Tag Archives: review

Super-Preemptive Strike

CBS just released their first trailer for their new DC product, Supergirl.  I have some brief thoughts:

1.  This trailer is SIX minutes long.

2.  WOW that was a harsh strike for Feminism there!  “If you don’t like it, you are sexist and wrong and evil. Want to watch our show now?”  I understand what they are trying to do – get ahead of the genuine sexist nonsense guaranteed to come in wake of this release – but swinging this strongly this early compromises the trailer’s ability to market the show.  I don’t really want to watch this, for numerous reasons…and I should feel bad because of that?

3.  They kept the “it’s not an S” thing….

4.  Is this from Hallmark?  The emotional journey they try to take us on!  I’m all for a trailer being its own work of art, and for trailers telling their own stories.   But this?  This is too much – it feels pandery, trying to appeal to a presumed “Female Market” while showcasing enough action to keep male viewers interested.  It undercuts its effectiveness to all markets and further complicates the gender politics they are navigating.

5.  Despite all of my snark, I really do hope this succeeds.  I don’t care if the show lasts 20 seasons and spawns two movies, but I do want it to show Hollywood that people are willing to support content with female leads.  Happy for once to say DC is beating Marvel to the punch.



How to Sell Something we already Want

Yes, it is indeed that time.  It’s finally time to delve into the incredible marketing being done for the upcoming cultural phenomenon – Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  I’m sorry I missed the first trailer, but I think what needs to be said about that can really be explored in how it set up this second trailer.  Check out the most recent teaser below (links to the first one in text) and join me after the jump for analysis.

First, if you want to understand the emotions people have when watching these trailers – the nostalgia it taps into – just check out Matthew McConaughey in Interstellar watching it.  It’s a good illustration.

The First Teaser

Before we delve into the second trailer, let me briefly look at how the first trailer set this one up.  The joint marketing team of LucasFilms and Disney is serving up a deliciously paced scheme of buzz-building.  The first trailer, released last November, blasted onto the scene and took the world by storm.  One could hardly find a news organization on the internet that wasn’t talking about it.  But what did it do to earn such a great response?  Of course, Star Wars is a cultural phenomenon; the precedent was set by the releases of the Prequels that people would flock to anything published by the LucasFilm team.  However, the question is whether the first trailer did anything in and of itself to draw attention to the new movie or if it was purely the milieu of hype.

To that end, the first Force Awakens trailer acted as a testing ground for what I call Newness.  Like I spoke about in my Batman v Superman trailer review, smart marketing teams are realizing the potential of a feedback system where they show off changes to a pre-existing property with their trailers, and then let audience criticisms give filmmakers feedback, while also developing hype (think Bane’s voice from the Dark Knight Rises teaser).  Thus, while they can rely on a level of assumed cultural appreciation simply because of the brand, this trailer provides a test for the new directions JJ Abrams is taking the franchise, and therefore elevates itself beyond a passable first glimpse.

For the first 45 seconds, the teaser opens with New elements.  By this I mean it takes things that are familiar visually but tweaks them in way’s we’ve not seen before (a black stormtrooper, new speeder, etc).  Even after the first 45 when we get our first shot of something intimately familiar (the X-Wing), it’s in a setting in which we’ve never really seen it before. Except for the sounds and general environments, everything is fresh and very JJ Abrams-y – SPECIFICALLY so that you will know this won’t be the same kind of thing as you’ve gotten before.

Say what you will about the weird Ball Droid, the Black Stormtrooper, or the Lightsaber cross-guard – they are there precisely because you will be talking about them the next day.  This is the juicy stuff the trailer-makers know will get the buzz-mill going, with controversies and quandaries abounding.  By leading off their marketing campaign with these elements, they set the tone both that: 1) this is not going to be your father’s Star Wars (and that’s okay) and 2) that this is going to be new and exciting for all of us.  By intentionally separating their work from the previous entries in the franchise, they prime audiences for the new experience they are about to enjoy.

And to cap off their masterful work, at the minute mark they give us a glorious nostalgia trip to assure us that things are going to be good again.  The flight of the Millennium Falcon coupled with John Williams’ score and some masterful (VFX) camerawork makes for that lasting memorable moment we walk away dreaming about.  It is a wonderful “cherry on top” to a great work that grounds our expectations in the joys we’ve all experience with the original franchise, and promises a return to those glorious days.

One final note before I get to the second trailer:  notice that, during the title card, there is a three second buffer from the time “Star Wars” appears to when it opens up to reveal the new subtitle “The Force Awakens”.  Compare this to the almost instantaneous reveal of the subtitle in the second trailer.  Just an interesting bit of cutting to debut the new moniker.


The Second Teaser

A long five months passed with only small tidbits of news before finally (note the demand) we received the second teaser for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  First, I’m so glad they’ve stuck with teasers – it makes the experience all the more tantalizing.  Second, and in a fun coincidence, the second trailer dropped on my birthday!  Thanks for the gift, JJ.  I love it!

What the second trailer did is pick up where the first trailer left off.  The first teaser hit us with a baseball bat of Newness, but left us with a nice taste of nostalgia to keep the franchise connection alive.  Now with this second trailer, the marketers envelop us in a tightly wound blanket of nostalgia that subtly reminds us of the Newness.

