Movie trailers are commercials. We may forget that from time to time, especially when a particularly good trailer comes around, two minutes of something that’s good enough to make people start demanding Oscars and accolades for a film they haven’t yet seen, simply because someone found 120-seconds of good stuff and packaged it up with a stirring score and some cool visuals. But a movie trailer is a commercial, a marketing tool, a creation meant solely to entice people to see something else. The trailer is never the true endgame (no matter how many people buy tickets for one film just to catch a particular trailer beforehand and certainly no matter how many “events” pack theaters with people eager to catch early footage). The final film is the thing, but it’s easy to forget that when we’re constantly being convinced that it’s trailers we need to get excited for.
After all, trailers are getting their own commercials these days, and people are eating it up. Most trailers clock in around the two-minute mark – anything much longer feels like it’s giving too much away, anything much shorter just feels like a bloated television spot. Want to entice? Make a minute-long teaser trailer. Hell, make it forty-five seconds and be done with it. But want to infuriate? Throw together twenty seconds of nonsense and call it a teaser for a teaser, a sneak peek at a thing that is, by its very nature, already a sneak peek. A commercial for a commercial. Drum up some interest or some ire and, if you’re selling a film geared to the younger set, get MTV to play it during an award show and watch the hashtags and Tumblr posts and just incredibly loud screams pour in.
With the release of that 13-second teaser for Divergent yesterday (a commercial for the commercial, set to air this Sunday during – gasp! – the MTV Video Music Awards), we look back at some of recent history’s most egregiously short teasers for teasers. Shockingly, the YA-book-turned-movie-franchise has this thing on a lock.
August 15, 2008 – Twilight – 3 seconds
It’s just a shimmering logo with the first Twilight film’s release date – 11.21.08 – glimmering at us. Summit released this little ditty to announce to the world that the first film in the blockbuster franchise was moving up its release date. Is it a true teaser? Honestly, it’s probably the only true teaser in the bunch. Horrifyingly brilliant and also just insane.
March 10, 2010 – The Twilight Saga: Eclipse – 10 seconds
Talk about drawing first blood. The third Twilight film just pioneered the hell out of this “let’s get people excited about a commerical for a commerical” thing with a ten second preview of the film’s first trailer, a bid to get people to turn out to see star Robert Pattinson’s truly terrible Remember Me so they could watch the full trailer.
August 25, 2011 – The Hunger Games – 1 second
In terms of pure ballsiness, putting together a literal commerical for a commerical that features nothing more than a vaguely animated still for an upcoming film, the first The Hunger Games teaser wins by a mile.
March 20, 2012 – The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2–14 seconds
More brilliance by Team Twilight – a mini teaser meant to get fans to turn out for The Hunger Games in its opening weekend in order to see the longform version.
June 19, 2012 – The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2–13 seconds
Yet another Twilight teaser – this one released the day before “Edward Cullen’s 111th birthday” (not a thing), which was also the day before they trotted out another full trailer.
July 31, 2012 – Paranormal Activity 4–13 seconds
The best part about trying to track down this PA4 teaser was that nearly every news post about it around the web was mainly about how sick of these teaser teasers everyone is.
March 25, 2013 – The Wolverine – 6 seconds
Even The Wolverine couldn’t escape a commerical for a commerical – a teaser meant to get people excited to see yet another teaser the very next day. Even director James Mangold confessed to The Huffington Post that he wasn’t wild about any of the film’s trailers.
April 3, 2013 – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – about 10 seconds
Another day, another preview for a preview of something happening on the MTV Movie Awards.
July 15, 2013 – Jobs – 16 seconds
What in the name of all that is holy is an “Instagram trailer”? Sixteen seconds of nonsense to sell the two hours of nonsense that was the final film.
August 22, 2013 – Divergent – 13 seconds
At least we finally got to see Shailene Woodley in action. That’s got to count for something, right?