Sure, they're ultimately just glorified advertisements, but movie trailers have become an art form unto themselves. A bad trailer can sink an otherwise solid film in the minds of the public, while a great trailer can sometimes set audience expectations unreasonably high. There's a real art to making them.
Ideally, though, a trailer should tease viewers with snippets of information about the movie without revealing much in the way of major plot points. Too often movie trailers summarize a film's story or spoiler big or funny moments.
There have been a lot of memorable movie trailers in 2012, but here, in no particular order, are some of the most talked about trailers of the year.
The terrifying first teaser trailer for Ridley Scott's "Alien" prequel hit like acid blood, burning across the web and social networks in a manner of minutes. But it was a cruel tease. Intentionally echoing the disturbing 1979 trailer for "Alien" — complete with dark corridors, the slow title reveal, and repetitive inhuman scream — the "Prometheus" teaser promised audiences something that the actual film failed to deliver on: a great new movie in the "Alien" franchise.
The Super Bowl isn't just about football anymore. For movie geeks, the big game is a chance to get a first glimpse at many of the summer's upcoming tent pole films. While fans of Marvel's cinematic superheroes had already seen trailer for the "The Avengers" in October 2011, the 30-second Super Bowl TV spot (and minute long online version seen below) gave them a chance to finally see the super-powered ensemble in action together. The final shot of the TV spot made sitting through that boring first quarter worth it.
"The Bourne Legacy"
A textbook example of a great teaser trailer, the mostly-black-&-white tease for the fourth (and Matt Damon-less) "Bourne" movie made people excited about the franchise again. With fans of the series skeptical about new leading man Jeremy Renner, the film's producers must have known that a high impact teaser was just what the doctor ordered. Imitating the effect of redacted text on a top secret document, the "Bourne Legacy" trailer let viewers peer through into the secretive world of Outcome agent Aaron Cross.
"The Hunger Games"
Where a teaser trailer teases, a theatrical trailer should explain. For people unfamiliar with Suzanne Collins' wildly popular young adult novels, the first theatrical trailer for "The Hunger Games" was their introduction to the characters and districts of the future dystopia Panem, and it got everyone talking about the movie. After watching the trailer, who didn't want to see what would happen to Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mallark at the end of that ominous countdown?
Speaking of trailers having some explaining to do, the first trailer for Rian Johnson's sci-fi actioner "Looper" had quite a bit of work to do. The film's high concept — hit men hired by the mafia of the future to assassinate people sent back in time — would be hard enough to sell in a feature length film (let alone in a two-minute trailer). But thanks to some gruff narration by "Looper" star Joseph Gordon-Levitt and an action-packed montage of the film's first half hour, the trailer is an effective and entertaining pitch for the time-bending neo-noir.
"The Dark Knight Rises"
Is it possible for a trailer to be better than the actual movie? The haunting first theatrical trailer for Christopher Nolan's conclusion to his Batman trilogy was so great that the finished film was almost a disappointment in comparison. Set to the tune of “The Star Spangled Banner," the trailer was an explosive introduction to "Dark Knight Rises" villain Bane (Tom Hardy) and his grim plan for Batman and Gotham. If only the actual movie had been as satisfying as this trailer.
With its colourful visual palette, quirky plot, cast of thousands, and a 1960s French pop music soundtrack, the first trailer for "Moonrise Kingdom" makes it clear right off the bat that it's a tease for the new Wes Anderson movie. Until this trailer was released, fans had almost no idea what Anderson's secretive new film was about — other than the fact that it naturally featured Bill Murray in some capacity. Unsurprisingly the "Moonrise Kingdom" trailer spread across the internet like hipster wildfire.
It's not often that a trailer can convince you that an actor will be nominated for an Academy Award, but that's precisely what the mysterious first tease for Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" did. Offering up a first glimpse of actor Joaquin Phoenix since his bizarre performance art documentary "I'm Still Here," the trailer for "The Master" introduced audiences to Freddie Quell, a troubled Second World War veteran and one half of Anderson's extraordinary Scientology-inspired character study. This trailer and other promotional materials for the film featured scenes that weren't even in the final movie, effectively teasing but not actually revealing of the secrets of "The Master."
"Man of Steel"
After watching the meditative first trailer for Zack Snyder's crack at the Superman mythos, it seemed clear to most that the "300" and "Watchmen" director had spent some time watching the films of Terrence Malick. Featuring beautiful cinematography, zero dialogue, and breathy narration (tropes of Malick), the teaser for "Man of Steel" wasn't quite the Superman trailer many comic book fans were expecting. Warner Bros. released two versions of the tease, one featuring voiceover by Superman's Kryptonian father Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and one with narration by his Earth dad Pa Kent (Kevin Costner).
"World War Z"
Within moments of the trailer for the big-budget zombie apocalypse movie "World War Z" dropping, fans of the book that the film was based on were already complaining. Why doesn't it follow the documentary structure of the book? (That would be impractical.) Why is Brad Pitt in it? (He produced it and can sell tickets.) Why aren't the zombies the way they were in the book? (Creative license!) Those are just a few of the fanboy complaints that drowned whatever good buzz the "World War Z" trailer had bought the film. We say folks need to calm down and reserve judgement — Hollywood is treating you to a $200 million zombie apocalypse movie, after all. Yes, the movie will be different from the book. That’s usually the way it goes in Hollywood.
After a four year hiatus, Bond was back -- and he didn't look too good. The first teaser for the Sam Mendes-directed "Skyfall" featured a broken-looking 007 being given a psychiatric evaluation under the watchful eye of MI6 brass. What was “Skyfall”? And why did it set off the normally unshakeable super spy? Why was the impeccably tailored Bond wearing sweatpants? Who was the silhouetted figure in front of the burning house and who was coming to kill Bond? Questions, questions, questions! A good teaser trailer should always leave audiences wanting to know more, and the “Skyfall” teaser trailer certainly did that.