We open on the nostalgic LucasFilm logo (not in first trailer), and fade up on a shot both alien and remarkably familiar. Many others have commented on the similarities of this shot to the one in A New Hope when Luke races his speeder across the desert to discover the remains of his home.  Couple that with the hero’s theme swelling in the background and you’ve got an opener guaranteed to grab us by the heartstrings and raise goose-flesh.  However, this great nostalgia trip comes with new elements (the downed Star Destroyer and X-wing), quietly hinting that, again, this will be New.

That’s the first 30 seconds of the teaser.  After that bomb of good-feelings, we get an interesting sequence.  Watching it the first time, it takes a moment to recognize the speaker and even then one asks “is it really him?”.  The editor of the trailer does a great job choosing shots that connect either with what Luke is saying or with what we know of him (a smart choice to trust the audience’s imagination and memory to make the connections).  Vader’s broken mask, the robotic right hand (yes this does match from Empire Strikes Back), handling a lightsaber – all these build strong visual connections to powerfully emotional moments from the original series.  The monologue takes the viewer on a journey through the entire franchise in 30 seconds, and provides a teasing last line – “you have that power too”.  Here again we find an intentional design to trigger our emotional memories through carefully planned shots and music, all the while introducing us to new and unfamiliar elements.

Going beyond the first minute, notice that as the music reaches it’s highest point, we get a soaring shot and a mighty “WooHoo!” (do you see what they are doing here?).  This is to help shift the tone and get us from happy-crying back to pure excitement.

The next 30 seconds (notice how neatly subdivided this trailer is, but how it doesn’t feel like it) gives us a fast-paced, action-packed montage of intensity that is mostly familiar things in New situations.  The Stormtroopers, TIE-Fighters, and Sith all make immediate affiliation with our knowledge of the Star Wars lore, but each is presented with some element we’ve never seen before (major firefight on the desert, space-fight inside a star destroyer, Chrome-armored TIE-Fighter Pilot).  It continues to build on our nostalgia while constantly presenting something New to us.  Capping off this section is yet another Millennium Falcon fight but this one specifically mimics the Death Star sequence from Return of the Jedi, flying through cramped corridors trying to shake a tail.  It is a powerful visual and encapsulates the tone the marketers want you to feel about this upcoming flick.

Finally, the moment you’ve all heard about, the biggest nostalgia bomb they could have possibly dropped  – the return of Han and Chewie.  This is exactly the kind of reveal we’ve come to expect and love from a good trailer (thanks mostly to Marvel).  It works well because they’ve built up the connections to the older films throughout so that this arrives not out of the blue, but as a logical endpoint of what the trailer-makers are doing here.  Personally, I hope this line is only used for the trailer – I cannot really imagine it working well in the film now that the surprise has been ruined (though I admit we do not know where “home” is yet).  Either way, it works beautifully and leaves us all on a high as we go into the title card.



The marketing teams at LucasFilm and Disney are doing a magnificent job building buzz and excitement around the upcoming seventh installment of the Star Wars saga.  Accomplishing the goal of building on nostalgia while easing us into the idea that this movie will be new and different is no easy task (cf – Jurassic World, Terminator: Genisys, Batman v Superman), but somehow this team is making all the right moves.

Who knows when the next trailer will be released?  Until it does, fans and film buffs will be pouring through these two trailers, looking for any minute detail they can use to get an idea of what the new film will be like.  Most are optimistic that this will not be another Prequel situation, but that is yet to be seen.  However, if marketing can be any indicator (and I think it can), then it would seem we are headed for something wonderfully fun and exciting this holiday season.  Thanks for reading and tune in again soon for another posting on the Art of the Trailer.

New Year Extravaganza pt. 5: The New Era Rises

Here we are:  the Final Day of the New Year Trailer Extravaganza.  Reviews from Days One through Four can be found at the following links: The Hobbit — Prometheus — The Dictator — Jack the Giant Killer.  Also, if you’d like to check out the review I did for the Teaser trailer for this film that came out in October, you can see that at the link above as well.

December 16th is a day that will go down in history as the day that hundreds of people flocked to the theaters, not to see a movie, but to see the trailer before it.  Hundreds of men, women, and teenaged fanboys waited anxiously for the lights to dim, the commercials to finish, and the previews to begin.  I imagine a great hush filling the theater at the each and every green preview screen, a profound and awe-filled silence hoping that this would be the one.  And about three trailers in, that pause would be rewarded with by far the most anticipated trailer of our generation, if not all time. Truly, this was a great day for the art form of the trailer, when people waited more anxiously for a two-minute teaser than for the two hour movie it preceded.

And so, it is with great joy and even greater trepidation, that I proudly present to you the first trailer for Christopher Nolan’s finale to his Batman Trilogy.  Please enjoy the video below and then continue on to find my analysis of it.
Without further ado, The Dark Knight Rises:

I, of course, was sitting by my computer on the 16th of December, waiting for the internet release of the first trailer for what is sure to be the cinematic event of the decade – when millions of fans line up outside theaters to watch, of all things, a Batman movie.  Since the trailer’s release, I have poured over it for countless hours trying to figure out what makes it tick and what strikes (or fails to strike) at our heartstrings.  As this is such an important trailer, I think I will break it down into two sections.  First, I will analyze the trailer as it is, solely on its own merits and see how it holds up without all the hype.  Then, I will take a look at what this trailer tells us about the coming film itself, analyzing whether or not it will live up to our very lofty expectations.  So, let’s dig into the trailer, shall we?

