Trailers these days are getting out of control with spoilers. But don't worry, we're here to sort out whether or not you should watch a certain trailer beforehand. First, I'll see the film avoiding all trailers. I like to go in fresh. Then I'll take a look at how accurate the marketing is to a film's tone and plot, as well as warn of any spoilers it might contain.
What I Knew Before
With Paul Thomas Anderson directing, I didn't care who or what it was about, but I did know that Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix star in a film about Scientology.
The Master is dark, odd, confusing, contemplative, obvious and engaging. Does that cover all of my bases? I hope so. Our lead character Freddie is a little off-kilter, and so are we the audience while watching him. When Hoffman shows up, it feels like we can exhale. That doesn't last long. The musical score by Jonny Greewood is nearly as powerful as any acting moment the film has to offer. The same number typically continues from one scene to the next, seamlessly bringing with it the same emotional tone, whether you like it or not. The trailer nails absolutely everything about this film. Seriously, the tone couldn't be better, with Phoenix banging on the window throughout, creating an uneasy tension. While that may help the tone, it also causes a problem with the potential spoilers below.
The Master is about Scientology. Boggie Nights is about the porn industry. While both of these statements are technically true, The Master seems to use Scientology to tell a story, whereas Boogie Nights uses its characters to tell the story about the adult entertainment industry. Set in 1950, Freddie (Phoenix) suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after World War II. He randomly encounters Lancaster Dodd (Hoffman), who is leading a new movement which is kind of like Scientology, though Scientology is never mentioned. What follows is a struggling friendship with Lancaster attempting to rid Freddie of his traumas. The trailer begins with Hoffman saying "Man is not an animal." The best way to view this film is through Lancaster trying to change Freddie and everything that results within that battle. The keys here in the trailer are that Freddie appears to be the definition of a loose cannon, the word "cult" is mentioned, and Amy Adams is worried what will happen to Lancaster if Freddie continues with the group.
This is a tough movie to spoil, because it's mainly about the performances, but there are some things to complain about here. Unless you are creating a completely new scene as a way to introduce the film to the audience there shouldn't be moments in the final theatrical trailer that aren't in the film. For example if Hoffman directly talked to us the viewer, selling one of Lancaster's books, that would be great. There are plenty scenes that didn't make the final cut of the film that are sprinkled in here. First off, Phoenix and Adams never hold or shoot a gun in the film. More than that, Freddie doesn't smack around the window. One of the last lines of the film is also spoken here, I won't tell you which one.
Here's what you need to know about the film: Phoenix, Hoffman and Adams all give really good performances in a film that is about control, our animal instincts and escape. Luckily, my two favorite scenes with Hoffman and Phoenix aren't in this trailer, but I would avoid it. Enjoy it after you've seen the film. For most, Paul Thomas Anderson is a no-brainer. After you see his name on the project, you know if you're running to the theater or not.