Movie Trailers. The first glimpse at any upcoming film. The initial clue that sets up consumers and the world at large for what is to come and what to expect of a film’s plot and tone and potential impression. Trailers are help people determine whether or not they are willing to spend $10+ to sit in a dark room for anywhere from 90 minutes to 2 hours. And after watching 8 trailers for movies that will be released in theaters in the coming months, I can honestly say that yes, I am most certainly willing to shell out that kind of money for some of them. As for the three recut trailers I watched, I kinda wish they were real!
Most trailers that I watched we about 2 minutes and 30 seconds, with Here Comes the Boom being the longest and clocking in at 2 minutes and 32 seconds, and the trailer for North Sea Texas, a Belgian film, being only 2 minutes long. While shot transitions and pacing were generally split between dissolves and straight cuts, action films or those dealing with movies that had a higher energy to them had a much greater use of a fast pacing and short shots used to convey that same action and the intensity of the movie’s plot and content. This is seen especially in the trailer for Skyfall, the newest James Bond film being released on November 9 on this year. The shots could also be closer to whoever the subject is the further demonstrate the action of that film, such as fight scenes or even moments when someone is just screaming. As a small diversion from the usual transitions that can be used, having slides for a transition can still be used, though they are used sparingly, as I only saw this used in the trailer for Seven Psychopaths.
Trailers for comedies and dramas, though, tend to have longer shot lengths and a slower pacing so that viewers are able to get a better feel of what the movie is about. Life of Pi, a film directed by Ang Lee and based on an award-winning book, is a prime example of this. Instead of shot after shot after shot of things zipping by the screen, the viewer is, instead, treated to wide shots and sweeping landscapes. You can’t gage the feeling of a drama is about if you can only catch a second of a potential monologue.
Music. It’s everywhere you go and at potentially any waking moment and can dictate how you feel, how others feel, what you’re supposed to feel. This holds true especially in movie trailers. Comedies, like Seven Psychopaths and Here Comes the Boom will get some kind of tune or song that is meant to elevate the humor of that film. It will be happy and have a joking feeling about it. The same cane be said about family films. For a movie that you want to take your kids to, the trailer has to show that it will be fun and you will have a great time. Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph trailer does this very well, using Flo Rida’s song, “Good Feeling,” to convey a fun time and better portray the wild nature of the movie’s location, inside video games. Along with music, sound effects also play a big role in trailers. The company releasing the film could want to instill fear in the viewer if it for a horror film, like Sinister. Screeching violins, heartbeats, intense and harsh static. These are sounds that create tension and can make the viewer cringe if only in anticipation for what could be around the corner.
For narration, I noticed that it mainly used when there wasn’t enough talking or show of images within the trailer to fully express what the movie is about and for each trailer that it was used in, it was only done through text that was separate from scenes in the movie rather than a voice actually talking. There could be instances where it serves to further explain what is happening, but in the case of Sinister, what narration is used is done to tell why the evil spirit is bad. For Life of Pi, unless you have a background of the plot from reading the book, they serve to further the uplifting nature of the film that is already expressed in the instrumental music used. The typography used in all of the trailers was either a sans serif or serif font. While easy to read, there were only three movies that had some kind of stylized font were Iron Man 3, Sinister, and Wreck-It Ralph. Even though they were stylized, it should be noted that they were each still legible.
The recut trailers that I watched, narration was only used for one out of the three, it being a recut of the trailer for The Dark Knight. Again, like the original trailers that I spoke of before, it was only done through explanatory type instead of a voice-over. This technique was used only four times. Even though this recut did use explanatory type, I feel that it along with those for Mrs. Doubtfire and Shawshank Redemption was able to effectively showcase what the new genre or storyline is supposed to be. This was done through the use of music and sound effects that one would expect to find in a trailer or movie of the same genre, whether it be a horror, a romance, or a change of who is the hero. Because two out of the three recut trailers don’t use explanatory type, the The Dark Knight recut is the only one that has a chance to use different typography. But the maker of this one opts to use the same font that is used for the final shot in the original film. This is a sans serif font with all caps being used. The recut trailers for Mrs. Doubtfire and Shawshank Redemption both use serif fonts. As a final word, the synchronization between film clips and dialogue is taken off so that the story of the trailer is able to be changed. For example, in the Mrs. Doubtfire recut, the editing is done to take the words of Robin Williams’ character from loving to creepy and that of a lunatic.
And while we’re on the subject of Mrs. Doubtfire being made out to be creepy, take a gander and this cooky old woman. I would pay to see this movie happen!
Trailers: North Sea Texas, Wreck-It Ralph, Iron Man 3, Life of Pi, Sinister, Here Comes the Boom, Seven Psychopaths, Skyfall.