Red Flags in Movie Trailers: A Guide


6 Degrees of Film
6 Degrees of Film

When you go to the movies these days, they still show loud and explosive trailers between commercials and other promos that are guaranteed to eventually make you forget which movie you came to see. But the striking thing, at least to me, is how few movie previews really make me want to see the upcoming film. That is supposed to be the idea, right? To make the audience salivate to see these new films they’re promoting. But the opposite seems to occur these days. Here’s a few reasons I suspect.

My list of Red Flags in Movie Trailers:

* Any and all films using the words “Vampire” or “coven” during the promo. This is an idea that has been not only done to death, but stabbed and stomped into the ground, and, forgive me, had a stake driven through the heart.

*All movies based on video games. Period.

*The Overuse of CGI (Computer Graphic Imaging) in all scenes… The advent of CGI was an exciting chapter in film history. It lasted for about the usual fifteen minutes of fame until, as with all things Hollywood, the overuse of CGI has pretty much made most of the production sequences again look contrived and about as phony as anything the legendary bad director Ed Wood came up with. Example: See the new “improved” Ben Hur.

*Films that obviously exploit any and all Hollywood Demographics. For example, scenes depicting groups of kids/teens/young adults battling monsters/robot cars/aliens or any combination thereof. To add to the awful mess, throw in some hip/hop with faint humor and martial arts interspersed with shots of vampires plus an army of what appears to be models from Vogue magazine. These create some real red flags to me. If a film is forced, the ideas aren’t believable and nobody gives a damn.

*The comic book variations on a theme. There are so many back stories, origin stories, and stories of how the origins of the origin story began, that unless you begin building charts with spreadsheets, no one can keep track of the super hero hierarchy. See above. The same theory applies. If you force it, nobody gives a damn anymore.

I try not to be overly cynical about film. When you get too old to be excited about new ways of looking at the world, then you need to hang up your film credentials and walk away. So this is not something that has just popped up overnight. The world of film criticism is assaulted by all kinds of hurdles such as the over- emphasis on box office numbers as opposed to the actual quality of a film, the shrinking journalistic standards in writing about film, and the constant barrage of online bloggers and the sheer daunting quantity of film that is out there waiting to be reviewed. All of these things are part of the dilemma that we, as film critics, face daily.

But there was a time when the trailers for films made you sit up and take notice of what the filmmakers were trying to say. We saw new avenues of exploring culture, and new ways of looking at age old problems. Some of these new films are breathtaking and unique, but most of the time I find myself having to separate the wheat from the chaff. There’s a lot of smoke blowing around that somehow gets in the way of the originality and creativity found in artistic cinema. The artists are lurking, but you have to face a field of dreadful duds as you plow through the turf.

The next time you decide to actually go to a movie and sit through this field of dreadful, keep the above-mentioned checklist in mind. It may help if enough of us decide to just stay home and wait for the release.-ML

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Author of "6 Degrees of Film: The Future of Film in the Global Village", Ms. Johnson continues to blog on film and publishes a newsletter plus the Flipboard magazine 6 Degrees of Film @ the Movies. Her book is currently available on Amazon at

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