameron’s career. The two films tend to stand away from further productions within the franchise, including the poorly received Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.
The fourth film, Terminator Salvation, is debatably the most bearable of the sequels and spinoffs spawned from the original two films. The reason it was such a disappointment was due to the caliber of actors involved, and the promise by all involved to redeem the saga after the failure of Rise of the Machines.
Salvation looked to spark a worthy resurgence in the franchise after the weak third installment: the initial trailer has conviction and power, and showcases its new leads in the form of Christian Bale and Sam Worthington. It renders a dark and gritty world where the robot super race, Skynet, has taken over, while finely orchestrating action sequences of epic proportions.
However, the full-length film has a humourless, clunky, and mechanical script to suit the villains of the feature, and despite creating several stunning set pieces, it struggles to do anything outside of this. With no emotion, heart, or depth to gel the picture together, the film quickly and understandably falls apart after the first hour of explosions.