Most movies are a disappointment.
Very few live up to the hype of their marketing blitz, to the endless Internet buzz, to the wishful thinking of hopeful moviegoers. Very few movies live up to their trailers. But say this more disappointing movies: Even the worst of them can be cut into an awesome trailer.
Here are 14 examples of stellar trailer-ing to movies that just don't work in a feature-length format. Not all of these were awful movies (I quite like a few of them), but each fell far below the promise of its preview.
14. "Superman Returns"
Nearly 20 years after the last Superman movie (and more than 25 since the last good Superman movie), 2006 brought "Superman Returns," an endearing sorta-sequel that never quite clicked, despite it being directed by the guy who made the first two X-Men movies. But when you show brief glimpses of the iconic hero in gorgeous CG and play a Marlon Brando monologue and that triumphant music over it all, you've got a trailer with some gravitas.
13. "I Know What You Did Last Summer"
"I Know" was about par for the '90s slasher revival that followed the success of "Scream." I love the trailer. Because it reveals everything (so I don't have to see it later) and because it playfully uses Kula Shaker's "Hush" to good effect. And nothing says 1997 like Jennifer Love Hewitt spinning around and shouting, "What are you waiting for?!!?"
12. "Alien 3"
The feature directorial debut of David Fincher was marked by ruinous studio interference (watch the director's cut sometime), and there's no way it could have lived up to its predecessors. But the trailer got a lot of people stoked. The visuals have Fincher's trademark dread/beauty sheen. Legendary trailer guy Don LaFontaine kicks it off with one of his "In a World's." Ripley's got a shaved head. The bom bom BOM! music of "Aliens" is back. And then there's that great closing tagline, which (if at work) you should listen to with headphones.
It's a testament to this trailer's power that it made a movie starring Hayden Christensen and Rachel Bilson look like a must-see. The movie ended up being dumb. Bu the trailer made this look like a new kind of action movie, in which trucks can be teleported to deserts. I sincerely thought this was going to be the next "Matrix." That was not the case.
10. "Clash of the Titans"
9. "Cloud Atlas"
The Wachowskis' bizarro take on David Mitchell's already pretty dang strange novel tells a string of cosmically related tales spanning thousands of years. Spaceships, cannibals, soul transference, many bad haircuts on the head of Tom Hanks. It's a handsome mess that makes little sense. But the trailer doesn't have to make sense. It can just be a rush of sensation.
The worst movie on this list, probably. Oliver Stone squandered a great cast and source material on a brutally long bore. The trailer would make you think it's some kind of David Lean-esque masterpiece. Nope.
A big ol' misfire of prequel to "Alien" from the director of "Alien," "Prometheus" explains away the terrifying mystery of the original film with a bunch of nonsense. The marketing campaign for "Prometheus" was aces, though, slicing up the film's visuals into an homage to the "Alien" trailer.
6. "Battle: Los Angeles" and 5. "Terminator Salvation"
The right song can make a trailer. "Battle: LA's" juxtaposition of an unlikely tune (Johann Johannsson's "Sun's Gone Dim") with the gritty "Black Hawk Down" meets "Independence Day" meets CNN visuals, that, that was an inspired decision.
"Terminator Salvation" offers an even better music-visuals mix, playing the rousing, mechanized thump of Nine Inch Nails' "The Day the World Went Away" as Christian Bale fights the evil robots. And that final bit of the "Terminator" theme at the end doesn't hurt at all.
4. "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty"
"Walter Mitty" was fine, a sweet, little movie that didn't deserve the critical beating it got. Its trailer, though, was the best movie of 2013. Aided in no small part by Of Monsters and Men's "Dirty Paws" soundtrack, the trailer conveys vast depths of everyday heartache.
3. "Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace"
This trailer was a landmark for a number of reasons. It was not only the first glimpse of one of the most-anticipated movies of all-time. It was also the first to get re-watched, dissected and forum-ed about on this increasingly popular thing called the Internet. Looking at the trailer now, a lot of the prequels' flaws were apparent, the bad acting and even badder dialogue, the Jar Jar. But even though I know how this all turned out, I still get goosebumps watching this trailer.
2. "Man of Steel"
"Man of Steel" is so good in so many ways that it makes its endless bada-boom! of a third act all the worse. At its best, the movie found what was so great about the character: the miracle of his abilities and the goodness of his everyday upbringing. "Man of Steel's" many teasers and trailers minimized the blockbuster excess and brought focus to the movie's humanity.
Let's be fair. "Watchmen" was as good and faithful an adaptation of Alan Moore's graphic novel as we were ever going to get. Whatever its missteps, it captured the book's rotten world and cynical worldview. If it was disappointing, it was because its trailers are some of the best stuff ever made for the consumption of human senses. They took the perfect moments, the perfect dialogue. They covered it in a Muse song I don't even like, and they made me want to see this movie so intensely that it physically hurt that I wasn't seeing it right now.