Now that my snarky first thoughts are out there and done, let’s take a look at this first trailer for the upcoming DC Justice League tentpole flick. The trailer is already drawing some ire, but is that for the trailer itself or because of its association with the attached comic book properties? Check out the trailer below and let’s really delve in after the jump.
It’s SO ANGSTY!! This movie makes Romeo + Juliet look like a pair of rational adults discussing fourth quarter earnings around the watercooler. It’s so dark and gritty – almost like that ought to be the two-word moniker for the tone of the DC movies in general, particularly the ones they are doing again. #DGR
Serious breakdown time. We start with the normal BWAM BWAM we’ve come to know and love from the Dark Knight and Man of Steel’s composer. Starting at 0:10, we get seven seconds of monologue over a perfectly black screen. It has become a pretty standard way of starting at trailer and it helps set the serious tone the film.
Let’s cut to the chase. What makes this trailer interesting is the sound editing. Snippets from several different conversations are cut together in a way that makes it flow like one consecutive monologue. Particularly interesting is the overlaying of words at key moments to demonstrate the varied opinions on the otherworldly superhero. A very neat effect, it definitely lends itself to a Youtube screening rather than one in a theater seat. It seems to necessitate multiple consecutive viewings in order to understand what is being said, rather than a one-time experience in a theater shown before the content you really came to see. Only by watching it several times can you get a good grasp on the interplay of the language, which seeing it in a cineplex just doesn’t allow for. I feel like this might quietly prove to be the amongst the final straws for the death of the Cinema viewing of the trailer, and the rise to prominence of our culturally watching trailers online. We will have to wait and see.
Back to the sound editing, it gives a very nice Spoken word feel – adding cadence to an otherwise boring set of shots. The team did a great job building in the negation of the expected outcome of each sentence – “We are talking about a being/alien…” – that works to great effect. It’s an interesting concept I haven’t seen executed before and I think it works rather well here.
Two more brief thoughts before we talk about the split. The left/right mixing of the monologue is very cool. Particularly towards the end (around 0:40), they split up lines from Luther (Eisenberg) which creates an audiotory shift, again giving movement to an otherwise simple shot. Second, more of a potshot, the “False God” CG statue looks like its from Bioshock 1, and not a good way.
Now let’s look at the second trailer. This happens a lot in the modern trailer: the first minute is its own separate thing with goals and rhythms, and then there is a clear break into the second trailer for the latter minute and a half. The deliniating moment for the BvS trailer is our man Zimmer’s plinking piano score (a concept pulled from the third Dark Knight Rises trailer). The first half was a genuine teaser; the second is more of a trailer proper.
The main difference between the two halves is that the first focuses on an interesting audio mix, whereas the second relies more on the editing of footage (which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t). Suddenly we are seeing many more shots and particularly some interesting juxtapositions of them creating new “third” scenes just for the trailer. I’ll get to that in a second.
We start on a very long shot (nine seconds) of our first look at the new Bruce Wayne. Admittedly, I’m not much of an Affleck fan, so to me this shot is held on way too long. His eyes just look dead and he barely seems conscious, let alone engaged. Yet, I can see what the trailer-makers are doing – they clearly focus on revealing the new Batman they have been teasing for months. In that sense, fan-boys and girls I’m sure loved pouring over the new caped crusader in what might be his new Batcave.
And to this end, they then follow up with a great shot of the new suit – holding just about as long on it as they did on Clooney-fied Batfleck (six seconds). Say what you will about the design, this was a smart choice by the marketing team to put up this new iteration of the iconic outfit for your visual perusal.
From there we get into some shots that telegraph the film’s visual tone (Batman in the Destroyed museum), some new Bat-tech (which is remarkably explodey in this new universe), and a couple of nice pandering shots of our dearly beloved Dark Knight. Then we get into the final act of the trailer which again shows some very smart decisions from the Trailer team.
We start with the reveal of Iron Monger Batman, in a “scene” which I believe is chopped up from other scenes, or at the very least is not the climatic moment before the big battle. It looks like they took a sequence where the two talk things out, add over the lines about “Do you bleed?”, and made it seem like the ultimate showdown moment. I love recontextualized moments like this, ones that after you see the movie and come back to the trailer, realize they gave you some important information but still kept some elements from you so the scene would still be surprising and new in the theaters. Maybe I’m wrong, but I cannot wait to see where those shots actually feature in the final product.
Next we get the new Batvoice and, before you or I make any comment about how silly it is, let’s look at the function served by putting it in this trailer. Of course the composers of this trailer knew it would stir up controversy, of course Zack Snyder knew he was taking a risk making the new voice similar to but different from the Nolan/Bale creation, but that is exactly why it debuts here. Remember Bane from the Dark Knight Rises teaser? They put it out early to get feedback on it and thus make changes before the final product is put out. The masses spoke and declared Bane’s voice hard to make out, so Nolan and Co. went back to the mixing room and tweaked it to make it a bit more palatable. JJ Abrams is doing the same thing with the cross-guard lightsaber in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (trailer review pending, I promise). Smart marketers and filmmakers use trailers for these big properties to test out new ideas and bounce them against the audience to make changes before release day. It’s a smart move and one you should be on the look out for; I expect it will happen more and more in the future.
And thus we end on the logo, with the Superman symbol getting overshadowed by the Bat-signal (metaphor for cultural popularity and public opinion, mayhaps?) and the title screen. Overall, this is a very effective first trailer. Yes, we all have a lot of thoughts about the dark, gritty tone, the silly new voice, and Ben Affleck’s acting abilities.
But ultimately that is exactly what this trailer is about – it is meant to drum up as much buzz about the film as it can, while trying to garner some genuine feedback for the production team to make last minute adjustments before release. Imagine if the first trailer for the Phantom Menace had highlighted how big a role Jar Jar would have, and if there had been the system and culture of social media feedback. Think about how different the prequels might have been. I am loving the wonderful development occurring where feedback on a trailer can affect how a movie ultimately ends up. It means people are finally beginning to recognize and appreciate what a trailer can be and how to recognize good ones from bad ones.
Whether the film will be any good remains to be seen. But for me, it will be seen because this trailer is making all the right moves to get people talking about the film and drum up some buzz for the DC Cineverse. If nothing else, I’m glad it doesn’t use music from freaking Pinocchio. Seriously Marvel. So dumb.