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The Six Worst Action Movie Trailer Cliches

A long, long time ago, I used to love watching movie trailers. I liked seeing what was coming out, liked getting a glimpse of new things, and even enjoyed some of the ways they were cut together. There’s a certain sense of hype inherent in them, and it wasn’t at all hard to get caught up.

But recently, I’ve become increasingly cynical about trailers, especially since egregious marketing has started to create them in a painful by-the-numbers fashion that aims to “look good” instead of actually selling me on the film’s overall premise.

Action movies are often the ones that do this the most, offering audiences a tired trailer formula so overused it’s becoming chock full of cliches. Dramatic dialogue, voice over, snippets of action sequences, hard editing, and intense music aren’t at all hard to spot in an action trailer anymore, and it’s getting to the point that I find myself more bored with them than excited. Here are the six worst offenders I’d love to never see in an action movie trailer ever again.

Frequent Fades to Black

Look, I get it: cutting to black can add some dramatic emphasis, and can even be used to mask spoilers and keep the audience guessing. And when it’s used correctly, this can be a good thing that really does add a sense of weight to everything taking place on screen. But when it’s abused, it can often reach epileptic seizure-inducing levels of bad. The recent trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a great example of this.

Oh, hey, is that…wait, what was…did Electro just…wait, tanks of people…Peter’s under surveillance…whose mech foot just…

Seriously, I can’t imagine this trailer shows images collectively for more than a minute tops. It’s almost like blinking a hundred times a minute, which leads me to imagine that this must be what it’s like to see through the eyes of Kristen Stewart.

Excessive Use of Dubstep 

I actually don’t have a problem with Dubstep. Its dramatic drops and high energy pulsings can really inspire excitement, and there are some trailers where it is actually used sparingly to great effect. But when used throughout the trailer and mixed with dialogue and the native sounds of a film, you’re fixing for an auditory overload the likes of which will probably cause a little bit of blood to ooze out of a collective audience’s ears.

Watch the trailer for Battleship below for a crash course in Dubstep debauchery.

People Lowering Guns in Disbelief 

Because nothing says “This situation has spiraled out of control” more than a person looking up as they lower a gun, slack-jawed, with a mixed expression of awe and terror.

This is a tired cliche for two reasons. One: nobody in real life actually reacts to anything in this manner. Two: It’s only used to show the audience how terrified and shocked the people in the film are and is usually just a tad bit overdramatic. One could create a feature length film compiled solely of this reaction as it’s taken place throughout history and rival the running time of Titanic. It’s time to stop.

Skip to 1:17 below for Godzilla’s artful rendition.

Inception Horns Blasting Your Ear Drums 

In more proof that action movie marketing operates with a secret vendetta against ear drums, the recent trend of borrowing the dramatic BWOOONG! of Hans Zimmer’s iconic horn blast from Inception has all but spiraled out of control. Usually coupled with the aforementioned fades to black, this blast to the ears is commonly utilized as a way to punch viewers in the face with dramatic sequences.

World War Z wasn’t a terrible movie, but the use of Inception horns in its trailer borders on criminal.

Did I Just Watch the Entire Movie? 

A good movie trailer is one that hooks you, gives you a general idea of the story, and leaves you wanting more. A bad movie trailer is one that not only utilizes everything on this list, but also drones on to the point where you’ve practically seen the entire film before the trailer is over. Unfortunately, it’s becoming a trend of action movies to ape the latter and give audiences generous portions of the film in a trailer, often divulging spoilers or showing us the best parts before the film has even released in theaters.

There’s no reason to watch In Time. Not only because it’s not a great movie, but also because once you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve pretty much seen it all.

Cue the Dramatic Dialogue

Whether it’s a speech to hype soldiers before going into battle, Bill Pullman’s iconic “Today is our day of Independence!”, or the hard-cut lines of dialogue meant to convey a sense of desperation, action movie writers have a strange obsession with forcing overly dramatic dialogue into their films.

Idris Elba’s “Cancelling the Apocalypse!” speech from Pacific Rim is by far the best and most recent example of this, but it was only slightly edged out by Will Smith’s nonsensical monologue about fear from the ever-awful After Earth.

Have any other movie trailer cliches you’d love to see go? I’m all ears. Leave your thoughts in the comments below.



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