Trailer Review

The trailer begins with the applause that the audience is holding back, giving life to the stifled emotions of fans who are desperately trying to catch every sound and word.  Clearly the editor took a leaf out of Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End, because they go with a kid singing an otherwise harmless song while we see all hell break loose.  The National Anthem becomes the underlying level for the entirety of the trailer, illustrating the authenticity and humanity of the chaos in Gotham and the turmoil in Bruce Wayne’s inner struggle.  Accentuating the line “At the Twilight’s last gleaming” is absolutely brilliant – further fueling the fanboy debate over whether or not the Batman will survive this film.  In the end, it is a gambit that really works at creating tension in the audience’s mind and making them lean forward in their chairs to see what will happen next.

Leading off the trailer is our first look at Bane (assuming you haven’t seen any of the set leaks on the internet).  I like the quick look at him rising from the sewers – it clearly spells out for non-fans that this isn’t going to be a happy and cheerful sports film. 🙂  It sets up the tone for the film very early.  Immediately following that we get a beautifully pained monologue from Alfred (Michael Caine) grieving at his failure to due his duty to his now-past masters.  Heart-wrenching for fan and regular film-goer alike, this sort clip shows us that Bruce’s inner struggle with his role in the world of Gotham will take center stage in this film.  The editors do a fantastic job of setting up a lot of what the film is going to be about on the basic levels very early on in the trailer so that we can move on to the more specific conflicts as the video goes on.

Following a great shot of PittsburGotham and the aforementioned haunting lyric, we get our first title card at 0:29. Rising from the blackness comes the name that, four years ago, was respected by critics and unknown by the masses. Yet within that short time-span, we have come to know the name of Christopher Nolan via two smash hit phenomenons – one being the prequel to this film. The text card itself is fine, being typical Nolan fashion.  My only qualm with it is that it does not match the actual Title slide at the end, but I will get to that later.  Suffice it to say, this acts as a good separation of the first moments of the trailer and its second act.

The Rising Action, if you will, of the trailer begins with a reminder that a lot of time has passed since the capturing of the Joker. We get a changing of the guard from the “War Hero” Commissioner Gordon to an assumed peace-time police force.  Though it is a short clip, it gives the audience that sickly sweet sense of irony that the upper-ups of Gotham think that they are now in a time of Peace.  Of course, we the audience see the dramatic irony and are let in on the joke, particularly by the shot of the silhouetted man on the roof.  Again, a brilliant move by the editing team – we are drawn deeper into the zone and they continue the pattern of giving us something that goes on to set up that which follows.

At 0:40, the fanboys went nuts I am sure as we get our first audio bit from Selina Kyle, a.k.a. Catwoman.  Fans have been wondering ever since it was announced that Anne Hathaway was attached to the project whether or not Ms. Princess Diaries would fit as the seductive and independent jewelry thief, known for running circles around Batman upon occasion.  I will get into more detail about what she says later, but I can say that the way Hathaway performs in the 20 second monologue we are given is fantastic and she seduces not only Wayne but the audience further into rapture at the trailer.

Overlaying Kyle’s little speech about corporate greed, we get a very interesting divergence from the way that Batman has been done before.  If you remember back to the 1997 film Batman and Robin, you might recall a Bane who is hulk-ish and a brute with no apparent intellectual capacities what so ever.  However, it is clear that Christopher Nolan is taking the big steroid-junkie image of the Bob Kane campy Batman and throwing it out, remaining in favor of Frank Miller’s gritty realism.  From 0:45 – 1:03, we see a very interesting realization of that stylistic choice.  While there is a lot of explosions and chaos all over the place, neither Bane nor Catwoman seem to be any part of it.  Both are engaged in hauntingly calm actions – walking around corridors, putting on pearls – not things that one typically expects of supervillians.  It furthers the quiet tenseness of the trailer, allowing a natural contradiction to play in our minds.  I will say, though, that whoever thought up the line “BATten down the hatches” should be drawn and quartered for terrible punsmanship.

By FAR, my favorite part of the entire trailer comes at 1:04.  The editor does a beautiful thing:  he/she overlays the prison chanting (which so captured us back at the Teaser trailer) over top of three scenes and makes them flow beautifully.  The chanting starts as we see a massive prison break, clearly organized by Bane.  Flawlessly, the left-right motion of the camera in that shot is transitioned to one of the Football teams punter preparing to kick off the start of the game, and THEN, the motion continues further into the next shot of Bane calmly approaching one of the field entrances.  There, the camera stops and the motion of Bane walking away from the camera suddenly becomes a flashback to Bruce walking away from camera into the prison where the chanting is!  It is an amazing bit of cinematographic and editing brilliance that creates flow for the specific moment and continues the ramping of the trailer as a whole!  Absolutely amazing work!  And it ends with “Rise.”  Wow!  They work in the key word for the film perfectly, reminding us that this is both the rise and fall of Batman in Nolan’s trilogy.  Truly remarkable work in editing and proof that their is an art to this think called trailers.

Unfortunately, that great success is short lived.  The next ten seconds are entirely pointless.  1:20 – 1:30 shows us a slightly comedic scene as the punt returner for the Gotham Rogues runs the length of the field as it collapses behind him.  In short, this section is unnecessary.  It kills the flow they had going because it isn’t big and powerful to play off of the preceding build and it certainly isn’t even close to being the horror-esque “Loud to Silent” scare tactic that we have seen in both the Prometheus and Jack the Giant Killer trailers.  It disrupts the flow and, to be honest, is a bit spoilerish to me.  I would have loved to have seen that for the first time when I saw the movie.  If nothing else, that leaves Bane’s plan in the shadows which only makes me more interested.  They should have cut right to “When Gotham is ashes…” line that Bane has immediately after this section and left this shot out entirely.

