From my perspective, seeing films for the first time, especially in a packed house or theater, is an experience that can’t be replicated. Unless you’ve gone out of the way to spoil it for yourself beforehand, seeing the plot play out on screen without knowing what to expect in terms of visuals and sound design is a real treat. Using that logic, you would think that avoiding trailers, online clips and TV spots for a given movie would result in the optimum viewing experience. Essentially everything that happens on screen would come as a surprise since you wouldn’t have any previous perspective. However, I would argue that this concept is both flawed and risky.
It all depends on expectations. A quick example I love to refer to is the first American attempt at a “Godzilla film,” 1998’s “Godzilla,” directed by Roland Emmerich. I’ll be the first to admit, I am a huge Godzilla nerd. I own all the movies except for two I can’t stand, and I grew up watching the first generation of the Japanese “Godzilla” films from Toho, the production company who created the character, which ranged from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s. I didn’t see Emmerich’s iteration in theaters, nor did I see any clips or trailers.
Still, I was pumped to see a “Godzilla” film that had all the resources of Hollywood at its disposal. This hype built until my family and I rented the 1998 American film on VHS from a local video store. I expected to see a Godzilla that resembled what I had seen in the older films, using his atomic breath to lay down some hate on recognizable locations and fight another monster, both traditions of the Japanese series.
Instead, I saw an overgrown, mutated iguana with no atomic breath attack NYC and then lay some eggs which hatched into offspring that had more in common with Jurassic Park’s velociraptors than anything Godzilla related. Worse yet, there was no other monster for this poor version of Godzilla to tussle with. My much younger self was pretty heartbroken, an effect that still hasn’t worn off despite many re-watches. I’ve come to recognize it as a decent giant monster flick, but what it is versus what I expected it to be has always felt like a betrayal.
A second personal example isn’t as devastating as it is humorous, but I feel it still proves my point. Back in 2016, my mom asked if my siblings and I were interested in watching a film called “Monster Trucks.”
Now with me being a cinephile and seeing many movies in theaters that year, I had seen all the trailers for this cheesy but still fun, family friendly movie. I found it odd that my mom wanted to watch a movie centered around a young man and his truck powered by a friendly extraterrestrial squid-like being, but my sister and I thought it would still be fun to watch, so we joined our mom in viewing it.
About an hour in, after the main character had befriended the alien and the creature had displayed the ability to “drive” the character’s truck, my mom said, “I didn’t know there were monsters in this.”
As it turns out, my mom had only seen a glimpse of one trailer, where the featured creature was only hinted at. It was a humorous instance, but it was still hard not to sympathize with my mom as she finished the film with a disappointed and frustrated expression on her face. What she expected to be a fun, but realistic coming of age story was actually a ridiculous, but entertaining film about friendship between a young man and an odd alien creature.
Now, if you want to still skip movie trailers and clips, that is simply your prerogative. However, I would recommend that if you want to avoid experiences like the ones I described, you should at least watch a teaser trailer, so you can have a basic sense of what the movie is about and whether or not you are truly interested in watching it.