What Hollywood Can Learn From Bollywood

I know right? That’s not a title or statement you hear very often because our film fraternity is always pegged as the ‘evolving and developing’ film industry, whilst Hollywood is the full bells-and-whistles, entirely advanced entity which we can only aspire to be. Whilst this is true in a lot of contexts, there are a number of areas where we simply do better.

One such aspect is the approach to movie trailers and the purpose they serve. A trailer, as we all know, is supposed to give you but a taste of a film, an indication of the set-up, a feeling of the genre and story, aimed at invoking a ‘should-I-watch-it’ decision from you, the audience. For many, like me, watching the trailers used to be one of the best parts about going to the movies, stirring a very unique excitement and longing in me, as I fell entirely in love with the idea of an upcoming movie in under 2 minutes.

Yet it must be said that Hindi cinema’s treatment and approach to trailers seems to be far more appropriate and fit for purpose than Hollywood’s, which frustratingly ends up revealing far too much in their cinematic previews. Particularly in the last few years, many mainstream Hollywood flicks and mammoth franchise films seem to give so much away in the trailer, it’s at times just ridiculous. Not only do they provide the necessary flavour of a film, but often go beyond that and indicate plot twists and even include snippets of the climax scene! In an ever-competitive environment, large, CGI-heavy Hollywood entertainers are focusing far too much on marketing by showing unnecessary amounts of footage as a means to entice audiences, and it’s frankly just annoying.

For those of us who manage to remember those trailers, crucial portions of a movie can be ruined. I’ve personally lost count of the number of times I’m halfway through a film, and I remember a certain trailer scene hasn’t played out yet, which allows me to predict what’s about to unfold on screen. Suffice to say anyone who isn’t an idiot can put two and two together and infer key plot points based on the  over-revealing previews.

The examples of this are countless, the most recent of which was David Yates’ The Legend of Tarzan which included a key climax scene in the trailer. Further examples include Batman Vs Superman, How To Train Your Dragon 2, and Terminator Genisys. Granted you can’t always have the perfect trailer, but over the top spoilers seem to have now become a trend which comes part and parcel with the big blockbusters.

Conversely, trailers in Hindi cinema are a relatively new phenomenon which has only really become the norm in the lesser part of the last decade. Which is ironic considering that for the average Bollywood flick today, the trailer is the single-most crucial part of marketing the film, with most audiences making their movie-going decisions based on that trailer. In terms of the content of those trailers, the majority of them manage to provide a strong enough essence of what your in for without revealing much of the story which in itself is a great success. This isn’t to say our trailers are better as such, but strictly in the context of how much they reveal and ruin of the film, Hindi trailers manage to do a far better job of keeping the important stuff closer to their chest.

Although there are some understandable reasons for this, such as the fact that films in the west tend to follow a far more linear storyline so it’s arguably easier to give stuff away, whereas we tend to inflict our movies with multiple genres, songs and plot lines, making it much harder to accurately predict the story.

At the end of the day, suspense and wonder is such an essential part of going to the movies and that should be kept in mind by Hollywood filmmakers when wildly marketing a film. There are notable exceptions to this however, films like Star Wars: The Force Awakens and films in the Marvel universe are celebrated for being relatively careful with the footage they reveal, something we hope more of the industry will adopt.

There is a fine line between promotion and straight up spoilers, but Hollywood studios have been crossing that line far too often of late. On behalf of those of us who love the movies, I implore you, we don’t want to know how the good guys beat the bad guys until we get to see it for ourselves on screen in full cinematic splendour.



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