“You know you’ve got to have a trailer for the trailer, son!” So shouts Terry Crews, ex NFL star, now professional shouty man as he introduces the teaser for The Expendables 2. I’m afraid he’s right; the obligatory big tease is an inevitable marketing ploy that looks like it’s here to stay – there’s no need to raise your voice though, Terry; we can still hear you over all those explosions.

This short, sharp send up (8 seconds of actual footage to be precise) sees Terry barge on screen to introduce things getting blown up with a wink and a yell. A few days later and we have the proper trailer, Arnie with a big gun and everything. This is the modern movie preview and we’d better get used to it. Len Wiseman’s remake of Total Recall had a 45 second promo leaked to the public prior to the full trailer hitting home too. Its content? Text along the lines of ‘This Sunday get ready for the World Trailer Premiere’ with the occasional flash of a sheepish Colin Farrell alongside (HELP) Kate Beckinsale.

I haven’t of course forgotten Prometheus. Ridley Scott’s eagerly anticipated monster of a movie has experimented with the promo film like no other. 20th Century Fox tapped into the titanic power of Twitter (getting over 15m followers in the process) to create an intricate multimedia web promoting what promises to be the filmic event of the summer. The quite outstanding full length trailer interrupted the penultimate episode of Homeland not once but twice, and the second occasion was something new – a shorter reaction filled clip full of the general public’s feedback via Twitter. Although a somewhat jarring promotional tool, surely this beats seeing the cinema goers on screen. With any luck, the trend of witnessing ‘actual’ cinemagoers informing us that they soiled themselves during Woman in Black as their girlfriend watched on in disbelief is well and truly over. With an innovative campaign that brought social media to the everyday Sunday night sofa, 20th Century Fox got people talking.

Have we seen too much though? It’s the standard complaint to many a trailer in today’s market, after the tease there is nothing left to taste. Viewing the preview for September’s much talked about Looper you can see how they’ve tried to avoid this quandary, with mixed results. Director (Rian Johnson) and star (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) sit side by side in theatre seats and talk through various scenes in cringe worthy fashion, if you haven’t seen it yet then bring something to hide behind. And yet this almighty mess of a trailer still doesn’t take away from the fact the film looks pretty smart. 3rd Rock from the Sun‘s Tommy Solomon (sorry, I still can’t help it) plays a hitman who must assassinate himself, a confusing premise and his future-self is played by Bruce Willis who must be used to turning up on set somewhat perplexed by now having already met older/younger versions of himself in both The Kid and Twelve Monkeys.

By Ian Roebuck

Originally published in issue 38 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. May 2012