With the release of first trailer for Avatar: The Way of Water, fans of the original are more than confident that James Cameron’s ambitious sequel will be worth the 13-year-long wait. More often than not, the commercial success of certain movies hinges on their marketing: from their trailers to their posters to even their promotional merchandise; after all, these are the things that help pique the viewer’s interest.
There’s been many infamous occasions, however, when a film’s advertising campaign has played with an audience’s expectations. In fact, several Reddit users have taken to the forums and threads to share their own experiences of paying to a see a movie that isn’t quite what it originally advertised itself to be.
The Grey (2012)
Liam Neeson became an unlikely action star with the success of Taken in 2009, resulting in a slew of other action roles that followed. The advertisements for 2012’s The Grey seemed to suggest that it would follow a similar route to those action-oriented films, but certain movie-goers were met with disappointment by what kind of movie it really turned out to be.
Those such as Redditor garrisontweed had been intrigued by the film’s trailer and how it “makes it look like action movie”, but was underwhelmed by how it was really a dramatic thriller “about a depressed man trying to survive”.
After a long absence from American screens, Warner Bros.’ 2014 reboot of Toho’s Godzilla managed to revive the public’s interest in the classic movie monster. The way its advertising highlighted Bryan Cranston’s paranoid performance and barely showed Godzilla’s full form captured the audience’s curiosity the most, and seeing how the film grossed over half a million dollars worldwide (via The Hollywood Reporter), it clearly worked.
Despite the film’s success, audience members like Reddit user barriekansai criticized its marketing for “leveraging Bryan Cranston’s tiny role” in most of it “due to the popularity of Breaking Bad.” User sonickarma however, had a much bigger complaint, claiming that “they made it seem like Godzilla was going to be the main antagonist/threat in the movie, when that clearly wasn’t the case.”
It Comes At Night (2017)
Released by A24, It Comes At Night was a psychological horror film surrounding the survival of an isolated family in the woods in the midst of a post-apocalyptic fallout from a deadly contagious disease. The film was praised by critics but received scorn from audiences, who didn’t take well to its slow pacing and art house aesthetic.
Most of those who saw the movie such as Reddit user Intelligent_Exam9522 had been expecting “a big horror film” from the initial trailer, but were instead let down by the dark “psychological thought piece” that they sadly couldn’t connect with.
The Many Saints Of Newark (2021)
When it was announced that The Many Saints of Newark, a theatrical prequel to HBO’s The Sopranos, arguably one of the best TV shows of all time, was in the works, fans of the original series rejoiced with excitement. The casting of Michael Gandolfini, son of James Gandolfini, who originated the role of Tony Soprano, as the younger version of his late father’s character was especially met with high praise.
However, some fans were disappointed to learn that it wasn’t quite the Tony Soprano origin story that the trailers were depicting it as, and was instead more centered around the exploits of his mentor, Dickie Moltisanti. Redditor Few_Ad_5186 was especially upset to learn that “Tony Soprano was barely in it” and felt that the movie “had nothing to do with what it was advertised as.”
Unbreakable is often considered one of M. Night Shyamalan’s best movies. In this first installment of a surprising trilogy, Bruce Willis plays David Dunn, the only unscathed survivor of a devastating train wreck who slowly begins to realize that he possesses superhuman abilities after crossing paths with a mysterious man, played by Samuel L. Jackson, who takes an interest in his situation.
While the film was received positively, audiences were met with shock by how it actually turned out to be more of a superhero drama rather than the supernatural thriller that the trailers seemed to allude it as. Redditor bluepowerbomb pointed out that the success of Willis and Shyamalan’s previous collaboration with The Sixth Sense may have played a part in how “it was marketed as psychological thriller, but it really wasn’t that at all.”
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (2016)
Based on a true story and following Tina Fey as a war correspondent in Afghanistan, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot managed to seamlessly balance out its elements of comedy and drama, but it was the mixture of those elements that also made it such a difficult film to market to an audience. Having Fey as its star led to the trailers emphasizing the comedy more, but in a way that those such as Reddit user DankyKang91 found to be “obnoxious”.
Fellow Redditor Butterbuddha agreed in their reply, saying that the trailer “doesn’t know how to pitch the damn movie. Let’s just try to appeal to everyone, I guess?” Even though they admitted to having enjoyed the film for what it really was, they still found the “broad appeal attempt” by the trailer to have been a detriment, claiming that it did the film “no favors”.
Bicentennial Man (1999)
The late great Robin Williams was more known for his comedic performances, but Bicentennial Man turned out to be one of those films that really proved William’s versatility as an actor. In the film, Williams plays a robot who seeks to become human and learns what it truly means to be one over the course of several decades.
What had looked like a “fun and lighthearted story” from the trailers to Redditor DCBronzeAge turned out to be a “quite depressing” experience for them. Fellow user Rage_Like_Nic_Cage recalled seeing the movie in childhood, thinking it would be another Robin Williams comedy but was “bored to tears” by it, saying “its definitely not what I wanting as a kid.”
Adam Sandler’s career has been through many critical and commercial ups and downs, but one of Sandler’s most financially successful movies came in 2006 with the release of Click. Sandler plays a workaholic family man who tries to improve the conditions of his life after getting his hands on a TV remote that can manipulate his reality, but soon finds out that it causes more problems than anything else.
Reddit user SLCer posted that they remembered how the film had been “marketed as a typical Adam Sandler goofy comedy”. While the user admitted to still enjoying the movie as a whole, they were still taken aback by the more dramatic nature of the film’s second half and the “complete tonal shift that was not represented in the trailer”.
Bridge To Terabithia (2007)
Based on Katherine Paterson’s novel, Bridge to Terabithia was a coming-of-age story of two 12-year-old neighbors who create a fantasy world in the woods as a way of coping with their real-world struggles. The film had a positive reception and was a box-office success, but those who weren’t familiar with the book, like Redditor Dayofsloths, were shocked by the unexpectedly tragic turn its story ends up taking.
The user recalled how the marketing “made it look like a fun adventure movie for kids, not a lesson in mortality for children” and expressed their surprise by how its latter half “takes such a dark turn you would absolutely not expect from the trailers.”
Kangaroo Jack (2003)
Perhaps the most infamous example of misleading advertisement brought up by Reddit users is the 2003 film Kangaroo Jack, about two men who lose $50,000 in mob money to a wild Kangaroo in Australia. According to GameSpot, what had originated as an R-rated dark mafia comedy was re-tooled and edited down to become one of the most unconventional “family” films ever made.
The marketing placed a heavy focus on the titular Kangaroo (whose total screen time only adds up to around 5 minutes) to draw the attention of kids, particularly in one scene where the Kangaroo begins to talk and rap, which turns out to only be a brief dream sequence. This tactic only led to disappointment for them, however, as Redditor armypantsnflipflops claimed “I’ll never forgive Kangaroo Jack for making me think there was an actual rapping kangaroo in it.”