Avoiding Star Wars Trailers

(This article does not mention any details of Star Wars: The Last Jedi that haven’t already been revealed in trailers and marketing materials.)

During a recent visit to see Blade Runner 2049 at the Seattle Cinerama, I was seated comfortably and waiting for the show to start. Moments later, the Lucasfilm logo appeared on screen, a trailer started to play, and I saw Rey’s face against the backdrop of Luke Skywalker’s mysterious planet, Ach-To. Within seconds, I’d gotten up and left to go putter around near the concessions. I did this because I have been avoiding pretty much every single piece of marketing material for Star Wars: The Last Jedi for the past year.

As I exited the theater, I was surprised to find a few other men that had also stepped out at about the same time as me. I overheard one of them saying, “Yeah, I thought I was safe, but then that music came on and it’s soooo Star Wars…” His voice trailed off and he stared off wistfully into the middle distance. I realized that these were my brethren. We were all going to save ourselves for the “pure” Star Wars experience together.

I’ve now seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi and today, many months after the first trailer debuted, and many months of scrupulously avoiding any trailers, I want to try and answer the question: Was it worth it?

I’ve been successfully avoiding most movie trailers for the past few years because I find they spoil surprises too often. I don’t blame them; trailers exist to get butts into seats, and why not use the most spectacular set pieces and scenes available to you if you’re marketing these films?

While trailers are often a series of rapid-fire disconnected images, sounds, and voiceover, they often reveal critical moments. If you watch a lot of movies and a lot of movie trailers, trailers can prompt you to start assembling the movie in your head. This can happen not just during trailers, but also when you’re watching the movie itself. Your internal monologue spring to life in ways you don’t predict, saying things like, “Well, the TIE fighters show up on that planet with the Millenium Falcon, so that means the Falcon HAS to survive that earlier encounter,” etc.

While the vast majority of trailers are easy to avoid, avoiding Star Wars: The Last Jedi stuff presented special challenges. The marketing is everywhere. YouTube pre-rolls. Facebook Sponsored Posts. And that’s not even accounting for all the people on my Twitter feed trying to tell me what a Porg is before the film is even out.

Avoiding trailers also essentially means not being able to participate in major cultural moments. I still remember when I was at work and one of the trailers for The Last Jedi debuted. It’s hard to listen to everyone talk excitedly about one of your most anticipated films of the year, only to make an excuse and duck out whenever the conversation gets too detailed.

But I made it. I got to my Last Jedi screening without ever having seen a full trailer for the film. And it was glorious.

Overall, I think this is by far the most interesting Star Wars film I’ve ever seen. It asks a lot of its viewers, but those who rise to the challenge will be met with a rich story that frequently subverts expectations.

The Last Jedi deepens relationships between characters in ways I never anticipated, and introduces new ones that are easy to root for. But what I found most compelling were the film’s themes, which I won’t get into in detail, except to say that I think really resonate in the political world we live in today.

As for the effect of watching this movie “pure,” every single major moment of this film (and there are many of them) was stunning. The visuals were breathtaking, but the fact that I had no idea what was coming next simply amplified the impact. New characters, old characters, new species, new worlds — it was all exhilarating and refreshing, like discovering the franchise all over again (somehow, this movie generated those same feelings of discovery I had when watching The Force Awakens).

One of my favorite activities is coming home after the watching a film and doing a deep-dive on all the trailers to see how well put together they are and how much of the film they reveal. With some films, I’m extremely impressed by how little is given away. In the case of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, it’s a mixed bag.

Sure, there are a bunch of amazing characters and spectacular visuals that are not featured in any of the trailers. But oddly, a bunch of third-act visuals are shown, plus one major reveal in a recent trailer that seemed totally unnecessary. It’s all enough to make me glad that I decided to avoid the marketing cycle this time around.

Would I recommend the experience of seeing Star Wars: The Last Jedi without having seen any trailers? I’ve learned over time that there are diverse enough preferences out there such that what works for me definitely won’t work for everyone. It is insanely difficult to absent oneself from all the hype and excitement. In many ways, sites like this one have shown that those activities have become as much a part of the movie watching experience as the movie itself.

But for me, living without trailers has become a way of life. In the case of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, it helped make something that has become so familiar in our culture into something new and exciting.

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