The Previews Of Past Decades

Think back to the previews you watched when you were young. Early 2000s up until the decade’s end. The kind that opened with a narrator’s deeply golden voice, quick cuts, way-too-much plot information, and a song by a band that was popular at the time. Everyone has endured countless trailers over the years, but the previews of decade’s past are a different monstrosity than any memory could have possibly suppressed. They were roughly-cut, unhinged, traversing a multitude of emotional queues and fumbling narratives. A complete absence of creativity. 

Maybe, in retrospect, they were so bad that they’re good?

The argument can definitely be made that yes, certain masochists out there may enjoy watching two minutes of unintelligible mush cut together as if the editor wielded a butterknife, but would a lack of coherency suffice the purpose of a preview?

A preview is supposed to garner interest. Entice a viewer. If the trailer is too egregious to generate an audience, then the purpose has failed. The trailer becomes nothing more than a homage to what is most likely a terrible film. A way of wasting two minutes instead of an hour and a half.

Trailers have since gone through tremendous advancements. Maybe that goes without saying, as any sort of visual media has obviously made great creative and technological progress since the early 2000s. Long gone are the male voice-overs that grovel out conventional lines like “In a world…” along with those bulky blocks of taglines threaded in at a consistent basis as if the audience is incapable of reading. The previews are now less of an obvious, cut-and-dry attempt to market a film, instead becoming an artistic endeavor destined for the same purpose.  

Is this a testament to more creative liberties? Or were these trailers a byproduct of a period in time where they solely existed within the previews? Remember, YouTube wasn’t launched until early 2005, where else could they have gone? After all, they’re just trailers, but they’re how interest is incepted into our minds and perhaps the outdated previews from past decades are a testament to how susceptible we once were as moviegoers and our evolution since then.

So, I’ve compiled a list. Some are teasers and TV-spots while others are theatrical trailers. They expand across all genres and range from laughably badass to something that should be classified as a form of cruel and unusual punishment. All of these previews fail in some sort of way, whether it’s omission, reliance on those once-conventional tropes, or a complete abandonment of rationality.

The rating scale will be measured in turds. The worse the turd looks, the worse the trailer is, and thus, the more the trailer embodies the traditional style used during this time period.

(All turd-based artwork drawn by Eric Wilson.)

Shallow Hal (2001)

This is the epitome of the early-2000s trailer. It’s the bread-and-butter of what the industry churned out during this decade. The majority of the plot is force-fed to the audience via voice-over, as if a concept as simple as man sees fat women as skinny women is too complex for anyone to comprehend. It’s Jack Black enduring gag after gag, his point-of-view accompanied by the reality of his situation. In nearly two minutes the essence of everything potentially comedic about Shallow Hal is displayed in a facade of masculinity. The purpose of this trailer was attracting a specific audience: a pathetic and hopefully inebriated subset of the population that believes any sort of comedy has the ability to offer romantic solace. 


For being bad, but not terrible, but still not good at all.

The Fast and The Furious (2001)

We depart from the bad and come to the sort of good. It doesn’t come as any surprise that the first installment in the Fast And Furious franchise has a trailer of somewhat questionable stature. While the film is dominated by the sounds of throttling engines, guns, and Vin Diesel yelling as loud as he possibly can, the trailer surprisingly manages to embody these high-octane themes in a simplistic way. The trailer reveals close to nothing about the plot. There are a grand total of 41 words coming from actual dialogue, which is spliced in between the Limp Bizkit song that sets the trailer’s tone as teenage angst incarnated. This should’ve been the first insight into what Fast and Furious is all about. The trailer can be summarized as guns, fast cars, racing, one-liner, car crash, robbery, makeout, more guns, another crash, flames, another one-liner, and some sick drifting. If a trailer is meant to get an audience interested, then look no further than the caveman-like, sensory-driven cacophony of loud noises that made audiences want this film injected into their veins.


For excessive use of Limp Bizkit.

Gigli (2003)

This trailer is difficult to endure, but then again, so is Gigli. The trailer’s sole purpose seems to be an excuse to highlight the beginning stages of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez’s romance. The voice-over offers no help to anyone who may be even remotely interested in the laughable plot. From watching this trailer, what exactly is Gigli about? 

Ben Affleck choking out an East-Coast accent? 

Jennifer Lopez lounging around, playing hard to get?

This trailer fails to produce any interest in the film it represents because it doesn’t represent anything other than Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez. It’s a lazy attempt to mask the horrid creation that is Gigli and instead feed off of the media publicity the two actors generated when they started dating. In my opinion, this is an example of when the conventional trailer tropes first showed signs of weakness. Not even a voice-over, some pop songs, or endless shots of Ben and Jennifer stumbling into romance, could force anyone to watch the film.


For being an obscenity to the human race.

Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Spider-Man 2 is awesome. That is not what’s up for debate here. The trailer is a completely different story… which basically means that the entire plot of Spider-Man 2 is laid out across the span of two minutes and thirty seconds. The saving grace for this trailer is that there’s no narrator, so at least the dialogue and score is utilized to the fullest extent possible. What makes this trailer convoluted is the sporadic transitions, abandoning all sense of a trailer’s purpose to move in succinct, understandable order, so the audience can become attracted to what they see. In a 30-second span, there are a total of 17 fade out transitions. I counted. It’s amazing, honestly. Perhaps the purpose of this trailer was to explain the plot while simultaneously confusing the audience so that they forgot exactly what they’d just seen. A brilliant tactic.


For a spoiled plot and epileptic editing.

Batman Begins (2005)

Batman and Nickleback, is there anything else anyone could possibly need to get jacked up to see this? This TV-spot is terrible. Not only does it completely fail to capture the themes of Batman Begins, it quickly typecasts this film as just another iteration of Batman. Like George Clooney’s Batman was being reincarnated into yet another love-fueled superhero movie. For reference, the actual full-length trailer for Batman Begins doesn’t deserve any turds, other than half a turd for potentially giving away way too much information. There’s no narration and no Nickelback. But that’s the difference between TV spots and trailers. One is meant to guide a curious viewer into further interest, not lead them astray from what to expect from the film. 

I genuinely hope Christopher Nolan was never forced to witness this.


For being excessively corny.

These previews are easy to ridicule. While it might seem that everything from the 2000s decade is an easy target, those conventional tropes of voice-overs and taglines and abject editing expose the reality of what a trailer is—a feeble attempt to represent a larger body of work in a compressed form. 

Again, the trailers of decades past gravitated heavily around the voice-over. Dan Lafontaine was renowned in the film industry for this, along with other voice-over artists like Hal Douglas and Mark Elliot. When Lafonatine passed in 2008, it often seems that these old tropes left with him, and the trailer thus entered its next stage of evolution. 

Trailers were destined to adapt. There’s no possible way we would exist in a world where we continue to abuse those same conventions constantly recycled by the previews of decades past. What’s most important is that these trailers are preserved among their rightful place in cinematic history. And maybe before the age of the internet, before YouTube, nobody thought trailers would ever get a second life. The previews weren’t crafted with priority or care because where else could they possibly be seen again? The future has brought us abundant access to all trailers, each uniquely flawed in their own right, and it’s our job to endure them. The Previews needed to walk before they could run, or better yet, they needed to stumble, trip and fall down the stairs in some slapstick way, in order for audiences to appreciate what we have now.

Honorable Mentions

Frida (2002)

Tiptoes (2003)

The Pacifier (2005)

The Expendables (2010)

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