by Patrick Allocca

Abandon all hope for a spoiler-free article, ye who enter here.

A great trailer can really get an audience pumped to shell out twelve bucks to sit in a darkened room for more than two hours. That’s precisely what the previews for the four films mentioned below did (or at least they worked on me and my wallet). However, these trailers advertise movies that don’t exist. That’s not to say they weren’t made (though I wish it were true); I simply mean the films, in comparison to their trailers, are very different beasts—or monsters, in one instance. A great trailer for a mediocre movie is sort of like a betrayal from a trusted friend. And now here are four shitty friends:

Godzilla (2014)

What We Were Promised:

The teaser trailer for this year’s Godzilla was so good it made me forget Puff Daddy for a bit. And I don’t mean his involvement in 1998’s Godzilla—I mean in general. The trailer features very little dialogue (probably should have taken that as a warning sign), relying instead on shots that stick with you: soldiers parachuting out of a plane into a foreboding gray sky while streaks of red smoke billow behind them; a distraught-looking Bryan Cranston watching a metal door close on a weeping Juliette Binoche; Bryan Cranston’s hair; Ken Watanabe and Elizabeth Olsen’s presence; and, of course, the giant amphibious reptile himself, Godzilla, emerging from the smoke and debris to say, “Hey”.

It looked like we were finally going to get an update to the Hiroshima-inspired monster flick that took itself seriously. The trailer advertised artfully-composed shots (from an up-and-coming director with massive potential) along with great actors who surely wouldn’t sign up for something half-baked. Right?

 

 

What We Got Instead:

A dead Bryan Cranston (the only actor to muster up any pathos in the entire film) within the first thirty minutes. The phenomenal Elizabeth Olsen reduced to the “weepy mother” role usually reserved for “old” actresses being put out to pasture. Ken Watanabe playing the only Japanese man in Japan.

We do get artfully-composed shots, but they’re scattered among some truly lifeless CGI monster scenes and even more deadening dialogue scenes that might as well been acted out by the soulless Polar Express people-monsters. Sure, it takes itself seriously, but a Godzilla movie shouldn’t be as serious as a corpse (or as entertaining).

 

Spider-Man 3 (2007)

What We Were Promised:

Whoa, a dark “Spider-Man” movie! If the visuals don’t tell me that, the text on the screen does, as well as Danny Elfman’s choir consisting of Hell’s inhabitants. An evil Peter Parker possessed by the alien symbiote! Venom! After the sheer perfection of Spider-Man 2, how could I not trust Sam Raimi? And even though that movie was pretty far from dark, he also directed films which feature stabbings, dismemberments, beheadings, and unspeakable things involving tree roots. Clearly, the man can go dark.

 

What We Got Instead:

Evil Peter Parker accepting cookies from his neighbor. Evil Peter Parker snapping his fingers while walking down the street like a Jet from West Side Story. Evil eyeliner-wearing Peter Parker swinging from a chandelier in a jazz club. I get Raimi’s joke: Peter Parker is such a dork that the evil version of him isn’t very evil at all. Great, but I think everyone wanted the movie promised in the trailer. We do get Venom, though, albeit for about five minutes.

 

Terminator Salvation (2009)

What We Were Promised:

Something to terminate our memories of the third movie. Hmm, gravel-voiced Christian Bale muttering, “This is John Connor” while Trent Reznor conjures up the audio equivalent of slowly bleeding out? Excellent! Buildings crumbling, Terminators—er—terminating, everything on the screen exploding, dogs and cats living together. Mass hysteria! Hot damn, this looks like a legit Terminator movie! You’re all forgiven for Terminator 3; you can come out of hiding now.

 

 

What We Got Instead:

Man, just watching that trailer gets me pumped all over again, even though the actual movie is the visual equivalent of slowly bleeding out. How can this be? All the pieces were there, yet somehow, through sheer force and gumption, they managed to make an excruciatingly boring movie out of an interesting premise. I’d have rather watched a movie that follows-up on Nikki Cox’s one-line character from T2. And T3: you’re not forgiven.

 

The Phantom Menace (1999)

What We Were Promised:

I mean, what weren’t we promised? This trailer perfectly hits all the nostalgia buttons, yet also teases us with exciting new characters and locations, as well as thrilling action scenes and, hell, even Samuel L. Jackson stamping his seal of approval on it. The dialogue chosen (“The force is unusually strong with him”, “Anakin Skywalker, meet Obi Wan Kenobi”, “Fear is the path to the dark side”, etc.) is flawless also. And—by the cosmic egg—is that a double-bladed lightsaber?! The Star Wars kids must’ve been in the hospital for weeks after seeing that.

 

 

What We Got Instead:

Samuel L. Jackson may have gotten his “BMF” wallet stuffed for his role, but the rest of us were stuck with the bill—and that bill was steep. For the price of admission, we got a bunch of aliens who managed to piss off people of almost every race (one of which is of the He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named variety, so I’m not going to name him), a young Anakin who couldn’t act his way out of a wet paper bag (Hayden would continue this tradition in the later films), and a script that George Lucas seemingly wrote by slapping his dick on the keyboard. We did get a double-bladed lightsaber battle, but at what cost? George, during opening weekend, did you hear millions of voices cry out in terror? I was one of those.

 

So that’s the list. Now, if we can only hire the people who make the trailers to make our movies, we’ll be fine.

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