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Directors criticize trailers for ruining movies, want more control

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It’s gotten a bit much

Spider-Man: Homecoming - Spider-Man inside a truck with cages Sony Picture

As trailers become a more prominent and important part of movie culture, there’s a pressure to make each one better than the last. Unfortunately for many films, that has resulted in trailers summing up the entire movie and spoiling moviegoers. This has led to fans going into movies like Spider-Man: Homecoming or Alien: Covenant blind; a term that refers to those who don’t watch any of the trailers or commercials for a movie before going to see it.

Now, however, it’s not just fans who are complaining that trailers are ruining movies, but directors, too. David Lynch, creator of the recently returned Twin Peaks, told Rolling Stone that movie trailers were ruining the filmgoing experience.

“These days, movie trailers practically tell the whole story,” Lynch said. “I think it’s really harmful. For me, personally, I don’t want to know anything when I go into a theater. I like to discover it, get into that world, try to get as good of picture and sound as possible, no interruptions — so you can have an experience. And anything that putrefies that is not good.”

When it comes to his own show, Lynch made a point of giving away as little as possible, working with Showtime to ensure that the third season remained a mystery for diehards. Lynch did everything in his power to ensure nothing about the show got out. He didn’t tell many of the cast members that the show was happening until it was announced by Showtime, only gave actors specific scenes to read and, of course, didn’t release a “real” trailer (with actual footage from the new season). The idea was not to let marketing and press tours ruin the experience for fans.

Lynch isn’t the only one who’s trying to find ways to retain creative control of his projects. Alan Taylor, the director behind 2015’s Terminator Genisys, told Uproxx that he had spoken to Paramount Pictures about a number of issues he had with the first couple of trailers. While the debut trailer made Genisys look like a reboot — something Taylor was adamant the film was not — it was the second trailer that really irked the director. Taylor noted that many of the scenes he directed for the movie were intended to be surprises, and was disappointed to see them in the second trailer.

“I certainly directed those scenes with the intention that no one would know,” Taylor said, adding that all of the surprises that occurred during the production process had “to do with marketing.”

That same year, Jurassic World’s Colin Trevorrow told IGN that he was upset with the trailers for his blockbuster movie. Like Taylor, Trevorrow said there were certain scenes from the movie he wished had been kept a surprise.

“They have shown far more of this movie than I would ever have wanted,” Trevorrow said, adding that he understands, “this kind of marketing has historically been able to get a lot of people into theaters.”

But as movie trailer culture continues to expand — with studios like Warner Bros. and Marvel now hyping up the release of a trailer practically a week in advance — the spoilers are only getting worse.

One of the most recent offenders is Spider-Man: Homecoming, whose second trailer seemed to give away the entire plot of the movie. It was criticized by a number of critics and fans for giving everything but the last five minutes of the movie away. A trailer should hint at the story and tease some of the emotional bandwidth that comes with it, perhaps providing a glimpse of the climactic battle. Spider-Man: Homecoming gives away far too much and, because there are more trailers being released for a single title than ever before, it’s easy for people to piece together the entire thing with just 10 minutes of footage.

When Marvel released one of the first trailers for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Gunn had to defend the decision to reveal that Ego the Living Planet was Star-Lord’s father after fans and critics complained it was a major spoiler.

That said, knowing who Quill's father is will not diminish your enjoyment of the film in any way. The story is not built to be a shocking twist in the same way Luke's father was Darth, Soylent Green was people, Rosebud was a sled, or that that pretty woman from Crying Game had a penis (I guess I should have said spoilers before all that). Ego the emotional center of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 from the beginning to the end, and is not a twist. And believe me — there are many, many more surprises we still have in store for you from Vol. 2 — hopefully the biggest of which is how much you'll love the movie itself. Because, to me, that's the only twist that matters.

It’s because of this flack from fans and rising concerns from those directly involved in the film that more directors are following in the footsteps of Christopher Nolan and Guillermo del Toro, both of whom have creative control over the trailers. While Nolan likes to focus on the imagery of a movie instead of plot — just look at the most recent trailers for his upcoming Dunkirk — del Toro has always been a fan of spoilers, but the point is that they have final say.

For now, if you want to avoid being spoiled heading into a movie, it might be best to avoid trailers entirely.