A Look at the Modern Movie Trailer

This blog regarding movie trailers is approved for appropriate audiences by Good Film Hunting and is not yet rated….

What makes a modern movie trailer? What are the ingredients to entice you to see the latest blockbuster/independent/art-house film from that studio with those actors?

Check this out. If you feel like you could fly after seeing this trailer, you are not alone.

As demonstrated by the Man of Steel, Hollywood pushes the envelope in how it promotes its coming attractions through trailers.   Whether it’s the “all powerful” editing (which can dilute the pace into a near stand-still serenity or boosting it to break-neck speeds in seconds and then back again) or a manipulative soundtrack filling your mind with inspiration and infinite possibilities, movie trailers have become an art unto themselves.

There is a growing demand for the sights and sounds of the ‘Coming Soon’ movies. The sooner we can get a glimpse of that much anticipated film, the better, and the emergence of social media as a dominating force in the everyday lives of people has definitely influenced that.  The studios have taken notice and tapped into it hoping to cash in on this growing hunger in as many different ways as possible.

But first, a quick trip down memory lane:


Did seeing Arnold Schwarzenegger in this trailer give you the same thrill it did when you saw it for the first time?  Maybe not quite, but it was ahead of its time just like the action movie it was promoting.   It’s also interesting how Hollywood recycles certain soundtracks.  I ‘hear’ the Dark Knight when I play that trailer.  This trailer would have been even bigger today than when it was released, but why?

1. Availability

Trailers with high-def picture and outstanding sound are available at your fingertips no matter where you are, with the opportunity to watch them over and over again…unlike the days when Arnold Schwarzenegger was obsessed with hunting and/or protecting John Connor.

Tapping into that hunger for a certain movie may have really kicked up a notch when comic book based movies started becoming box office blockbusters. Yes, I’m talking about fanboys (contrary to the obvious, not gender-specific). Case in point….hello, Iron Man.

I can tell you I have re-watched part of this trailer over and over to try and determine who is it that’s severely, possibly fatally, injured (other than Tony Stark) in this movie.  You really have to look hard for that single frame…or not. Ah, the magic of Youtube.

In contrast, correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure there’s not too many people replaying the trailers for movies like Silver Linings Playbook and Lincoln over and over again.

2. Soundtrack.

I can remember the first time I took note of a soundtrack playing in behind a trailer.  ‘Twas Gladiator…….

I am not as much of a fan as I was when I first heard it, but it did leave an impression. And that is the point.

Music is a big deal when it comes to tapping into emotions, and nothing sells a movie like emotion. So that’s why you’ll see the same composers over and over again but they’re so good at it. For example, the second Man of Steel trailer has a tie to Gladiator.  Lisa Gerrard, who teamed up with Hans Zimmer in the Russell Crowe movie, is now paired with Patrick Cassidy in a track called Elegy for the DC superhero flick.  It serves as the slow build and then the trailer takes off (quite literally), jumping to a track called ‘Storm’ from the movie Elizabeth: The Golden Age composed by Craig Alexander.

A common question you can find on Google these days is “What is the music behind the (insert movie) trailer?”  How do I know it is one of the most common questions? I’m one of the people who asks it.

The latest answer to that question is blasting on my IPod as I write this…  ENJOY.

It’s Snow Patrol’s – The Lightning Storm, probably my favourite right now.

What is your favourite and what is the first trailer soundtrack that lifted you out of your seat?

3. Editing.

Edit has really evolved before our very eyes over the years. Think back to the trailer for this George Lucas favourite of mine (other than Star Wars).

Does it seem a little disjointed and jarring?  Jean Marsh just doesn’t seem as scary and Val Kilmer sure doesn’t seem as much like the fallen hero he plays in the film, simply because of how it was put together.  There’s no build up to a climax, and the shots seem much more random when you compare it to modern trailers for similar fantasy movies.

4. Storytelling

We’ve talked a lot about how trailers have grown, but we haven’t talked about what they have lost in the process.  In giving in to the demand for more from movie-goers, studios have stretched out trailers in length so in lots of cases give up too much.   How many movies have you seen recently where you put together exactly what happens at the end just from seeing trailers?  Which ones?

This one gives up just a little too much for my liking…

It hints at a similar ending to the one starring Ricardo Montalban (Star Trek 2) several decades earlier with a similar name and number….…. Don’t get me wrong I eagerly await its opening day…so I guess it did its job.

The other new trend in modern trailers is “the teaser”. That’s right, trailers for trailers. The average length of a normal trailer is usually about 2 and a half minutes. A teaser trailer is usually 30 seconds to a minute. Check out this teaser for the same Star Trek movie:

What do you find intriguing and/or annoying about trailers?

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