Did you ever see the movie (or read the comic) Cowboys and Aliens
? What a great title! It sets up the audience’s genre expectations to accept the conventions of both the cowboy film and
the sci-fi film. What do you think audience reception would have been if it was just called “Cowboys”? A lot of annoyed patrons, that’s what. Because the expectations of those who love westerns but hate sci-fi would have been defied.
But back to Predator
: The spaceship flyby tells the audience that this is a sci-fi story, so expect some sci-fi action.
Believe it or not, there are people that love war films but hate sci-fi. I know some of them. To them, sci-fi is cheesy, escapism for adolescent boys who can’t deal with real life, whereas war films are real life business for men (even if so-called “real life” is Rambo!). You don’t want that type of viewer settling into your movie only to be confronted halfway through by a bug-eyed monster from outer space sporting a ray-gun. As the filmmaker, you’d only be setting your movie up for a 1 star rating.
Not every viewer is going to be as embracing as you are, willing to accept whatever the filmmaker serves up.
I mean it's kind of obvious from trailers, pop culture, posters, etc.
True, these things do a lot to "position" an audience for the story (if you'll excuse my marketing-101 speak). The choice of title is also good for this. Alien
is a great title. Snakes on a Plane
is a great title. Gigli
Trailers and posters do a lot to establish genre expectations for your story, but they are remedial, an adjunct. Most storytellers who take pride in their craft want the actual story and its title (which I consider an important part of the story) to be a standalone work of its own, without all the marketing bumph that goes to with it.