And with that I am now obligated to briefly mention “The Bane Problem”.  If you didn’t catch what Bane was saying the first time around, don’t worry – neither did thousands of audience members around the globe.  I will get into this issue more later, but for nowthe line he says is this: “When Gotham is ashes, you have my permission to die.”

The remaining Third Act is a wonderfully collected montage of action and text cards.  In particular, I believe the editor found it necessary to highlight every major star in the film who hadn’t been shown yet.  Marion Cotillard gets a brief unmasking as well as Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  Hathaway and Hardy get at least one more facial each and their is of course a lot of fighting.  Overall, the pacing of the montage is great and it does a great job of pumping us up for little things.

For example, the text cards couldn’t have been better stated.  Very briefly we know when the film is coming out and that this is the “Epic Conclusion to the Dark Knight Legend“.  The phrasing gives us exactly the psych-up we need going in to the last stretch of the trailer and it simply does a good job of conveying the grandness of this film in a short time.

Another great thing we see is a progression of intensifying action as the trailer draws to a close.  Starting with a shot of Wayne talking to Miranda Tate, the montage builds each shot to a new level of motion, special effects and chaos until finally ending on the jaw-dropping first look at the Bat-plane and the crumbling skyscrapers forming the logo.

Before I hit the final seconds, I want to speak about the music.  Going back to the beginning, I love how the editors play off of the pregnant silence that undoubtedly filled each theater when it starts.  They recognized this coming atmosphere and use that to their advantage.  Overall the trailer is very quiet, playing on that awe-filled pause and drawing the audience further into that moment.  The little music that is there is very percussive, driving the trailer and our heart-rates to higher and higher echelons.  The patented Hans Zimmer slow-rising note gives the second act trailer the structure and ramping that it needs.  And, of course, the pounding chant drives the final montage into an emotional fever pitch, which allows the theme at the end to pop the silent bubble in the theater and permits the audience to go mad with cheering and applause.  As a whole the music is quiet and inviting, drawing the audience in beautifully to the environment of the trailer.

The montage ends with a burning white screen that screams visually at the audience, just as Hans Zimmer’s theme is doing auditorily.  Wonderfully juxtaposing the previous film’s white text on black screen title sequence, The Dark Knight rises boldly out of the ivory perfection in stark blackness, followed shortly by that ever important modifying verb, as the theme swells to its climax and our goosebumps reach their most heartstopping peak.  It is a beautifully orchestrated moment that packs every bit of the punch that the editors built into it.

With a few powerful thrusts of the score and one final haunting reminder that “The Legend Ends…”, we come to the conclusion of one of the greatest trailers I have ever seen.  It is compelling and wonderfully layered so that each moment builds upon the next.  Other than the one shot mentioned, nothing is given away so that I feel cheated of any reason to see the film at all.  We are perfectly teased into wanting to see this movie in the best IMAX image possible on opening night with sold-out crowds.  The marketing team at Legendary Pictures can be very proud to know that they made a fantastically successful first trailer and have fans eager for the next one.  The Dark Knight Rises is off to a great start, thanks to this absolutely incredible trailer.

Overall Rating:  5//5

Now that we have picked apart this magnificent trailer, I’d like to briefly turn to some of the questions and thoughts this trailer brings up about the coming film:

Film Expectations

Overall, I would say this trailer did nothing but excite me about what is to come in The Dark Knight Rises.  However, I do have a few questions that this trailer failed to answer and so I bring them up here.

First and foremost in my mind, this trailer does a great job of jumping the gap from the ending of The Dark Knight.  As I recall from the end of that film, Batman was on the run from every Gotham City Official because of his taking the blame for Harvey Dent’s death.  The trailer for the sequel doesn’t show us much of what happened in between then and now so I am left with several big questions to bridge the gap.  I was shocked to learn from IMDB that this film is set a full eight years after the events of the previous film.  What does that mean for Batman, for Gotham, and more importantly for Bruce Wayne?

Obviously, the big unanswered elephant in the room is this:  what happened to the Joker?  As Heath Ledger will be unable to reprise his role in Rises, fans have been speculating for three years now as to what happened to the insane arch-nemesis of our Batwinged hero.  Unfortunately, this trailer does nothing to give us any clues as to the solution to that mystery.  The trailer does state that Gotham is no longer in a state of war as it was in the time of the Joker, which does hint that perhaps they have removed him from the equation in some manner.  However, what end (temporary or otherwise) the Crown Prince of Crime came to will have to be left until, I suspect, the film releases this summer.

Another big concern has cropped up about The Dark Knight Rises as a direct result of this very trailer.  I mentioned earlier that audiences complained about having difficulty understanding Bane’s lines through his heavy respirator device.  Labeled “The Bane Problem” by several news media outlets already, the internet has become a firestorm of memes and discussions about the addition of another oddly mangled voice joining Christian Bale’s world famous growling Batman.  News stories have cropped up saying Nolan and Co. are looking into cleaning up the villian’s audio track for the final release of the film, but most thus far have been false.  Personally, I understood what he was saying after only a second viewing.  I think most audience members will be able to adapt and learn to listen properly to Bane just as they do with people who speak with foreign accents.  However, some movie-goers and WB Executives are still worried about this issue, so we will see how it gets addressed over the coming months.

