Advertising is legalized lying – H. G. Wells
The trailer for the film adaptation of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close came out earlier this week. The book on which the film is based is one of my favorite books of all time, and the prospect of translating the book to film is an interesting one. The book can be melodramatic and quirky, two words that strike fear into the hearts of many “serious” moviegoers. The people that know a lot about movies and have strong opinions on how they should and should not work. The people that write and read film blogs. The people that turn their nose up at the Oscars and watch them seemingly only to criticize how misguided they are. These people watched the trailer and instantly decided that the film was made to win Oscars and can therefore not be any good. But that’s probably the dumbest thing you can do when it comes to art.
The A.V. Club’s little write-up on the trailer hits all of the critical points here. The director has been nominated for Oscars before, the screenwriter has won an Oscar, and both of the big name stars have won an Oscar. And then they outline the plot in it’s most basic terms, son loses father, finds key, looks for lock. They mention how the WWII subplot seemingly exists to hit that Oscar demographic, building on the 9/11 plotline. And yes, all of these things have won Oscars in some way before, except for 9/11 which only has United 93’s two nominations to it’s pedigree, though we’ll have to excuse that for the relatively short distance between the event and today. If you want to call the film out for having people write and direct and star in it I guess I can’t stop you.
But none of this addresses the actual trailer. And here’s the thing, the trailer isn’t great. It, like the A.V. Club article, only hits the big notes and throws some quirk in there for good measure. It shows none of the WWII plot. It doesn’t show the bulk of the film other than in some quick montage in the middle. It’s really all setup. What it does show is a lot of Tom Hanks, who plays the father that dies on 9/11. A good bit of Hank’s performance is likely captured in this trailer. There’s only a scene or two that isn’t captured here in some way. The trailer plays him up, though, because he’s a big star. And that’s ok, because the one thing we must remember as intelligent filmgoers is that trailers exist to sell the film to the widest group possible. They’re usually not created by the filmmakers and they often use scenes that don’t even end up in the final film. Trailers are not movies, they’re advertisement. They distort the real product into a quick, easily digestible chunk that rarely delves into anything beyond a broad theme or story outline. There are exceptions, of course, Magnolia’s trailer, below, was cut by Paul Thomas Anderson, who also filmed shots specifically for the trailer. But the majority of movie trailers are handled by outside companies that get footage and assemble it into the most basic commercial they can.
When I was a kid I watched a lot of TV, cartoons and the like. All of the commercials were for toys, and most of those commercials came with disclaimers that said, “Real cooking time 10-12 minutes” or, “Some assembly required.” I think movie trailers should take a clue from these toy commercials and start running a little text at the bottom, warning the people watching that these 2 minutes are not necessarily indicative of the full 2 hour experience. And then they can have that guy come on at the end and say things like “Some thought required” to warn us that movies aren’t and shouldn’t be so quickly analyzed and dismissed. Trailers don’t have a great record of accuracy, and you’d think that us “serious” movie people would remember that, but we don’t. Every year there are trailers that don’t make their movies look any good and every year there are some movies with horrible trailers that end up being really great. We should remember that only the movie is the movie, and everything else is meaningless