Recently, the movie mother! was released in theaters. The biggest discussions around this film, aside from it being a rare box office bomb for an actress as well known as Jennifer Lawrence, are about how different the project was from what people were expecting. Even though not much was known about the plot beforehand, the advertising suggested that it would be a suspenseful horror film with a Rosemary's Baby feel. What audiences got, instead, was an art house film about protecting the environment told through characters serving as biblical allegories.
The fact that this film was so different from what was advertised has probably played into the "love it or hate it" status it's gotten. This got me thinking about the danger of film advertising lying to film-goers about the movie they're selling. When you see a trailer for a movie, you can get a feeling for what it is based on the content. If you see something with a lot of action, you would expect that the trailer is advertising an action movie. You would probably be upset if you saw the film only to find out that it was actually a slow drama.
One of the biggest examples of trailers lying to their audiences is the movie Snow Dogs. The trailer for the movie sold the image of a wacky comedy with Cuba Gooding Jr. hanging out with talking dogs. Not only did the tone of the film completely contradict what was shown in the trailers, but the movie's selling point (the talking dogs) was only a dream sequence. The misleading advertising of the film morphed it from a bad movie for adults to an even worse movie for kids.
Just last year, Suicide Squad came under some scrutiny for misleading advertising. All of the film's advertising heavily featured Jared Leto's portrayal of The Joker. As such, many film-goers went into the theaters expecting The Joker to play a big role. Instead, the character only appeared for a couple minutes total, with it being obvious that most of his scenes were taken out in editing (given his performance, I wished they'd cut him out completely). Fans were so angered by the misleading advertising that one of them actually sued Warner Bros. Studios. This debacle could have been avoided if they took the route of Captain America: Civil War, where the studio would acknowledge through advertising that The Joker (much like Spider-Man in Civil War) would only serve as a extended cameo.
The backlash mother! has received serves a reminder of the dangers of a film's advertising lying to the audience. Film-goers put a lot of trust in trailers, both in terms of affirming the quality of the movie and the type of movie they are going to get. It's bad enough if a film isn't good, but it becomes exponentially worse if it is nothing like the movie the audience thinks its going to get. When you are advertising a film, make sure you are at least honest what kind of movie it is.