Now, feel free to disagree with me, but these are a handful of trailers that I've always thought were much better than the actual film, meaning I watched them endlessly and probably built them up way too much and was just bound to be disappointed. But here they are. Some of them turned out to be mediocre films, or bad films, or even good films, but to me, their pinnacle was actually the trailer.
1. Vanilla Sky (2001).
This wasn't by any means a bad film, but the trailer for me is a lot more intriguing. Vanilla Sky is a muddled remake of, from what I understand, what is already also a bit of a muddled Spanish film, Abre Los Oyos (Open Your Eyes). For some reason, there's something about the atmosphere of it that I didn't like; I didn't want to spend 2 hours in it. I think a large part of it was the Tom Cruise character. I really don't mind Tom Cruise, I think he has become a victim of his own success, but his character isn't likeable at all. Even though he is a totally manipulative jerk in the film who is trying to redeem himself, I didn't care if he did redeem himself in the end. But I do respect this movie, mostly, and it did introduce me to that amazing Icelandic band of bands, Sigur Ros. What appeals to me most of all about this trailer is the music: in particular the Looper (first song) and Chemical Brothers song featured in the last third of it. Director Cameron Crowe probably had something to do with choosing the music for it, as he tends to have a major hand in the musical selections of his works, however, when the best thing about a film is the soundtrack, you have to wonder if maybe the director should have just trusted his music supervisor, and focused a little more on creating a coherent narrative. A lot of the imagery in the trailer is really evocative though, and it is cut together smartly.
2. Jarhead (2005).
Some people felt really strongly about this film, but in the end, I didn't feel much of anything at all. I mean, I kind of get it, from what I recall it is about the emotional toll of going to war, even if a soldier doesn't end up seeing much (or any) action. The boredom and the stress of preparation for combat, and then the anxiety of being exposed extreme situations, death, and conflict, these are all powerful concepts and discussions that should be had, however an interesting film it does not necessarily make. The American soldiers in Iraq (this is about the first Gulf War) were all dressed up with no where to go, and the film is in the exact same situation! So it is kind of a flawed concept to begin with. There is an HBO series called Generation Kill which also tackles similar concepts, and it handles it much better. So just watch that. Or if you don't have seven hours, watch Three Kings instead. That is an excellent Gulf War film, period. So, the trailer. What do I like about it? Mostly, the Kanye West song Jesus Walks. Yes, I can see a theme developing here. Music plays a powerful role in stirring interest in a film, and we will see how in most of the remaining examples here. I watched the trailer over and over when it came out, though now that I rewatch it, I'm not as enthused. Either way, at one time, this trailer really ignited something in me.
3. Code 46 (2003).
I don't think anybody saw this film, other than myself and the two people who I watched it with. It was pretty bad, and quite incoherent, which is a shame because I think it had really good intentions, and on paper sounds like an awesome film that I would like to watch. Tim Robbins and Samantha Morton (a wonderful actress I would like to dedicate an entire post to) star in this mystery thriller set in the near future (my absolute favorite time period for a film to be set--I'm looking at you, Blade Runner, Minority Report, Children of Men, Gattaca, etc.). I initially found out about it in a magazine article which talked about the production and how the producers were traveling the world to find existing futuristic settings and architecture in front of which to stage their film. Anyways, maybe this film will resurface in the future as a lost and misunderstood film, though I doubt it. After watching it with my friends, I actually was compelled to show them the trailer, just to justify my desire for making them sit through it! Thanks, friends. The trailer isn't particularly stunning, it just teases you with a number of interesting concepts.
4. Where The Wild Things Are (2009).
This might be one of the finest and most stirring trailers ever, and I don't mean to exaggerate. When this came out last year, EVERYONE was going batshit crazy over it. It has a fantastic Arcade Fire song, the source material is extremely dear to many, many people, director Spike Jonze is a skilled and beloved member of the cinema world, and the imagery is whimsical, youthful, exciting, and emotional (that sequence of shots of Max running away or towards the camera are amazing!). This was by no means whatsoever a bad film, I quite enjoyed it, it just didn't have a lot of material to go on. You have to give Jonze credit for not ruining something so precious as a children's story (I'm lookin at you, Tim Burton and Ron Howard!), and he stayed true to Maurice Sendak's vision. But it did portray quite well some of the turmoil, conflicts, and tough decisions that kids have to go through. Many films that take place inside someone's imagination or dreams tend to go over the top on the imagery level, but Where The Wild Things Are kept it regulated.
5. Bronson (2008).
Boasting to be the new generation's Clockwork Orange maybe isn't the smartest way to promote a film, nor is tailoring your style closely to a master filmmaker like Stanley Kubrick. I mean, by all means, if you shoot for the moon and miss, you'll often still land in the stars, however sometimes you'll just float away into deep space. I think that's about as far as I can take that analogy. This film is adrift in style with no real substance. And unfortunately, many of the funny moments in this trailer just don't work in the actual film. The film feels pretty much just an extended version of the latter half of Clockwork Orange when Alex is being rehabilitated, and well it's just a little dull. The lead performance of an almost unrecognizable Tom Hardy, in the actual film, is over-the-top and in the end wears thin. Clockwork Orange was so successful because in a way it is funny. It's a satire. The contents of this film just do not wink at the camera, there's no passion, and I never really got what the filmmaker was trying to convey. Yes, this guy is crazy, but unlike Clockwork Orange, it says nothing about whether society is crazy too. Yes, post-war England is drab, and people do bad things, but...? And is it unsensitive of me to say that Bronson's (the character's) crimes aren't heinous enough? He is kind of a petty criminal in the whole scheme of things, so why is he such a problem? Why doesn't he just shut up and serve his short sentence? All this being said, this trailer is wicked, it got me excited, and if you enjoy the style and imagery of a Kubrick film and are yearning to see something new from the late master, take a spin through this trailer, and then ponder how awesome A.I.: Artificial Intelligence could have been had Stanley Kubrick stayed alive long enough to direct it.
6. Pineapple Express (2008).
Am I wrong to say that this trailer almost single-handedly launched MIA's song Paper Planes into the stratosphere? Thug life!
7. Miami Vice (2006).
Sigh... what could have been! So much talent and promise here! Director Michael Mann is responsible for one of the greatest films of the 20th century and pretty much my all-time favorite: Heat. His profound examination of the 1990s LA crime world is almost certainly the best cops and robbers film, features a massive ensemble cast of fantastically nuanced performances, and still resonates today (in fact, Christopher Nolan cited it as a major source of inspiration for the Batman-Joker dichotomy in The Dark Knight). It somehow took a relatively simple concept, blew it up to epic proportions, and delivered in spades. The near-three-hour running time feels like nothing as we are intimately shown that detectives and even criminals have feelings. Amazing. I could talk about Heat forever, but we are here to talk about Miami Vice. Michael Mann created the seminal 80s television of the same name, and here revisited it with a passionless cast. Somehow, everyone in this film is a grouch, and Miami comes across as a bleak land of pain and suffering. But the trailer is awesome, again because of the bumpin Jay-Z/Linkin Park mash-up song. I also just love the imagery too. Make no mistake, this is an epic film as well. No expenses whatsoever appeared to have been spared, and the money is on the screen: jet-boats, Ferraris, lear-jets, Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx, dance clubs. Unless you are a die-hard Michael Mann fan, I wouldn't recommend this film. Just watch the trailer, let your imagination ponder how cool it all could have been, then YouTube the finale of the film for that amazing Mogwai song that plays it out. There's one thing Mann always knows how to do, and that is a powerful end-scene (Again, Heat).