Thursday, 2 July 2009

Trailer Talk

Movie Trailers. Love 'em or hate 'em they've been around longer than most of us and although the format and frequency of how we see them may have changed it is certain they are here to stay. We complain about them, look forward to them, have websites dedicated to them and now people even review them. Last week I put together a set of upcoming creepy trailer and plan on continuing to do so. We come to expect them as well. I'm flabbergasted when there is a new release out but no trailer for the film. I mean really - no trailer? None?

Trailers do put the movie buff in a bit of a sticky spot. In some ways, you do feel obligated to see them, and avoiding them can be tricky. I watched roughly 95% of the trailers for films released in 2008 to provide spoiler warnings and then decided in general the trailers shows too much. You can get a sense of the film usually in the first third of the trailer so often now I only watch that if I'm curious about a film. Otherwise, I've spent many moments in theatres this year covering my eyes and blaring my iPod during any Star Trek, Terminator Salvation and X-Men Origins: Wolverine trailers. Why? Because I'll see the film. I don't need to know anything about it. Ironically, these means I see trailers for films I'll never see over and over and over.

I think a perfect trailer gives the you a sense of the film including the tone, but doesn't tell you too much. For example, showing anything from the last 15 minutes of the film just doesn't seem right. Trailers that say 'You'll never guess...' has me instantly expecting that 'unexpected' twist from the word go. Romances with a kiss somewhere in the trailer let you know that the couple gets together, at least at some point of the film.

But, a great trailer can be a beautiful thing. IFC has recently posted their take on the 50 Greatest Trailers of All Time (thanks to Jandy at Row Three for sharing this article). It is a fascinating retrospective of trailers and was a treat to see trailers for older films that I'd never seen the trailers for like The Bishop's Wife. It also serves as a reminder that a great trailer doesn't always end up with a great film, for example the trailer for The Man Who Wasn't There shows the one and only scene I enjoyed from the film and I wasn't a fan of Watchmen but there is no denying it had one of the best trailers this year. Many of the really interesting trailers are the that break the mold like trailer for Cloverfield or The Blair Witch Project. But, when it comes down to it the faves tend to be the perfect mold of images and music but no sound like their number one pick the trailer for Alien.

Went done right they can be awesome. But its a fine line to show enough, but not too much and also not to mislead. Anyone else spend time watching a film thinking "How come they haven't shown that scene yet from the trailer?", or is it just me? What is your take on trailers?


Ryan McNeil said...

While it wasn't exactly my cup of tea, one trailer that has always stuck with me is THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA...since it's just a slightly edited version of the scene where Hathaway first interviews with Blunt & Streep.

That one scene gave a great and accurate taste of what the whole movie would be about.

Sometimes I wish studios would keep it that simple.

Bob Turnbull said...

Not surprisingly, two of my fave trailers that jump to mind are for two of my favourite films of the last decade:

"Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind"


Both had me jumping out of my seat, grinning ear to ear thinking I want to see this NOW! They also both use music amazingly well.

Bet you didn't see that first one coming, did ya? B-) What's interesting is that it's more effective as that shorter 1:30 trailer than this longer one.

Shannon the Movie Moxie said...

Oh, I don't remember the trailer for The Devil Wears Prada but that was a particularly good, and representative scene. I didn't even get to the whole showing clips thing! Like the 'featurettes' on Apple - whole other ball of wax there.

That Eternal Sunshine trailer is awesome Bob, I never saw the trailer I just ended up seeing the film on opening night as sight unseen. What a treat that film is.

I think I need to give Magnolia a second chance. I turned it off the first time. Someday I'll get to it again :)

Bob Turnbull said...

Well, "Magnolia" is certainly not a film I easily recommend. I love it, but I can see why it doesn't resonate with a lot of people. Part of why I like it so much is the technique and the craft (the way that camera moves, that thrilling opening, all the characters singing to "Wise Up", etc.), but I do love the redemption theme running throughout and that ever present possibly of hope.

It is 3 hours though...Fine by me, but it's certainly an investment.

Anonymous said...

I think movie trailers are there own art form unto themselves - they have conventions like anything else, some stick to them too ridigly, some veer too far, some get it just right. They need to be a perfect blend of image and sound. As part of my job I've spent a lot of time analysing film trailers and can spot a good one, a bad one, a manipulative one a mile off.

Interesting list though - I remember the giddy excitement I felt seeing trailers like Independence Day, Sin City and Watchmen.

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