Are trailers revealing too much again nowadays?

kingdom of the planet of the apes
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Recent trailers for Abigail and Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes have revealed what would normally be considered spoilers. Should studios stop doing this? 

Contains MAJOR SPOILERS for Abigail, Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes, The Kingsman films, Last House On The Left and What Lies Beneath

Radio Silence’s Abigail is a hoot of a film. It’s fun, gory and Dan Stevens plays another weirdo with wonderful glee. The film starts out as a heist film as a group of morally ambiguous people kidnap the daughter, the titular Abigail, of a presumably wealthy man who, in theory, will pay a handsome ransom for the safe return of his daughter. 

The twist here is that Abigail is actually a vampire and the criminals are locked in with her and not the other way around. 

Well, at least it would have been a twist if it wasn’t revealed in all the trailers. Our very own Simon Brew noted in his review that the film works very well – if you haven’t seen the trailers. 

abigail trailer
Credit: Universal Pictures

The new Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes also had a major moment ruined by the trailers. In the finished film, which has just debuted in cinemas, the scene in question is supposed to be a moment of shock and director Wes Ball treats it as a huge revelation, rightfully so. 

Read more: Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes review | A long road forward

In War Of The Planet Of The Apes, we learned that a virus was making the humans mute, slowly turning them into primitive versions of themselves. In Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes, apes have finally become the dominant species and humans are now feral and wild as well as silent. 

We knew from the early trailers that Noa, Kingdom’s main character, would be teaming up with a young woman, Mae. We also knew there was something special about Mae and the scene we’re talking about here reveals what that is; she can speak. Gasp! 

Let me set the revelatory scene in Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes: Noa, Raka, a wise, friendly orangutan, and Mae come across a herd of now-feral humans along with some zebras, as you do. Suddenly, they’re all spooked by the arrival of Proximus Caesar’s apes who are on the hunt for Mae for reasons that aren’t clear to us at this point of the film. Mae runs for her life, hiding in some very tall grass. 

kingdom of the planet of the apes mae
Credit: 20th Century Studios

Just as the villainous apes are closing in on Mae, she stands up and shouts “Noa!” to get the young apes’ attention. 

Up until that scene, Mae has been silent and somewhat feral. We think she’s just tagging along because Noa and Raka have shown her kindness by offering her food and a blanket to keep her warm. We had no reason to believe Mae could speak and what a moment that would have been, if we hadn’t seen Mae speaking in the final trailer

Naturally, scenes like this have been shot and edited months before a trailer is released out into the world. Not all directors are involved in putting them together, nor are they always even asked to sign off on a trailer. We don’t know how involved Ball was in the release of the trailers, but clearly, the moment was written and directed as if it was a big surprise to the audience. 

Another example of a moment of surprise being ruined in a trailer is Matthew Vaughn’s spy sequel The Kingsman: The Golden Circle. In Kingsman: The Secret Service, Vaughn’s spy action-comedy, Colin Firth’s secret agent Harry Hart was shot and killed at the end. When the trailer for the film’s sequel was released, it revealed that Hart would be back in action, somehow resurrected. 

Vaughn has spoken against the decision to include Firth in the trailers, telling IGN that he was “not in charge of marketing”.

“I begged the studio not to reveal it. Because it’s the whole driving force of the first act and if you didn’t know that scene it would’ve made the whole audience gasp. So you have to ask the lovely marketing guys because I think their job is to open the movie and don’t really care about the experience of the movie,” Vaughn said in 2017. 

Read more: Kingsman 3 will start filming next year, director Matthew Vaughn says

The question on my mind, and no doubt yours too, is, why do studios do this? The obvious answer is, revealing such plot points will hopefully lure in more bums on seats. Revealing Abigail as a vampire horror as opposed to a straightforward kidnapping thriller makes it seem more exciting and revealing that some humans can still talk in Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes makes audiences curious about how things have changed since War Of The Planet Of The Apes in 2017. 

But aren’t we being robbed of the experience that the creative team behind the film intended us to have? Arguably so. 

It’s not just the spoilers either. Trailers have evolved from exciting sneak peeks to near 3-minute showcases for the films in question. The trailer for Father Stu showed you pretty much the entire film in just over three minutes as did the Gran Turismo trailer. The Fall Guy also suffered from the same problem; the best jokes and scenes were already in the trailer so why would we pay a lot of money to rewatch them on a bigger screen? 

Horror films are perhaps the worst offenders in this category. Trailers for films such as Halloween (2018), Smile and Immaculate ruin the film’s most effective scares by showing them in the trailers. It strips away some of the film’s terror. 

last house on the left 2009
Last House On The Left (2009) Credit: Universal Pictures

It’s not a new phenomenon either. The trailer for 2000’s What Lies Beneath shows most of the film’s narrative in the trailer. The film starts out as a straightforward thriller where Harrison Ford’s doting husband may in fact be a murderer, but the trailer ruins the surprise that there’s something supernatural going on. It also tells you straight away that Ford’s Norman was having an affair with someone and that someone is now dead and haunting Michelle Pfeiffer. 

Notoriously, the trailer for the 2009 remake of Wes Craven’s Last House Of The Left spoiled the entire film for those unfamiliar with the narrative. In both films, the gang who rape and beat a teenager, Mari Collingwood, seeks shelter, unknowingly, with her parents. The trailer not only shows what happens to Mari, but that her assailants end up with Mari’s parents, only for them to discover that Mari has been assaulted and raped by the people in their house. 

These are just a few examples of trailers ruining surprises that would have been incredible to witness for the first time in the cinema, surrounded by other people also experiencing those shock revelations for the first time. As trailers show more and more, is this what we want from them? Where’s the line between knowing the premise and knowing every beat of the story? 

Ari Aster’s Hereditary is a great example of a trailer fooling you to think this is a story about a creepy little girl when in fact, that’s just a red herring and the film is much darker and disturbing than we imagined. Sadly, it’s an anomaly in a sea of trailers that insist on showing you as much as possible.

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