Hype. Put the word ‘man’ in after it and you create Flavor Flav, single-handedly reviving the big clock industry in the process. Add an ‘r’ to the end and you get a forest of kicked shins at a child‘s birthday party. Apply it in its vanilla form to a film and producers will tell you that you can create a financial success. A box office hit. Which can hardly be a bad thing. If you’re a producer.
The average summer movie season contains some of the most hyped films of the year, and it seems that as 2012 reaches its apex there are more massive, marketing-drenched monoliths heaving themselves into cinemas to straddle packed-out screens than ever before.
This is not a problem in itself. Its just that the channels through which hype is generated have become far more numerous within the last five years. The proliferation of video streaming services like YouTube, along with social media and the perpetual presence of TV advertising, means that studios can and will drive films into the ground through an endless assault of promotional material.
For example, only today I was trying to show someone a trailer for Rock of Ages, the almost-certain-to-be-shit covers-based musical that stars Tom Cruise autotuned to within an inch of his life. And Russell Brand wearing a wig over his real hair that must be IDENTICAL TO THAT WIG. But before the trailer played, we had to sit through another 30 second trailer for an entirely different film. This type of advertising is necessary to keep YouTube free, but watching a trailer in order to watch a trailer feels like being trapped in some kind of online video Inception from which there is no escape.
Of course sometimes hype is done right. The trailers for Prometheus, for example, not only manage to convey the skeleton of the movie’s plot without spoiling anything, but also succeed in making it look incredibly appealing. Even if, when you think about it, the film could end up being a derivative puddle o’ nothing.
On the other hand, the four minute long ‘Super Preview’ of The Amazing Spider Man which was made available this week somewhat misses the point. It is part of a growing trend which sees reams of footage and information revealed about a film ahead of its release, when all fans need is a glimpse. A trailer should hide the flesh of a film like an ankle length Amish farming smock. This is movie the equivalent of crotchless knickers.
While it is a necessary facet of most modern films, cinema is arguably at its purest when hype is removed from the equation. Last year I saw mini masterpiece Drive without having encountered any kind of promotional material before doing so. Entering into a relationship with a film without any kind of expectations or knowledge was refreshing.
A hype deficit is usually the benefit of having a limited budget, but this could act as a lesson to those in charge of marketing the bigger movies. Just because you have the means to promote something with a 10 minute trailer and behind the scenes interview, or a treasure hunt involving a buried Volvo, doesn’t mean you should.