A lot of the criticism of movie trailers (“why do they put the whole plot in it?” “The actual movie was totally different!” etc) comes from a misunderstanding of the purpose of trailers.
The trailer is designed to do exactly what a political ad does.
No spoilers: the plot of Looper is really about a boy, and the relationship of this boy to all of the other characters. That boy, that plot– and it is the whole point of the movie– is not in the trailer. The trailer makes the movie appear as though it were, in order: Blade Runner, Less Than Zero, 12 Monkeys, Inception. Even the music and typeface is Inceptiony.
The obvious answer is to draw an audience, but which audience? The answer is the same as for political ads: not new audiences, not converts, but the core audience. If I tell you there’s a time travel movie out, you already know if it’s for you– all that’s left is motivating you to go see it.
Looper is not an action movie, but action movie audiences will like it anyway. But to market it as a story about a boy would mean that action movie audiences- who would still like the movie- would not be motivated to go to the theater. Marketing the movie as it is (about a boy) would not tempt new audience members to go, and it would lose the core audience. This is also why even moderate political candidates have to move to the extremes: for every one moderate voter you convert, you lose ten from apathy. The true swing voter, like swing moviegoer, knows what he wants, but doesn’t want to get off the couch.
When you look at a movie trailer or a political ad, you should see it as an attempt to mobilize the core audience. It isn’t convincing you you will like it; it is for you because they know you would already like it. Quoting Andrew Stanton, director of John Carter: “The truth is, [audiences] don’t know what they want; they only know what they last wanted.” Substitute “hate” for “want” and then the same is true for voters.
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