Josh Wolk explains why summer movie trailers are always better than the films themselves

By Josh Wolk
Updated May 31, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT
John Travolta, Swordfish
Credit: Swordfish: Andrew Cooper
  • Movie

Can ”Swordfish” and ”Pearl Harbor” live up to the hype?

The other night I went to see ”Shrek,” and during the coming attractions I felt the familiar pre-summer brainwashing taking effect. ”Wow!” I thought, as the quick cut commercials flashed before me. ”It sure looks like the magic is back in ‘Rush Hour 2’!” ”And I can’t wait to see what kind of veterinary mischief ‘Dr. Dolittle’ will be up to THIS time!” And ‘Cats & Dogs’ looks clever AND hilarious!”

Will I ever learn? Every spring since I can remember, I’ve gotten all hopped up on trailer fumes, only to emerge on Labor Day with an anger hangover. When has the summer movie crop ever lived up to your expectations? Take last summer. After sitting through months of teasers for ”Mission: Impossible 2,” when I finally saw the two-hour film it just barely had any more plot or character development than the two-minute trailer. ”Dinosaur” looked visually awesome in the sneak peek, but after paying my nine dollars, I found out it was just the usual stock Disney woodland creatures done in greater detail. And, in true gross-out comedy tradition, ”Road Trip” turned out to be all the good jokes from the trailer surrounded by many many other bad ones.

And yet, hope springs eternal, no matter how many times hope ends up kicking me in the groin. Take ”Swordfish,” for example. Watching the rapid shots of John Travolta hanging out a sunroof firing machine guns as he speeds down an L.A. street, and the giant car chase trailing a bus hanging from a helicopter makes me think the movie could be this summer’s ”Face/Off.” But then I realize that ”Swordfish” is directed by Dominic Sena, who did last summer’s ”Gone in 60 Seconds,” which looked like an adrenaline rush in ITS trailer but turned out to be a gas-powered sedative.

There inevitably will be SOME good films out this summer buried amidst the usual formulaic dreck we usually get. Last year we had ”Gladiator,” ”Chicken Run,” and ”X-Men” to salvage any expectations pounded into permanent diminishment by ”The Perfect Storm” and ”The Patriot.” This season has started out refreshingly well-balanced, with the delightful surprise of ”Shrek” providing a counterbalance to the hackery of ”The Mummy Returns,” which felt like someone had been grinding pixels in my eyes for two hours.

But I have a feeling that things may take a turn for the worse with ”Pearl Harbor.” I’ve only seen the much-acclaimed trailer so far, which was a high- pitched, jingoistic pastiche of carefully framed shots: bombs dropping artfully, young boys watching planes fly overhead, Navy men cheering. Yet while each shot was carefully selected to appeal to my adrenal glands, I noticed the trailer was completely without dialogue.

Director Michael Bay proved in ”Armageddon” that he is far more talented with editing and action than he is at simulating human emotions, and considering that he has been bragging about the love story aspect of ”Pearl Harbor,” I’m fighting many years of pre-summer habits and trying to get my hopes down by my shoelaces where they belong. It’s too long of a summer to be this depressed by Memorial Day.

Pearl Harbor

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 183 minutes
  • Michael Bay