Personally, I love movie trailers. The previews before movies at the theatre are often just as exciting to me as the movie itself. Silly? Perhaps. But I get thoroughly engulfed each of those two-minute creations, and ridiculously excited for all of the future movie prospects. Going to movies is one of my all-time favorite pastimes, not for the popcorn or snuggling up with my boyfriend, but for the big-screen taking control of my senses and transporting me into the world inside it.
The ULTIMATE thrill, other than attending an awesome movie, is experiencing those select trailers that blow my mind. These trailers I am referring to (cough, cough…Harry Potter – every single one) send shivers down my spine and give me goosebumps. Yes, real, visible goosebumps. Hopefully, you can relate because that media-induced adrenaline rush is awesome. Furthermore, I’m pretty sure I forget to blink because, when I leave the theatre and inevitably have to go to the bathroom, I look in the mirror, and my eyes are always totally bloodshot. I thought blinking was generally involuntary? Anyway, here is the trailer for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; it gives me goosebumps every time:
That being said, I greatly enjoyed watching all of the trailers for this blog post – of movies I have seen, of movies I hope to see, and of recut parodies of some of my favorite films. I actually ended up watching quite a few extra. Through analyzing them with my developing media interpretation skills, I noticed many things I had never thought twice about when previously viewing these trailers.
There are many aspects that I found to be common among the movie trailers that I watched, but there were also creative touches that were unique to individual trailers or genres. I tried to watch a few trailers from totally separate genres (such as The Man of Steel vs. Schindler’s List vs. Garden State vs. Cloverfield – all very different) to investigate whether the style/mechanics of the trailer were different. I found that the romantic comedy, Garden State, had the longest shots, Schindler’s List, historical fiction/drama, included longer shots, as well. Action films like Argo, The Man of Steel, Spiderman, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 had, by far, the fastest pacing between shots and included montages of images displayed so fast, it is unbelievable viewers can make sense of the information.
Overall, extreme long shots and establishing shots of the scenery or background were the longest. On page 2 of Film, Space, and Image, Bernard Dick wrote that this type of shot makes “the subject part of the environment in addition to conveying the vastness and awesomeness of nature.” Perhaps this is used to bring viewers into this vast other world within the film. This was especially obvious in the films with a high concentration of action. In general, shots were short, only just enough for viewers to get a sense of the emotion conveyed by the scene. Often, shots at the beginning were the longest, with establishing shots, and they increased in speed as the trailer progressed, climaxing in pace somewhere in the middle to end. The most common transition was a simple cut, but fades, including fades to black and whiteouts were also often used. A heavy emphasis on reaction shots was common in all the trailers I viewed, but there was a variety of shots used, as well – from extreme close-ups to emphasize objects to long shots to view the action.
Generally, it seems there is one soundtrack in the background consistent (but cutting and fading in and out) throughout the trailers. Other sound effects are used to emphasize what is occurring in the shot. Sometimes these effects are realistic, like the sound of speeding wind as Superman is flying in The Man of Steel, and other times they are manufactured “whoosh” and “boom” noises to get the viewers attention and emphasize movement and action.
The shortest trailer length was for The Man of Steel at 1:33, and the longest was for The Hobbit at 2:32. It seems that the average trailer length is around 2 minutes (the common range being plus or minus 30 seconds). Narration from some source outside the movie did not occur in any of the trailers, but there were many voiceovers from main characters within the movies. If type was used in the trailers, excluding actors’ names and credits, the phrases were short and added to the story in some way, often generating excitement. A perfect example of this is in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Near the end of the trailer the text reads, “The epic conclusion…to a worldwide phenomenon.” As evident in this movie, as well, the release date is usually displayed, sometimes more than once.
The recut trailers I watched were about the same length as the average normal movie trailer, sometimes about 30 seconds shorter. As all of the recut trailers I viewed were very popular, most seemed to be made by experienced people. They each had about 5 instances in which type appeared, but the phrases were short and added to the message, as the type did in real trailers I watched, like Spiderman. Only one trailer had no type – the Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince recut. The main way the trailers “told the story” was through the background music. Of course the clips included were taken out of context to create the basic theme, but the music and sound effects totally affect the mood of the trailer and the message that is received. The audio synchronization with the lips in all of the trailers was actually right on for all of the recut trailers.
The weirdest usage of sound effects was in the Lion King recut trailer. Gun shot noises were used on quite a few cuts between shots, and thunderstorm sounds, screams, and the most stereotypical “scary movie” soundtrack imaginable plays in the background throughout the majority of the trailer. In addition, this is the only trailer I viewed that had a voiceover from someone not speaking in the film. Color effects you don’t generally see in trailers were also used (although Cloverfield did use this technique). This was the lowest quality trailer, overall, although still amusing.
The Star Wars/Brokeback Mountain parody, Star Wars: The Empire Brokeback, was the recut trailer I analyzed most closely. Although the title suggests it is a recut of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, none of the clips in the trailer were actually from that movie. However, the clips used brilliantly get the message across, turning the classic science-fiction film into a gay romance between R2-D2 and C-3PO. The creator used clips from the other Star Wars films, especially Return of the Jedi, where there are rather blatant sexual insinuations between the two, when taken out of context. There is more text than used in some real trailers (6 instances), but the phrases are still short, and they emphasize and reinforce the shots, making them even funnier. For example, the trailer opens with R-2 and C-3PO walking next to each other, alone in the desert. Using fade to black transitions, “It was a friendship” appears on the screen, followed after another shot, and “that became a rebel alliance.” After more clips of the “romance” between the two, “There is a force that penetrates us” appears against the black background. The text creates connections to the film while further interpreting the clips in a sexual manner. One thing I would eliminate, on the other hand, is the subtitles used to interpret R2-D2, which, in my opinion, is overkill. The music in the background is friendly sounding and resembles the soundtrack playing in the original Brokeback Mountain trailer, which is quite fitting. Below, you can view the trailer, and see for yourself:
I look forward to creating my own recut trailer and can only hope that I might be able to give someone else goosebumps.
Trailers: Argo, The Man of Steel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II, The Hobbit, Spiderman, Schindler’s List, Cloverfield, Garden State.
Recut Trailers: Star Wars: The Empire Brokeback (science fiction converted to gay comedy), Harry Potter and the Brokeback Goblet (fantasy converted to gay drama), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince recut (fantasy converted to teen romance/drama), The Ring recut (horror converted to drama), The Lion King recut (children’s film converted to horror)