One final concern I know I share with some fans is that The Dark Knight Rises might be overbooked with storylines for it to be successful.  I am not alone in my fear that this could turn out in a manner like Spiderman 3, which is generally held as a train-wreck of a movie because it tried to do to much.  The comparisons are startlingly similar:  A hero struggles with personal identity as well as his moral responsibility to society, all the while fighting not one but two supervillians and trying to protect the people he loves.  Luckily, this trailer shows a great balance of each of these elements which gives me hope that this film will not fall into the same pit at it’s web-slinging predecessor.  If nothing else, I can have hope because I know that Christopher Nolan is far too tactful to allow Bruce Wayne to meltdown into an angsty jerkwagon who Saturday Night Fever-struts around Gotham. 🙂

My last comment about the first trailer for this film is that they reveal an interesting plot point that I don’t think any fan expected.  Selina Kyle’s monologue to Bruce during the ball is oddly reminiscent of our current economic issues and political activism.  I practically expected a shot of the “Occupy Gotham” movement during the final montage series, particularly because it was rumored that they were going to film at Occupy Wall Street a few months ago (though that never ended up happening).  Still the uber-political motivations of Catwoman to bring down the “1%” is very intriguing, and I know I, for one, am looking forward to seeing how that element plays out in the chaotic world of Gotham.


Well!  This has by far been my largest review here on Art of the Trailer and it is a beautifully fitting end to the New Year Trailer Extravaganza.  If you missed any of the previous four days of the review blitz, I’d love it if you’d check those out at the following links: The Hobbit — Prometheus — The Dictator — Jack the Giant Killer.

It has been absolutely wonderful sharing all of this with you and I can’t imagine a better way to kick off the 2012 blogging season than with five great trailers to review and the promise of many more to come.  Thank you from the bottom of my hear for sticking around for all five days and for all of the great feedback you have given on the posts thus far.  I would absolutely love to hear what you think of this trailer for The Dark Knight Rises in the comments below, particularly your thoughts on the semi-political nature given off by the trailer or “The Bane Problem”.  And what do you think happened to our good friend Smiley?  Leave your thoughts in the comments below and I will be sure to reply to any and all of them.

I honestly can’t tell you what is coming next for Art of the Trailer other than to say that it will be the same Bat-time (Noon on Friday) and the same Bat-channel next week.  I will be announcing what trailer I will be reviewing on Tuesday’s post over on the Soontobeangel blog, so be sure to tune in for that.  Again, thank you so much for your support, let me know what you think of this review, and I will see you all next Friday for another look at the Art of the Trailer.  Bye!

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New Year Extravaganza pt. 4: Obvious Self-Referencing Joke

Hello and welcome to Day 4 of the New Year Trailer Extravaganza!  As always, if you missed the first three trailers, you can check those reviews out at the following links:  The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey — Prometheus — The Dictator.

Today we move on to a trailer that I still don’t really know what to do with.  I caught this trailer first on the internet and then just before Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, and on neither occasion did I understand why they were selling it so epically.  There has to be some editor or producer somewhere who gets the irony that this will be anything BUT a “giant killer” with such a huge line up next year as The Hobbit, Prometheus, Dark Knight Rises, Avengers, etc.  It will fall to the bottom of the pack as just another high-budget flop, or so I think.  Anyway, without any more of my personal thoughts on it’s potential financial success, here is the first trailer for Jack the Giant Killer.

Obviously this is not your momma’s fairytale….because it really isn’t anyone’s fairytale…..
This movie is clearly following in the recent financially successful series of films reimagining children’s stories as dark, serious, “adult” tales (See Alice in Wonderland, Snow White & the Huntsman, Red Riding Hood).  I don’t know about you but this trend really bothers me because it isn’t about doing what is best for the story or telling it well.  It is a business move and it bastardizes perfectly good plots for the sake of profit. Sorry, minor rant there.  Let’s get off of that and look at the trailer itself.

What this trailer struggles with is a two-fold problem.  First and foremost, it doesn’t know what kind of movie it is promoting.  We see elements of a horror film, an action/adventure epic, and a young adult comedy all wrapped up in one.  I can only imagine that that spells out in the film itself, but again I will try to stick to the trailer.  The score doesn’t help define it at all – blending of intense action themes with sort of sci-fi/psychological “whomm” sound and romp of an 80’s pop song (seriously, 10 pts to whoever remembers the 80’s/90’s song this sounds like).

Even the way the trailer opens up spells trouble for it’s stylings!  The opening lines are really overdone, both in performance and in edited cut.  It is like it is saying “BELIEVE ME!!! PLEASE!!!” which is never the way you want to start off your marketing teaser.

The second major problem this trailer has pacing.  Put simply, they never let anything build up to that engaging, amazing level that psychs the audience up for the film.  It has a great ramp during the first 40 seconds, building the tension and intrigue of what is going to happen.  Then, for some reason, they kill all the momentum with a meow and a silly, comedic “What?” followed by an intensely crazy action piece.  And at 0:53, as if to cover up that terrible lapse in building excitement, they blare the theme at us with quick flashes of footage and text.  It is like they didn’t see that entire middle section and tried to pick up the momentum where they left off.  Over all this is the worst flow in a trailer I have seen thus far, and it really stifles any interest I have in seeing this film.

