Sunday, 6 September 2009

Cinematical: Is the Art of the Movie Trailer Lost?

Welcome to the show folks.

A recent piece at The Wrap, revealed that I'm not the only one concerned with the rapid decline in the quality of movie trailers.

As a kid I used to see movie trailers that made me want to see a movie. They were mere tastes, but they promised a buffet full of suspense, excitement, and a side order of romance. Modern movie trailers seemed obsessed with telling you everything you didn't want to know about the movie. Everything about the characters, the plot, and even the ending blown, big time.

This is even effecting film-making. I've long said that Michael Bay's directing philosophy is to make the 2.5 minute trailer look really eye-popping, but let the other 1 hour and 58 minutes take care of itself.

But enough whining about what's being done wrong. Let's take a look at a recent trailer that's been done right. Joel and Ethan Coen's A Serious Man.

Did you watch it?


Now let's talk about it.

Trailers are supposed to ask questions, and this one raises a lot of them.

Why is the lead character's wife asking for a divorce?

Who is out to get him at work?

Why are Hebrew letters etched into someone's teeth?

What's with the car accident?

Why is a man's head being bashed against a wall, by a guy who was hugging the lead in other shots, who is this guy, and what's with the hugging?

Why does the Rabbi appear to have no interest in a member of his congregation?

And a hell of a lot more.

Now while every other trailer gives you the answers, leaving pretty much nothing left, this trailer only tells you that it's going to be a Coen Bros. film. It runs a parade of the their track record, giving you no answers, but one big promise, that seeing this film to find the answers will be an entertaining cinematic adventure.

Add the crackerjack editing job that takes the bits of dialogue and sound effects and re-constructs them as an industrial music piece, and you have something that makes it, and the film it's supposed to promote, stand out from the rest.

That's the job of a really well done trailer.

What do you think about modern movie trailers?


  1. My fav trailers are the ones that pretty much give up the entire plot of the film.

    Better yet the trailers that have scenes filmed exclusively for the trailer and are not in the film.

    Oooh.... even better trailers that make you think the film is something entirely different, hoe they made Bridge to Teribithia look like a fun family fantasy film, in reality it was nothing but.

  2. Dirty Dingus Sezs:

    It was popcorn silly excitement for both and despite the corny stolen story of 'Independence Day' that first quick trailer caught your eyes every time. 'Godzilla' did it too and dang that movie sucked, but that first trailer grabbed you by the collars and demanded attention!

    Sadly, mostly B&W trailers do a better job on selling movies and its stars. Heck, many just told you that an famous actor is in it so watch it for that and not for the plot within.