Remember in Saved by the Bell: The College Years when Zack was presented with an opportunity to cheat on his ethics test? Professor Lasky in his infinite wisdom and long luscious locks set up a test where he “accidentally” left the answer key on the floor for his students to find. Every student cheated, except for Zack, and by not cheating Zack actually passed the real test. (I sort of hope that Jeremiah Lasky prepared for this to happen and had some sort of curve or retest set up, because failing everyone on the final is a bit crabby. And nobody likes a crab, Jeremiah.) Remember? Of course you don’t remember. Nobody but me, TBS and Bob Golic supported this show. Anyway, there is a lesson in this: sometimes it is better not to know and see what happens. Sometimes it is better to just know the subject of the test and then accept the challenge. And sometimes it is better if you marry Kelly Kapowski in the regular course of a TV series and don’t wait for a horrible made for TV movie.
This eventually leads me to a big old nasty bone I have to pick with movies. I used to go to a movie and be excited about previews. What was coming up was almost as exciting as what I was about to watch. I would go online, look up trailers and maybe even make a decision to spend the $10 to see this movie or wait until the DVD.
I don’t do this anymore. I can’t. Watching these trailers is turning into watching a compressed version of the movie. I know some of you are all like, “yeah, no doy, that’s what a trailer is!” but let me explain my expectations. I expect a trailer to present to me the genre, a mood, and maybe a theme, nothing more. What I am getting from a trailer is so much big-fat-overstuffed-burrito more. I am getting looks at the first, second, third and last acts of the movie. I sometimes even see the last image of the movie! That makes me kick-kittens kind of angry.
Take Paranormal Activity, for example. The most powerful thing about this movie was that we didn’t know what was coming. It is a low budget movie that finds a real strength in the unknown, creates fear in what they are not showing. It not only works well for this movie, but it is very very necessary for this film to be successful. What does the trailer do? It shows you the very last scene in the movie. Way to take the element of surprise and toss glitter and a neon sign on it. The entire movie I am sitting there thinking: when are they going to show the guy flying through the air? Oh, at the very end. Cool. Glad I knew that was coming. So instead of being shocked I am leaving the theater a bit unfulfilled and a little embarrassed that I was hugging the guy in the seat next to me for no reason since the big scare never really came.
Plenty of other movies are doing this too. Some do it in a way that, even though the context is missing, you still see the last scene. Avatar did this. Quarantine did this. The Hangover didn’t do this for the theatrical release, but the DVD trailer is definitely giving away a big piece of the story by mentioning that the Doug they traded for with that horrifically annoying Mr. Chow (seriously, he is like the equivalent of every pet peeve everyone has ever had, walking up to me and punched me in the nuts) was not their Doug. “Classic mix-up.” (PS – Not funny.) I have plenty of issues with The Hangover-rated, and maybe they are assuming that only four people have yet to see this movie so they can’t really ruin any surprises (or maybe it doesn’t matter, which is another problem entirely), but if your story is a paper thin as this story is, giving away a key plot point is most likely something you want to avoid.
If you were a reading type of person and the back of the book replaced the synopsis with the Cliff Notes, you’d be all, “OMG why did you tell me the end?” And rightfully so! People get all kinds of huffy if you spoil the ending of a book, why don’t we get just as mad about a movie? Maybe a book is more work so we feel a bit more invested if we spend three weeks reading something only to hear the end of it from some jerkstore at a party that thought it would be funny if he spoiled it for you. I don’t like this line of reasoning, though. I am invested in a movie. Don’t ruin it for me before I even decide to see it.
There are a lot of lessons to take from Saved by the Bell: pegging pants is cool, do not use the schools science supplies to bottle pasta sauce, in a pinch you can hire out of work actors to be your dad for meetings with the principal. These are all good life lessons that Mr. Morris trail blazed for us, but maybe the biggest lesson we can take away from Zack & Co. is that sometimes avoiding the temptation to sneak a peak at the answers is really the best thing we can do … and don’t let Kelly Kapowski go. You gotta lock that down.
Stick to teasers and peer recommendations.