Trailer review: Saving Mr. Banks
There’s an odd sensation I get at the beginning of just about every trailer I see nowadays. Far from my younger self being whisked away to another world, or into the parts of the story the film-makers decide to show, I now wonder if I’m seeing all the best bits stitched together.
I have the same reaction to popular music. Too many albums have been purchased on the basis of a single song played repeatedly on commercial radio, only to be disposed of later once I’ve found out the rest of the album is steamingly awful.
Of all the movie trailers I’ve seen, even for movies I which are in my pile of “things to do someday when I get an hour to burn and the interwebz are down”, I’d say Kubrik’s “Shining” is the most obscure yet impressive. A slow tracking shot down a hotel corridor to an elevator door which opens spilling blood everywhere. It says absolutely nothing about the narrative of the movie other than it’s in a hotel and it’s going to be scary. Kubrik appears to have gone straight for emotion, for fear, and nailed it completely. The only other time I’ve seen anything remotely like it was in the Torchwood “Children of Earth” narrative where all the children stopped; what’s the worst thing they can do at this point but all scream at once.
I think that Hollywood has painted itself into a corner with movie-making. There is so much derivative, self-referential celluloid out there that just about nothing actually stands out. The directors of the trailers have to make the most of what they have and can either go with spectacle (with the now supremely dull “BWARRRRR!!” of blockbusters which included Prometheus, Star Trek Into Darkness, Batman et. al), bouncy comedy (just about anything with Sandra Bullock or Ben Stiller) or melodrama, such as, in this case, Saving Mr. Banks.
So in we go with a trailer which plonks dreamlike sequences with Disney exuberance. Here is a story about Mary Poppins creator P. L. Travers played by Emma Thomson who meets and discusses a movie version of her book with Walt Disney (Tom Hanks). Her tense face in the opening of the trailer indicates what is to follow: that she doesn’t really want the movie of her book to happen and certainly not with Walt Disney who at the time (early 1960s by the look of things) was all about bright and flashy animation.
Watching the trailer means I actually know the story now, which is a pity as the acting looks quite good; Thomson and Hanks are really good at what they do and seem to occupy the roles well. However, we know that Mary Poppins was made, to much acclaim, and we know from the trailer that there is discussion around what Thomson’s expectations are of Disney and vice-versa. There’s negotiation at the beginning then there looks like there’s a shift in Thomson from resistance to acceptance.
And therefore there’s no justification to drop $20 to go and see the movie. Rather than posing the question of why Travers let Disney make Mary Poppins, they’ve resolved the question in the trailer: he wins her over.
And this seems the problem in many trailers. Not enough mystery, too much exposition. You can get away with it to some degree with effects-ladened trailers (Cloud Atlas was a good example of this) and giving enough tease is important to the movie bottom-line. Don’t tease then give me all the answers though, because then there’s just no point in going to see your work.
But what is the solution I wonder? Can Hollywood work just as hard on their trailers as they do their production of the movies they are based upon? Is there a way to tempt people to go and see movies without revealing the entire narrative in the 2.5 minutes it takes to watch the trailer?
In effect, the trailer is a huge spoiler and doesn’t encourage me to go and see the flick at the big screen for the cost of hiring it four times once it’s out on video.
The question that the viewer needs to ask is “Why”, in this case, why Travers eventually allowed Disney to make the movie of her book. If this was posed in the trailer then there would be justification for the viewer to go and see the movie to find out the answer.
But without it, I’ll happily watch it on TV if it comes out, or perhaps hire the DVD on reduced weekly return.