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5 epic trailers that failed to deliver epic movies

Right when you saw that title, you immediately thought of a movie that ended up being a major letdown after you spent months amped up about the trailer, right? Generation Y might be among the most cynical and jaded generations to ever live, but the phenomenon of a movie not living up to the hype is not anyone’s fault but the studio.

Epic trailers often lead to failed movies.

Time and time again, they’ve promised sprawling, colorful epics only to end up delivering two hours of half-baked derivative nonsense created to make children want to buy action figures.

Okay, maybe we are cynical and jaded after all, but these 5 epic trailers still failed to deliver epic movies.

No. 1 - Batman Forever

We’re going to go way back for this first one, because I’m betting you, like me, were somewhere around 10 when this movie came out. Maybe you knew about the Burton films, maybe you didn’t, but that trailer promised an explosive Batman adventure, heavier on the action and fighting and less on the somber brooding of Michael Keaton. Nothing against Michael Keaton or the Burton films, they’re masterpieces. But we were 10, remember?

Tell me that doesn’t get your inner 10-year-old fist pumping.

We all know what happened when the movie came out. Batman & Robin it wasn’t, but it still didn’t really live up to the Burton films. As the years go by, Batman Forever really doesn’t age well either, what with the neon and the facepaint and the 90s everywhere.

I know don’t about you, but sitting there in the theater next to my brother and my mom, I was stoked about seeing my first Batman movie on the big screen, but I had this strange feeling I’ve never been able to shake that Batman Forever was just one giant toy commercial for crappy Kenner toys with spotty paintjobs, poor articulation and zero-sum resemblance to the actors in the film.

No. 2 – Spider-Man 3

Say what you will about Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, but the first two films, despite their flaws, are still very well regarded both by critics and comic book fans. Tobey Maguire wasn’t a perfect Spider-Man and Kirsten Dunst wasn’t a perfect Mary Jane, but the first two films managed to strike a nice balance between camp and character, with Peter Parker evolving in a very relatable, very human way.

So the third movie’s trailer, which promised the exploration of a much darker, obsessive and arrogant Spider-Man, had fans on the edges of their seats for months.

Forget everything you know you hate about Spider-Man 3, and just experience that trailer. You’re probably thinking “I want to see that movie, not the one we got stuck with,” right? Though there are a ton of reasons why Spider-Man 3 ultimately didn’t work, it really just boils down to two things. One, there was just too much stuff. Too many characters, too many themes, too much of Peter Parker and not enough of Spider-Man, etc. Two, there was this:

The trailer makes it look like we’re getting real darkness. Instead we got Criss Angel Peter Parker whose idea of being bad is the emo sweep/guy-liner/hip-thrusting douchebaggery.

No. 3 – Quantum of Solace

Of course Casino Royale was going to be hard to follow. We were always willing to cut Quantum of Solace some slack for that, but it was hard to when the trailer was so damn over-promising.

Where to begin? The spotty and choppy editing? The pointless “dogfight” sequence? The abysmally underwhelming villain? The lame conclusion? The total lack of closure from Casino Royale, despite supposedly being a direct sequel to it?

We’ll probably just stop there on this one. But you’d think that after putting so much into the reboot of the James Bond character with Daniel Craig, MGM would have taken Quantum of Solace a little more seriously.

The only good thing about the film is that it’s not the last Bond film. After it was released, MGM was facing bankruptcy and it looked like Quantum of Solace was going to be the final, unfortunate chapter in nearly 50 years of James Bond. Luckily, they got financing for 2012’s Skyfall which managed to right the wrongs of Quantum of Solace and totally redeem the franchise.

No. 4 - The Wolverine

How many times will 20th Century Fox promise a great X-Men film before we just stop buying it?

The Wolverine is Hugh Jackman’s second attempt to prove his Logan worthy of an individual franchise, and unfortunately, his second colossal failure. Not counting cameos, Jackman has been Wolverine in a total of five films, and it’s pretty much undisputed that three of them suck.

But, Jackman has been a pretty good Wolverine, and the fans are always willing to give him another shot. Enter The Wolverine, a film, like others on this list, with a long history of production troubles that should have clued us in that the final product would totally miss the mark. Except that the trailer looked pretty decent.

A lot of things about this movie looked like they were going to work. The Japan setting, the cinematography, they finally got his haircut to look not-ridiculous, etc. But the most engaging thing about the trailer was the story it promised, and that ended up being the film’s undoing.

That scene with the old Japanese guy on the giant pin-pression, and following clips of Wolverine’s healing factor dipping out made for an interesting premise: What would Wolverine be like without his healing factor?

But that was a huge red herring. In the film, Logan, while viewing his healing factor and immortality as a curse, actually turns down the old guy’s offer. His healing factor later slows down for unrelated and stupid reasons, and the entire film marches on to a completely incoherent and underwhelming conclusion.

The only perk The Wolverine really offers is the tease for Days of Future Past, but given the overall track record of X-Men films thus far, is that really something to just get automatically excited about?

No. 5 – Watchmen

Watchmen is the ultimate epic-trailer-begets-horrifying-film cautionary tale.

The Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons graphic novel that the film is based on is a dark, postmodern critique of the superhero archetype, and since it was just a one-shot miniseries, the characters of the Watchmen world are not exactly household names like Batman and Spider-Man. Additionally, the graphic novel has long been considered by many to be completely resistant to adaptation and unfilmable.

So the trailer had to get a huge audience, and it had to make an impression. For most, the audience was already there for 2008’s The Dark Knight, to which the Watchmen trailer was first attached. As for making an impression …

After seeing something like that, you’re left with really only one of two impressions. If you already knew about Watchmen, you thought, “My God … they did it … they filmed the unfilmable graphic novel.” If you didn’t know anything about Watchmen, you thought “What is that … “ and “I’m totally going to see that … after I read Watchmen” and also possibly “What’s that song, I want to download it.”

Well, it turned out that the nay-sayers were right all along. Watchmen is unfilmable. The mundane, existentially real characters of the book came across flat. The complex narrative was boring and hard to follow. The symbolism was almost completely robbed of its meaning. The actors did fine jobs, and most of them were well-cast. And amazingly, Zack Snyder did actually very faithfully translate the comic to film. Most of the scenes and specific shots are right out of the graphic novel. But the whole thing just came across as empty, one-dimensional and soulless.

Note: David is a film writer for the Forevergeek Kickstarter store where you can buy Kickstarter products. In his free time he likes to play with Batman toys ONLY from the Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan movies.

Contact: Marv Dumon at

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