Trailers are a funny thing. They are, at once, the most visible product of the movie industry and yet the least discussed. Think about it, you don't see every movie that comes out, but you see just about every trailer.
For people who don't subscribe to movie industry magazines or check imdb and ew.com every day like me (how do you live?) the review by John Doe in the local paper and the trailer playing on tv or hulu is about the only pre-release indication of whether a film should or should not be seen.
It's like the single that determines whether you buy the album. Well, back when people actually bought albums. Ok, it's not like a music single at all but the point is, a well made trailer can often spell the difference between smashing opening-weekend box office records or setting yourself up for an epic failure, like Gigli.
Take The Village, for example. A quick look at its trailer gives the impression of a Shyamalanian horror film, a la The Sixth Sense. It's got it's share of spooks but when push comes to shove it's actually a love story, and I would argue one of the best love stories ever told on film (the impeccable cinematography and haunting musical score is just icing on the cake). Many viewers went in expecting a good scare and were disappointed. Word-of-mouth was mostly negative and M. Night slowly spiraled into a filthy bubbling mess (read: The Last Airbender).
Much like the Trailer for Pearl Harbor. Oh, you thought it was going to be a war movie?
WRONG! Turns out it's a chick flick with a few explosions thrown in at the end.
Sure, it made gobs of money. I mean, what would a Michael Bay movie BE without gobs of money (answer: The Island)? But still, viewers were tricked into some daytime soap love-triangle story and left wondering whatever happened to Josh Hartnet's up-and-coming-acting-career and what in the world happened to Cuba Gooding Jr. to make his career shoot itself in the head.
Beyond misguiding viewers, sometimes trailers are just plain better than the actual film. In many ways its easier to tie together 3 minutes of images with a rousing song to provoke an emotional response than it is to write compelling story arks and dialogue over a two-hour film (just ask George Lucas).
I won't argue the quality of the following films, since its highly subjective, but here's a few trailers that score a perfect 10 in my book.
Where the Wild Things Are
This movie was polarizing. I, for one, dug it but that's not the point. That trailer is fantastic. Sure it could be argued that it's less a trailer for the eventual movie are really just the best Arcade Fire music video ever created but still, the imagery, the pace, the tone, the mood, everything. Sensational.
Crazy, Stupid, Love
This trailer is so good, I ended up being disappointed in the move. It's a fantastic film, one of the best of the year and one of the best romantic comedies ever made but this trailer, with it's bitter-sweet blend of comedy and drama (I went to see the new Twilight movie by myself, and it was sooo bad), it's knockout blend of Grizzly Bear and Muse that actually creates a mood transition within the 3 minutes we have to watch and, last but not least, it presents a slew of likable characters not the least of which being the exquisite Emma Stone. I typically despise Julianne Moore but even she couldn't bring this trailer down (maybe because she's essentially the villain, that made it easier).
If you haven't seen the movie yet, do so immediately.
This movie came out when I was a teenager and I just remember being enthralled by the trailer. I'm a big fan of Crash-style films with multiple interweaving plotlines and in a short 2:47 snippet you're introduced to what, a dozen characters? All of whom introduce themselves to the camera and then, seemingly, have their worlds explode. It builds with a steady crescendo and then suddenly tappers off in a smooth orchestral note and dang it, i just find it so freaking compelling.
For years I wanted to see this movie and then finally caught it on TV a while back. It's interesting, if you haven't seen it be prepared to really dislike Tom Cruise (most people do anyway, I still think he's the man but that's a whole other subject). Still, this trailer makes full use of the chaos of life, and even though it tells you essentially nothing about what the movie is about, I find myself wanting to know.
I'm not a comic book guy, never have been. I did however, read Watchmen after movie came out. The movie didn't perform as well as people expected but one thing is for sure, that trailer, is darrrrrrn good.
Zak Snyder is a visual maestro and the way the trailer bounces back and forth between settings, color palettes, dark and light, fast and slow, is like an eye massage. The first time I saw this trailer I remember rewinding it over and over again to see Ozymandias fluidly take out that guy with a metal pole and even today, after hundreds of repeat viewing the end sequence gives me the goosebumps as Rorschach says "I will whisper ... No" as the ink on his mas oh-so-subtly changes.
Throw in a great song by Muse for good measure and you have yourself a good time. Also, if you've ever been tempted to read a graphic novel, this is a good place to start.