On Sunday, Warner Bros. released a trailer for the trailer of Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.
The 30-second hype-blast of aquatic action and Jason Momoa brooding teased that the actual trailer would arrive in four days (so, Thursday). But for now, the studio served up a piece of video that is trailer-esque, but played more like being rapidly force-fed a Day-Glo seafood buffet into your eye-holes.
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Such a marketing practice is hardly new, of course. One blogger found an example from more than a decade ago, and suggested that Ridley Scott’s one-draft-away-from-being-a-great-movie Prometheus might have been the first usage. And there’s some obvious method to the madness: The Aquaman ultra-tease aired during an NFL game. So in addition to creating trailer anticipation, the promo fits the box for a standard 30-second TV spot during a high-visibility broadcast that boosts awareness of the studio’s latest DC superhero effort, which has had a rather eventful path to the screen.
The trailer also put an end to speculative headlines suggesting that the film was in jeopardy since nobody has seen anything from this major title that’s coming to theaters in just three months.
Still, a fan pointedly cracked to Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom director James Wan on Instagram: “lol is this a fucking trailer for a trailer?”
And Wan gamely wrote back, “i know, it’s hilarious.”
It’s a pretty crafty reply as it resulted in a round of headlines about his answer, keeping some Aquaman anticipation in the news cycle while fans await the real thing and take bets on how many seconds of footage Amber Heard will get.
But there’s perhaps an even more obnoxious tease that studios have employed of late: Beginning even a full-fledged official trailer by first showing a few rapid seconds of the trailer you’re about to watch (often followed by a “trailer begins now!” voiceover assurance). Like this:
The idea is to get you excited for something you’ve already clicked on, and comes across as insecure, as if the trailer editor is terrified you’re going to quit watching at the very beginning of the trailer unless you first get a frantic CG-action amuse–bouche. As Poe put it, “All that we see or seem is but a trailer within a trailer.”
It would be as if I started this article by writing: “Aquaman! Tiny trailers! James Wan! Sarcasm!” in a desperate bid to hold your attention. But since I didn’t, you might have already stopped skimming this whole story several paragraphs ago.
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