Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
The trailer scene: Loads of Skywalker. A voice-over from Luke about his family’s history with the Force. A shot of Luke’s lightsaber being handed over to (probably) Leia by Maz Kanata. A shot of a hooded figure (probably Luke himself, going by the robot hand) with R2-D2. In truth, The Force Awakens’ story doesn’t allow for any of these moments. Ray picks up the saber from Maz’s bar, R2 is catatonic for most of the film, and Luke doesn’t appear until the final (brilliant) few seconds, and even then he doesn’t say a word.
Do we miss it in the finished movie? You know what? No. As much as this trailer is the one that initially made us lose our minds with the firm, unbelievable understanding that real Star Wars was coming back, and as important as the Skywalker-voiced opening was in achieving that, the final film’s story beats and emotional flow are perfect as they are. As is the balance between original trilogy characters and newly introduced heroes.
Batman & Robin (1997)
The trailer scene: Arnie’s Mr Freeze quips: "Bundle up, boys: there's a storm coming." Because of course he does. Quipping is Mr. Freeze's M.O. in Batman & Robin, almost exclusively.
Do we miss it in the finished movie? Not really. There are more than enough ice-based puns in the final movie to make up for its absence. The entire film is ice puns. There's nothing but ice puns. Ice puns and shame. And besides, with “Ice to meet you”, “Allow me to break the ice”, ‘You’re not sending me to the cooler”, and “Cool party” (and more) in the final movie, any additional ‘jokes’ would amount to a hate-crime against taste and decency the world over.
The Transporter (2002)
The trailer scene: Jason Statham beats away a rocket-propelled grenade with a tea tray. Let us say that again in case it hasn’t sunk in. He fights off a BAZOOKA, with a TRAY! How did that not make the final film? Nothing says ‘British-led action-movie’ like the defeat of high-powered weaponry with tea-making facilities.
Do we miss it in the finished movie? The engine grease fight, the airbound bomb disposal, the idea of The Stath playing the action-hero equivalent of a young Jeremy Clarkson... There are so many unbelievable sequences in Louis Leterrier’s Transporter trilogy as it is. Surely there would have been room for just one more wafer thin moment of implausibility?
Iron Man 2 (2010)
The trailer scene: “You complete me!” Tony Stark quips as he leaps out of a cargo plane, hot on the tail of the Iron Man helmet Pepper has just smooched and thrown. As Tony’s entrance to the newly revived Stark Expo, it’s a great character-based intro, as well as a really neat, economical recap of the new status quo following the end of the first film.
Do we miss it in the finished movie? It was a huge part of the promotional campaign, a sparky, character-driven alternate intro that would undoubtedly have improved the somewhat inconsistent final film. But like many iconic trailer shots, perhaps it might have been a little overplayed by the time the curtain went up on release day.
The trailer scene: McLovin sounds like "a Sexy Hamburger," Seth Rogen jokes in one of the trailers for Superbad. The gag never made the final film, but producers were nevertheless keen to play up Canadian actor’s involvement following his then-recent success in Knocked Up.
Do we miss it in the finished movie? We’re gonna go out on a limb here and say there are probably enough McLovin gags in the movie as it is. And besides, Rogan’s Officer Michaels has plenty of good lines as it is. Just, indeed, as there are plenty of references to what “McLovin” sounds like.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
The trailer scene: There’s an entire trailer for Terminator 2 that shows the production process of a T-800 (from separate machine components to the addition of Arnie's fleshy face) in so much industrial detail as to really, really make us want that future-war Terminator film next. You know, the proper one we've all been imagining since we first saw the first movie. Not Terminator: Salvation. Not at all that.
Do we miss it in the finished movie? This one was also filmed specifically as a promo, but yes, dammit, yes. The brief explorations of Skynet's future are some of the best, most exciting bits of the first two Terminator films, and more would definitely be better. But speaking of Terminator: Salvation...
Terminator: Salvation (2009)
The trailer scene: “This is not the future my mother told me about,” growls Christian Bale in one of a gaggle of temporal malarkey references that are scattered throughout the early trailers for Terminator: Salvation. It might be a post-apocalyptic hellhole, but it’s the wrong post-apocalyptic hellhole.
Do we miss it in the finished movie? Not really. The branching of the timelines and John's lost sense of purpose are already major themes throughout Salvation. The whole plot of the film is centred around the idea that he’s not humanity’s saviour as predicted, but rather a disrespected, mid-tier soldier in a timeline diverted from his prophesied glory days. This line was just a nice, clear way to get that across with the brevity that a trailer requires.
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
The trailer scene: In a couple of early trailers for Empire, there’s a shot where C-3PO tears a warning sign off of a door in Echo Base. The scene hints at a subplot where the Rebels used wampas infesting the base to slow down the Empire’s advance. In this cut, Wampa invasions had been a long-standing problem at the base, with containment the only way to deal with them.
Do we miss it in the finished movie? Empire is pretty much perfect as it is, and as nice as it would have been to see C-3PO take a more active role in proceedings, his being actually, deliberately useful might have been a tad out of character.
The trailer scene: Working on the basis that the only thing better than seeing a Predator on-screen is seeing a gaggle of the mandibled menaces, the trailer for 2010’s Predators ends with a money shot in which Adrien Brody’s hero is literally covered in the aliens’ iconic three-point laser targets
Do we miss it in the finished movie? Okay so the scene technically made the final cut. But we counted 15 lasers in the original trailer, and by the time the film made it to the multiplex the number of alien antagonists had been slashed to a third of that. Disappointing. We know what a mess a single Predator shoulder-cannon can make, so the perpetual threat of Brody being turned into a fine red mist would have made for an even more exciting climax.
Jack Reacher (2012)
The trailer scene: A blink-and-you’ll-miss it explosion in which an entire cliff seems to spontaneously detonate. No context, no explanation, no build-up. There’s just suddenly a cliff - possibly in a quarry - and then a big bang later, there is not a cliff. But there is a lot of rapidly tumbling rubble.
Do we miss it in the finished movie? We hadn’t even noticed it was gone. But an eagle-eyed moviegoer from New Zealand did. In fact he managed to get the studio to refund his admission fee after he complained that Paramount had cut “the defining part of the ad,” that had enticed him into the auditorium. Some people, it seems, just really like exploding cliffs.