Why I Missed the INCEPTION Trailer

September 19, 2010

Originally Published in The Michigan Daily

Back in May, Geoff Boucher, a blogger for the Los Angeles Times, posted an article about his visit to a local radio station, where he spoke about upcoming summer blockbusters and what movies to watch for. In his visit, he blurted out rather precipitously that Christopher Nolan’s “Inception,” due to be released more than two months later, was “the only movie that matters.”

Boucher’s declaration was a sign of the movie world’s burgeoning obsession with the film, provoked by its explosive trailer. Knowing full well how huge the hype for “Inception” would become, I became increasingly hesitant, yet increasingly tempted, to join the excitement. I was surprised that Boucher, someone who had undoubtedly seen countless blockbusters pass without living up to their hype, would make so speculative a statement about something so uncertain.

As important as film is to me, and as vital as blockbuster movies are in sustaining Hollywood, it’s difficult to be open to hype, given how disappointing long-awaited films often are. It’s a common problem, especially among those who pin their hopes to a certain film, that the film’s release crashes and burns, leaving the hype and hope crippled in its stead.

The problem begins with trailers, the movie geek’s most tempting and yet least-fulfilling drug. The cry of “we don’t want to miss the previews — that’s the best part!” is well and alive these days — just not quite like it used to be.

Trailers ruined movies for me, at least for a few years. I went full film geek and overdosed. And I promised not to go in that direction again.

That’s why, when I sat down in the theater to watch “Knight and Day” in June, I actually shielded my eyes from the “Inception” trailer that ran before it. And every time an “Inception” TV spot popped up in the weeks leading up to the film’s release, I muted the TV and looked away.

With the evolution of Internet video, movie trailers are more creative, imaginative and ubiquitous than ever before. Trailers no longer exist solely to run before theatrical releases, as they did in the days of “The Phantom Menace.” These days, you can view a trailer online without ever stepping into the theater. There was no need to go catch “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” to see the new “Harry Potter” trailer. A quick search on YouTube brings it to you in full HD.

That said, Internet trailers aren’t new. I was quietly binging on Apple.com’s flourishing collection of trailers in the early-to-mid 2000s, deteriorating into a little ADD movie freak and memorizing the sounds and images of every single one. I watched them over and over and over again. I ended up knowing the trailers better than the films.

Case in point: summer 2004. I was more hyped up for that summer than any other season before. I was shooting up the trailers for “Van Helsing,” “Troy,” “The Day After Tomorrow” and “Spider-Man 2” like there was no tomorrow. And when the films came around, they didn’t even stand a chance. The trailers rocked; the films sucked.

Perhaps that was unfair, because the films didn’t objectively suck (with the exception of “Van Helsing”); they just sucked relative to their trailers. But in my then-14-year-old mind, they simply sucked.

I’ve learned to be temperate in my excitement for upcoming films — meaning I talk little about them, study only the basics and very rarely watch a trailer outside of the theater. Perhaps that leaves me out of a few conversations, not to mention far out of step with my fellow Screen Arts & Cultures majors, but every film feels new, and I allow each of them to screen unencumbered by previous experience. It’s not objectivity, necessarily, but it allows film watching to be as in-the-moment as possible.

In the case of “Inception,” I worked extra hard to hide from the hype until July 16 and the film’s release. And even as director Christopher Nolan continues to build up a reputation of creating films that actually meet the hype, I’ll still avoid the pitfalls of adolescent film obsession with his upcoming work.

It turns out, however, that Boucher was somewhat correct in his original assertion. When I think of movies from summer 2010, “Inception” is the first and only film that really springs to mind. But I can afford the effort to think a little harder. I watched numerous films this summer, and more than one has left a lasting impact. This was indeed the summer of “Inception.” But it was also the summer of “Toy Story 3,” “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” “City Island” and “Cyrus.” One may rise above the rest, but I wouldn’t love movies if I only loved them one at a time.

“Inception” should not be the only film from this summer that matters to you. If that’s the case, perhaps you’ve been swayed by movie trailers and have forgotten to focus on the real thing. If you’re looking for more fulfilling trips to the theater, maybe it’s time to stop checking out trailers and just check out the films.

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