The best & worst movie trailers of 2012: The good, the bad, and the unfathomable

Adam Pockross
Movie Talk

A good trailer is supposed to make you want to see the movie. A great trailer makes you NEED to see the movie so badly that you’ll remain unfulfilled as a human being until you do. These five best trailers of 2012 did that and more. As for the worst trailers of the year, well, we didn’t rush out to see any of the flicks they’re advertising, but they did make us wonder how the heck the movies got made in the first place. And they sure were fun to write about! Obviously, there are plenty of others that could have made this list, so please let us know your choices in the comments below. 


Wreck-It Ralph,” teaser trailer -- After a brief memory-jolting romp through an old-school arcade, the trailer kicks in with the Talking Heads' “Once in a Lifetime” and its catch phrase “same as it ever was,” which sets the tone for Ralph’s existential crisis. As the trailer unfolds, the simple brilliance of the conceit unfolds as well: What happens when an arcade closes? What do the video game characters do when they’re not working? It’s one of those great ideas that seem so obvious you can’t believe it’s never been done before, and you can’t wait to see how the movie will bring the premise to life. Not to mention, our curiosity was beyond piqued as to just what happened to all our old 8-bit pals after we spent so much quality time with them.

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Snow White and the Huntsmen,” second theatrical trailer -- It’s easy to say they had us at Charlize Theron’s milk bath, but that’s just one of the stark and stylish images that make this trailer stand out. And the reimagining of the mirror on the wall as a liquid-gold menace is a perfect symbol for just how different this telling of the classic fairy tale will be from the one we’ve grown up with. Then there’s the fact that the heroes of the adventure -- Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth -- don't show up until well after the menace is so deviously established, thus making their evil-squelching presence subconsciously desired.

"Django Unchained," teaser trailer -- Few directors use music as well as Quentin Tarantino, and this trailer certainly shows you why. Right from the get-go, Johnny Cash’s “Ain’t No Grave” gives us the sense that times are tough, and the imagery of the slow, painful trek of the chain gang only cements that feeling. But as soon as James Brown’s “Payback” kicks in, you know you’re in for classic Tarantino blood-lust fun at its finest, with a hint of that satisfying revenge-filled revisionism that made “Inglourious Basterds” (2009) so good. Throw in Don Johnson looking like Colonel Sanders, Jamie Foxx’s bold blue suit with large lace cravat, and Leonardo DiCaprio finally playing a full-on villain, and our Christmas-present prospects just got a lot brighter.

"The Great Gatsby," teaser trailer -- Fine, we love Leo. But DiCaprio doesn’t even make an appearance until some 45 seconds in, perfectly setting the mysteriousness of the titular character at the heart of this film.  While we thought we might be unwrapping Baz Luhrmann's take on the American classic this Christmas, the delay doesn’t change the fact the trailer has a splashier, glitzier, more decadent feel than even F. Scott Fitzgerald could have imagined. Once again, music takes viewers into the movie's world, as Kanye West and Jay-Z’s “No Church in the Wild” immediately lets us know that this is not your grandma’s Gatsby. But when Jack White starts belting out U2’s “Love Is Blindness,” we start to realize the Roaring '20s wasn’t all drinking Champagne and dancing the Charleston. Not only does this trailer make us want to see the movie on May 10, 2013, it makes us want to reread the book. Fancy that, Old Sport.

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"Man of Steel," first theatrical trailer -- Sure, it’s director Zack Snyder’s baby, but it’s certainly nice to see producer Christopher Nolan’s fingerprints all over this dark and stormy origin tale. Heck, with all the nature shots, at first glance it almost looks like a Terence Malick movie, just in case you thought this was going to be a bunch of high flying and Lois Lane-ing.  In any of the previous Superman movies, do you ever recall feeling that the Man of Steel suffered from personal demons? Ain’t that an interesting idea to ponder? What’s really so good about this trailer is that it offers so many more questions than answers: Why is Superman floating in water? Why is he on fire? Why is he handcuffed? And most important, where’s his red underwear? Because the trailer has done what it’s supposed to, we’re super-stoked to find out on June 14, 2013.


“Not Another Celebrity Movie” -- Lighting? Has anyone heard of lighting? Sound editing? Anyone remember to check the levels? Oh what’s it matter anyway when the cast of celebrity “look-alikes” doesn’t look or sound anything like they’re supposed to? You’re really going to try to get someone to impersonate Brad Pitt when the even real Brad Pitt doesn’t look as beautiful as he did when “Ocean’s Eleven” (2001) came out? Still, it’s worth noting that the guy who plays Charlie Sheen looks the part enough to make us do a double take, seeing as Charlie Sheen could easily end up in a project this bad someday soon.

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Age of the Hobbits” -- This “film” came under so much fire for its completely misleading title that Warner Bros. went to court to force a name change. The mockbuster now goes by “Clash of the Empires,” an obvious attempt to cash in on another blockbuster’s box-office draw: “Clash of the Titans” (2010). However, judging from what we see here (which will likely be all we see), it’s a far cry from either epic. Honestly, the special effects look so bad, the stop-motion monsters in the original “Clash of the Titans” (1981) look better than this, and that was released more than 30 years ago.

Vampire Dog” -- Did the producers pay these actors? 'Cause if they did, they got ripped off. And the sophomoric crotch shots and fart jokes are, to quote the trailer, an “epic fail, bro.” It’s bad enough that the dog runs at the speed of Bella, makes bad Bieber jokes, and is voiced by Norm “Clinging to Fame” MacDonald, but do we really need to go beyond this film’s title to explain why this is one of the worst trailers of the year? Again, to quote the trailer, “Uh, hello... Vampire Dog.”

[Related: 2012 Year in Review]

The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure” -- When the trailer tries to sell you on the fact that the film comes from a “marketing visionary” instead of a genuine filmmaker, you know you’re in for real trouble. Obviously, it didn’t effectively pique people’s interest, as "The Oogieloves" went down in history as the worst opening ever for a film released in more than 2,000 theaters, while earning a second-worst per-theater average of $206. Probably not the vision said marketer had in mind.

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"Piranha 3DD"  -- We get that this film doesn’t take itself very seriously, but judging from the trailer, perhaps this B-movie sequel should have taken itself just a little bit seriously. No, we’re not hassling the Hoff; his deft comic touch is always welcome. And we certainly have nothing against the gratuitous flaunting of double D’s. But the premise of this film is way too much to overcome: Even if piranhas have evolved so much that they've figured out how to follow drainage lines into a water park, why would they? Wouldn’t they be more comfortable in nonchlorinated water? OK, you’re right, that’s nitpicking. Let’s officially file this one in the “so bad it’s good” category.

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