The editing is sub-par, there is bad dialogue editing when the king talks, and why is the Princess there!?  Worst of all, the major point to the whole film (that the princess gets trapped in Jack’s house as it rises into the sky) is COMPLETELY UNEXPLAINED!!!  We don’t see the connection between Jack and the Princess in any way.  How did she end up in his house?  How did the knights know that she had been in his house?  There is something to be said for not giving too much away, but according to this trailer I am supposed to be interested in a film that doesn’t make sense.  At least give me some clue as to how this whole thing gets started and then I will be intrigued enough to come see how it draws to a conclusion.

One positive I can say for the trailer is that I really like the choice to go quiet twice (though I don’t really like it where it is).  Around the 1:00 mark, it goes from loud to quiet and then, at 1:07, I like the choice to go silent there.  It doesn’t fit with the trailer at all but it is a cool stylistic choice in its own right.

Overall, the trailer just tries too hard to convey the epicness (the “Giantness” if you will) of the film to the audience. Every aspect of the minute and a half teaser is either over or under done, doing a really terrible job of selling me this film.  I would compare it even to 2012 – a film that I would only see for a laugh at how serious they take it.  The pacing is terrible and I don’t think the filmmakers even know what kind of film they made, which really shows in the trailer. Not the way you want to start your marketing campaign at all.

And one more thing:  please don’t EVER do a title slide like that!  It looks like it is straight out of Land of the Lost, which we all know was such a wonderfully successful film (sarcasm). Just because you have After Effects doesn’t mean you have to use it.  Please!

Overall Rating:  1//5

Well, I had gotten three trailers into 2012’s season of reviews before I had to hit on a bad one.  It felt kind of good to rip into a teaser like that, so be on the look out for this sort of thing more often.  What did you think of the trailer? Did it strike you as a film you were pumped up to see or did you think it just looked silly?  And did the pacing of it bother you as much as it did me?  Let me know what you think in the comments below!  And in case you missed the three previous installments of the New Year Trailer Extravaganza, check out my trailer reviews for The Hobbit, Prometheus, and The Dictator.

Tomorrow is the day you have been waiting for.  The Big One.  The Most Exciting Trailer to ever hit the net.  The most anticipated movie of our generation and what is sure to be one of the biggest blockbuster films of all time.  Never before has hype been so big for such a film – a superhero film no less!  That’s right!  Tomorrow I unveil my review of the first trailer for that long awaited return of Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale:

The Dark Knight Rises

So, please join me tomorrow at Noon, here on Art of the Trailer for the biggest trailer review I have ever done! Thanks, God bless, and I will see you all tomorrow!

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New Year Extravaganza pt. 3: The Phallic Joke

Hello and welcome to Day 3 of the New Year Trailer Extravaganza!  If you missed day’s 1 and 2, be sure to check out my reviews of the trailers for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and Prometheus.  Today, I turn to a film that scares me – and not it the manner that Alien, Halloween, or My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic scare me.  More like the “This film could potentially insight tensions with foreign countries, an oil crisis, and maybe even a World War” kinda scare. Of course I am talking about the upcoming and controversial (at least in my mind) Sacha Baron Cohen flick:  The Dictator.

In trying to figure out what to say about this trailer, I first spent a lot of time trying to figure out how best to phrase the title of this post.  Very clearly one can see that Cohen’s fictious dictator is a bit of a….well, a jerk and I wanted to make a rather obvious joke here about what kind of character he is but, in the end, thought better of it.  Then I thought about all of the overplayed sexism against women which is VERY obvious in the trailer and thought it better justified the joke.  However, I hope this slightly more academic phrasing will be acceptable under the circumstances and I offer up THIS as an alternative punchline which you may prefer.

Now, moving on to the actual analysis of the trailer, let me say that I really like the style they chose for it.  It is perfectly reminiscent of the trailers for Cohen’s previous films and mixes in some of the modern comedy trailer pacing (see The Other Guys, Goon, and The Lorax).  Ultimately it builds well, shares only a few of the jokes, and makes me very interested in seeing exactly how far they are going to push the line.

The beginning is really brilliant.  I watched the trailer on Youtube before I saw Sherlock Holmes 2 and so I enjoyed watching my family’s reactions to the start of the trailer.  Honestly, this could be the start to Iron Man or some modern war film, yet it gives you just enough clues to expect the comedic twist at 0:30.  The editing of the live press coverage is brilliant and it plays beautifully into the punchline.

Music was perfectly chosen to accentuate the cultural humor about to take place as well as the larger-than-life character that Sacha Baron Cohen always provides.  I also like the title slides, cleverly blending a fictional nation’s flag into the necessary expository sequences.  They did a really good job of selling exactly what kind of film it is going to be while not being over-the-top for over-the-top.

At 0:45, we get our first glance at the now standard style of humor from Cohen.  Clearly the jokes degrading women will be back but what I am most worried about is the group of people this film challenges.  While I know that this film won’t cause World War 3, I am worried that Cohen and Co. might be pushing the line into territory that is unacceptable. Stereotyping another nation to reveal the racism and ignorance of America people is one thing; bastardizing a sexual orientation and using it to show the extremes of the debate over it is another.  But to poke fun at the life-styles of people who aren’t well known for taking jokes well?  Suffice to say, I am very curious to see what overseas box office sales will be for this clearly controversial film.

