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trailer trash talk

Stop Calling the Interstellar Trailer a Trailer, Because It Isn’t

Interstellar is quite possibly the most highly anticipated movie out there. Not only is it the first movie that Christopher Nolan has directed in two years, but it’s a Christopher Nolan movie about space and time travel that stars the freshly renaissanced Matthew McConaughey. Come on — get in our belly, that movie. So, unsurprisingly, the release of the first full Interstellar trailer today, five months after a frustratingly vague teaser, has been received with the right amount of frenzy. But what the what is up in this one? I ask because, when you think "trailer for Interstellar," you don’t think two minutes of a dad hurriedly hugging his kids, followed by a couple of fleeting seconds of space. Which can only mean one thing: This is not, in fact, a trailer for Interstellar. This is a trailer for the first act of Interstellar, if not the first ten minutes of Interstellar.

We don’t know much about the plot, other than what the press release suggested: “[Interstellar] chronicles the adventures of a group of explorers who make use of a newly discovered wormhole to surpass the limitations on human space travel and conquer the vast distances involved in an interstellar voyage.” The trailer succeeds at showing us the why (Earth needs food) and the who (a dad), but not the what. It ends with the ship kicking into whatever this movie’s version of hyperdrive is, despite that is essentially where the film will start. It would be like if the Inception trailer only showed Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Page walk-and-talking about the human mind and dreams, instead of showing the city folding in half and the café exploding.

Interstellar is not Godzilla. Monster movies have a history of delaying the gratification of seeing the monster, so it makes sense that their trailers would be similarly withholding. But action science-fiction is about the journey, so we should see what that journey entails. The Interstellar trailer is like a slideshow of someone’s vacation in which they only show you pictures of them packing. As is, the trailer comes off more like a TV pilot, which sets the action in motion, but doesn’t truly give a sense of what the show will be like. This explains why many TV pilots are among the worst episodes in the series.

I get the argument that Nolan’s movies are special because they go beyond the action and are about actual characters, but let’s not kid ourselves and pretend that people saw Inception because of an interest in how a man deals with grief. Just like no one’s going to see this movie because of an interest in dads trying to make ends meet. The movie is called Interstellar and not Parenthood for a reason.

So, why is this the Interstellar trailer we find ourselves with? Of course, fancy space effects take a very long time, so it’s possible that there wasn’t anything ready to show the world. However, that seems hard to believe, considering that essentially every single other movie has been able to manage. This seems like intentional gamesmanship. Nolan has been particularly secretive going into the making of Interstellar and it appears he wants to continue to withhold. Sure, he doesn't want to spoil the surprise, but again, every other movie has been able to manage. Spoiling is legitimate, but ultimately quixotic. Just ask Khan — sorry, we mean, Benedict Cumberbatch. We're not saying a trailer needs to spoil an ending, but it probably should spoil its middle. Again, he has the right to release whatever type of trailer he wants, but that doesn’t mean it’s not annoying.

Eventually, audiences are going to want to know what this movie will be like. It’s possible the next trailer will show the promised wormholes, dimensions, and the super-cool lasery explosions that come along with that, and we’ll all be happy. I’m definitely not damning this movie six months before it comes out — I’m merely grousing about it so the powers that be know that we get it and that they show us something in the next trailer. If they don't, they may wake up and find that the "most highly anticipated movie" tag no longer applies.