Movie trailers are a form of critique.
Before we delve further, an essential reminder: critique and criticism are not synonyms.
Take it away, Merriam:
Critique: a detailed analysis and assessment of something.
Criticism: the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes; the analysis and judgment of the merits and faults of a literary or artistic work.
Even though criticism’s thumbs up/down focus on good vs. not good can be a window through which we can better understand a work of art, a critique — at least in my opinion — does away with this qualitative hierarchy. It takes the art on its own terms, de-emphasizing personal preference in the name of meeting the art where it lives, as opposed to the other way around.
That’s why, when I’m in a particularly pretentious mood, I like to call myself a critiquer instead of a critic. The most common cinematic critiques that audiences encounter are movie trailers, substituting the written word for the moving image, meeting the medium where it lives instead of translating it to another medium.
When a wordsmith critiques a movie, they present their conception of it by restructuring its parts into a fractional whole that both reflects and refracts the original whole, citing scenes, moments, and decisions that are crucial to their perspective on what the movie can be about.
That exact sentence can also serve as a description of a trailer’s function. After watching the entire movie, the editor re-cuts it together in such a manner — including adding elements not found in the source text — that the trailer becomes a take, or a critique, of the movie itself.
Cynics might contest this theory on the grounds that trailers are not in the business of enlightenment; rather, they’re in the business of, well, business. Whereas the goal of a critique can serve a wide range of aims, trailers have one thing in mind: to sell the movie, to convince audiences to buy a ticket.
But what the powers-that-be choose to highlight, and how it’s packaged, can be classified as an analytical interpretation.
AKA: a critique.