Finally, I definitely have to give major props to whoever wrote that scene before the title!  Not only do they make fun of the over-sexualization of Megan Fox post-Transformers, they get a shot in at Kim Kardashian which is always good in my book. 🙂  Also, great joke at the end with the race pistol.  I particularly love the look of astonishment on Cohen’s face when he (surprise!) wins the race!  So funny!

Honestly, I think this film is going to be really fun.  It is going to be uncomfortable in places, be racist and sexist throughout, but in the end I think it will do exactly what Cohen’s other films did: be a fun, ridiculous, roundabout way of revealing a few important truths.  Give it a try and I think you’ll enjoy, if nothing else, Sacha Baron Cohen’s antics. The trailer sells the film very well and I think it will be one of the best comedies of 2012.

Overall Rating:  5//5

Yup!  There you go.  What do you think of Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest attempt to tick off the world?  Do you think it is as potentially incendiary as I do or do you think that this is just another entry in the annals of awkward comedy? Please leave me your thoughts in the comments below – I’d love to see what you think.

Another one bites the dust and we are over halfway through the New Year Trailer Extravaganza!  Again if you haven’t already, check out my reviews of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and Prometheus here on Art of the Trailer. Tomorrow, at noon as always, come on back here for Part Four of the trailer review shmorgishborg!  I will be turning my attention to a film that I had no knowledge of until just a month ago – a film that seems to exude that modern writing style and….an extreme sense of irony.  To see what I mean, check back tomorrow for my review of the first trailer for Jack The Giant Killer.

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New Year Extravaganza pt. 2: Pro-spective!

Welcome back to day 2 of the New Year Trailer Extravaganza!  In case you missed it, be sure to check out yesterday’s first entry with my trailer review of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Today we move into an equally epic film of an entirely different genre.  The internet lit up at the announcement that Ridley Scott was returning to the amazing franchise that he started, going back to the beginning and explaining the backstory of his groundbreaking film, Alien.  Then the story broke in early January that this film might not be a prequel to the Alien series – that it might be entirely it’s own story. While that put off some fans, I think in the long run it will be much better for the film, allowing it to expand out in it’s own ways.
Anyway, without further ado please enjoy the first trailer for the sci-fi thriller, Prometheus.

I really enjoyed how Apple.com/trailers did the exclusive release of this trailer, giving teasers for it each day leading up to its revealing.  Building hype for a marketing campaign is a brilliant move and I really enjoyed that.  As is abundantly clear in this trailer, this is the return of the modern master of the thriller and the editors made sure we knew that.

The trailer is really strong for the first three quarters, but then has an oddly tacked on part at the end.  The break is at 0:52 and I want to get into both parts separately, because I am not sure how well it works in conjunction.  So, first I will analyze the first part of the trailer (up to the title screen), then turn to look at that short little section, and finally I will end on a critique of the trailer as a whole unit.

I LOVE the first part of the trailer.  Most importantly, I absolutely love the stylistic choice to have the title grow over top of the movie footage!  No joke, I watched the trailer the first time and got fixated on the developing title graphics, and then went back and watched it again for the footage behind it.  That is exactly what you want your audience doing when they watch your trailer: enjoying what they see and wanted to go back and see more.  That was an absolutely amazing marketing choice!

The whole thing reminds me of the tight, claustrophobic style of Ridley Scott’s original Alien.  Seriously, compare the trailer you just watched to this 1979 teaser for that film and tell me they aren’t completely similar in pacing, build-up and style.  You can see that Scott wants to make clear that this film is really trying to get back to what the franchise is at heart (no matter how connected it actually is to the trilogy).  And that is exactly what the intensely minimalistic music and the hauntingly vague footage does, building up to a chilling, silent title screen that just begs for the scream to break it. While the action looks very similar to the more modern AVP style, Prometheus very clearly will be a scary as the original Alien always was.

Now, if the trailer had ended there, I would have called this a great homage to Ridley Scott’s start and a beautiful enticement to what I am sure will be a terrifying film.  However it keeps going…which is very odd.  However, let’s look at this odd addition and see if we understand it a bit better.

Starting at 0:52, we enter the second phase of the trailer.  This part particularly surprised me mostly because of its placement as an awkward 4th act, which doesn’t fit the flow of the trailer.  Another reason it seems odd is that it showcases the film like something that Ridley Scott did NOT direct – Aliens.  The huge landscapes and intense action sequence, though brief, seems more like James Cameron’s more action/adventure sequel than what the rest of the trailer sells it as.  Yes, there is a bit of that in the footage before, but by far this last 10 second punch-to-the-face just doesn’t fit in with the whole.  However, I will give the marketing team props for coming up with a very nice tagline though – “They went looking for our beginning. What they found could be our End.”  SICK!

Overall I would call this a good trailer.  The majority of it really sells a hauntingly terrifying film that I know I will be looking forward to all year.  However, the editors really just messed up a great thing by trying to tack on that extra little bit at the end.  While I still think it cool in its own right, I wish they had saved that for trailer #2 because that is the difference between this trailer being spectacular and being just good.  Still, I totally plan on catching this flick in theaters as soon as it comes out in June, so a hearty good job to the marketing team for this trailer.

Overall Rating:  4//5

Well, there you go!  I am really curious whether you were as bothered by that last ten seconds as I was.  Leave your thoughts in the comments below.  Also, let me know what you thought of the similarities between this trailer and the 1979 one for Alien.  I thought it was absolutely amazing and a great homage to Scott’s previous masterpiece.

