Business management guru Tom Peters coined the line “under promise and over deliver.”  Now while that may work in business so you end up looking like a hero when your profits are higher than Wall Street thought, that mantra doesn’t work if you want to fill theater seats with warm bodies on opening weekend.  Instead, film trailer editors are masters at cutting their 2 minutes or so to include only the best jokes or action set pieces to make you wish you could see their movie RIGHT NOW!  Yeah, we’re all jaded into knowing that trailers over promise their goods, but here are five that abused that practice.

Southland Tales

Richard Kelly’s follow-up to cult favorite “Donnie Darko” looked fantastic in the trailer.  Doomsday satire + Gilliamesque weirdness + eclectic cast + cool art design should have equaled gold.  Unfortunately the suits with the cash didn’t rein in Mr. Kelly and forgot to tell him that art school films with no real plot or sense don’t belong at the cineplex.  I believe that USC asked him to return his diploma, but maybe that’s just a rumor.

Van Helsing

Come on!  How do you screw up vampires, werewolves, Frankenstein’s monster and Hugh Jackman in the title role?  You make the whole thing boooooring.  Watching this mess you wish you could take a stake to your own heart and end the misery.


Action film lover?  Check.  Avid rock climber?  Check.  Stallone  fan (well back then)?  Check.  This one is personal.  The trailer promises fantastic action on the rocks.  Instead, except for the opening scene it’s just silly and cartoonish.

The Matrix Reloaded

The first one was a fantastic mix of elements from many genres that had people cheering and giddy with geek love.  The second one decided that the story was a lot more complicated and made everyone in the theater check their watches in the hopes that the credits were coming soon.

The Phantom Menace

People bought tickets to films the TRAILER was playing with.  That’s how high expectations were for the new Star Wars movie.  Maybe it never had a chance to live up to that, but Jar Jar Binks, midichlorians and a poor man’s version of the assault on the Death Star missed by parsec.

Let’s all just hope that the new Watchmen trailer doesn’t fall victim to this syndrome.  Are there trailers that suckered you in?