Anyway, thanks for stopping by again for the second part of the New Year Trailer Extravaganza.  In case you missed it, make sure you check out yesterday’s review of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  Also, please come on back by tomorrow (same Bat-time, same Bat-channel) for the third installment of my week long trailer review-fest.  Tomorrow, I will be tackling another big trailer – one that might not have been anticipated and hyped as the previous two, but one that is just as…explosive.  So, please join me tomorrow here on Art of the Trailer for my review for the first trailer for The Dictator.

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The Men are Back!

Well it is that time again, folks!  Another quandary into the art form that is a 2 minute trailer.  It markets and sells the picture, but it also has a style and a form which I find just as interesting as many movies themselves!  This week I turn to something that was a blast from the past.  I remember watching movies 1 & 2 as a kid and really enjoying them, so to see that the series was coming back was a happy surprise.  So, without further ado, please enjoy the Men in Black 3 trailer and then keep scrolling for my analysis.

As GLaDOS says, it has been a long time. 🙂  I have distinct memories of watching this with my friend Isaiah in the basement of his old house and laughing so hard at the witty banter between Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones.  I also remember being really creeped out by the “Bug Man”.  Anyway, I really enjoyed the first two movies and seeing this trailer brought back a lot of the good memories.

The first 5 seconds of this trailer are SPECTACULAR!!!  Without need of obvious name dropping or anything more than a simple question, the audience can all feel the anticipation of what is to come (the logo all decked out also certainly helped).  After that we get what is know as “Fan Service” – deliberately marketed images and dialogue designed to tickle the outsider’s fancy enough to stay interested while giving the fan boys & girls what they have been waiting for. Lots of cool flashback shots to stuff from the previous films remind us of how good those were and get us excited for this coming one.

About 0:19, we get a shift into the new stuff and it looks pretty cool.  The new werewolf-looking bad guy and the graffiti alien, along with some NEW witty dialogue from Smith, all work to assure audiences that this third installment still has the style of the previous two but that it will be kicking it up a notch from there.

Then at 0:38, we start to get into the actual story arc of the movie.  What really works for this trailer (as I have been over many times already) is the blending of the old style with some new tricks.  I could honestly see this film having come out right after #2, yet the storyline does go to a whole new level, showing how long they have taken to craft it. The “Secrets of the Universe and nothing more” line really solidifies that union.  I think the premise given there is really spectacular and I look forward to seeing how far they let that go.

After that it gets a bit weird – but really that is on purpose.  Will Smith walks into his own offices with no apparent time change and then gets a clearly different answer than he was expecting to here.  This scene seems really odd just because at this point we have no idea where we are in time.  Last time I checked, Agent K was alive and now he is dead?  This is the brilliant design of the editor, showing us that MIB3 will be crossing the boundaries of Time.  We get a clear mental preview of where the film is headed by a simple editing trick 🙂

Best of all, the trailer climaxes on a really strong note.  The “Time Jump” joke clarification probably wasn’t needed but it gets us the necessary setup.  Anyway, Smith leaps off of the Empire State Building and we cut to a great POV shot as he falls towards the NYC pavement.  What works so well is the ramping music and the fact that, as he gets closer to the ground, we don’t really know whether he will pull out of it or not.  He just keeps getting closer and closer until CAMERA TILT onto an entirely different plain where the title slide is!!!  Holy Mackerel, that was sick!  You get some brief sense of vertigo followed by a visual metaphor saying, “This film is going to mess with your head!”  Really awesome stuff!

Finishing it off, playing up the theme really punches in how well this finale will cap off the MIB Trilogy in a magnificent way. The final scene we get with future J on past K’s desk gives me hope that the new actor will do at least decently and mostly acts as the “How will this work out?” hook needed to get the fan base buzzing about it again.  They had a great trailer prior, but this just stirs the pot a bit more, which is exactly what they are looking for.

Overall, I thought it was a great trailer that really got me pumped for the revival of a childhood favorite.  Whether all this hype will transfer into the film itself is yet to be seen, but I know that the marketing team can rest easy knowing they put out one heck of a trailer.

Final Rating:  5//5

Yup!  There you go!  If you can’t tell, I am excited 🙂  I really think this film is going to turn out well, and if the trailer has anything to say about that (and I think it does), then I don’t think I have much to worry about.  If you think I am full of it and have been zapped by their little Neuralyzer, let me know in the comments below.


I wanted to take some time to say thank you.  This year has been great and I really appreciate you taking time to read my analyses of the art form that is a Trailer.  It has meant a lot to me over this year to see the viewer count rise and know that it all comes from people like you spreading the word and getting your friends to check it out.  So, from my heart to yours, my deepest thanks and a warm wish that you have a Happy Holiday season this year.

That being said, let me tell you what I am planning for next year!  Like most of you I assume, I will be taking a Christmas break from my work and thus this will be the last post of 2011.  However, don’t fret as I have big plans to kick off my second year as a blogger and critic.

As we kick off 2012, check back for my WEEK-LONG NEW YEAR TRAILER EXTRAVAGANZA!  On January 2nd, I will unveil my review of the brand-spanking new Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey trailer!  Following that, each weekday for the first week of the new year, one new trailer review will go up on the blog at noon.  Trailer season is in full swing and I have every intention of being on top of it, so stay tuned for a week chock full of great reviews for some very big trailers!

Again thank you for a fabulous year and I look forward to seeing you all in January.
Merry Christmas and God Bless!

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