Wednesday, June 11, 2008
A Preview Review
Movie trailers are so damn sneaky. You go to the theater to plop down $10 to see some movie you are at least somewhat excited to experience in the theater, hopeful at the comedic or dramatic promise of the film, and interested in investing at least 120 minutes of your time. You get your popcorn, find a seat in the rocking chairs, and wait for the movie to start. And then comes some absolutely kick-ass trailer and you are awe-struck. And pumped. And excited. For an entirely different movie than the one you just paid to watch. No longer do you care about Indy's fedora or Scarlett's cleavage, but you want badly to see how gruesome the Joker's cut smile is and why exactly Dectective Gordon took an ax to the Bat-Signal. That's the power of trailers. (If I ran a movie theater, I would seriously consider running the trailer of the movie everyone was about to see, just to get them re-amped for what they are about to see.) Maybe it is part of the human psyche that enjoys being teased and wanting what we can't currently have. But many trailers are artful and entertaining on their own, often times more so than the movies they are born from and for. And so here is a list of some remarkable trailers - for one reason or a number.
A pretty flat reinterpretation of the Man of Steel welcomed movie goers in the summer of 2006 and fans may have felt a tad disappointed both with the performances and the film after this rather remarkable and well-crafted teaser appeared a year before the film was released. The brief shots of a young Clark Kent on the family's farm, the enduring relationship with Lois Lane, and the amazingly fantastic voice over from Marlon Brando. The late Brando played Superman's late father Jor-El in the 1978 film starring Christopher Reeves. Jor-El sends his son to Earth from the dying Krypton, giving his son the marching orders used in the trailer. Not only are they beautifully written, they are perfectly delivered and provide the trailer's - and probably the movie's - best moment. Although, now thinking about it, maybe we shouldn't have been so surprised the movie was so dimensionless since best part of the trailer was, in fact, part of the original Superman film and nothing new. And Brandon Roth's performance isn't really showcased in this trailer, which was probably one of the smarter things they could have done. Although he does look exceptionally bored before he flashes back to Earth.
Two other quick things. Brando was paid $3.7 million and a percentage of the profits for his 12-days of work on the original film, ultimately getting upwards of $14 million for 10 minutes of screen time. Some extra footage shot for the Superman sequel that wasn't used in Superman II was incorporated into Superman Returns. And I know I don't have the proper perspective for this, but doesn't Lois Lane do a disservice to her gender, more so than any other woman in pop culture? She is always getting herself into trouble and the hot shot Daily Planet reporter can't even figure out that Clark Kent is Superman. That doesn't speak very well to her investigative prowess. He doesn't even wear a mask. He takes off his glasses and parts his hair on opposite sides...it's not that tough to figure out.
Another example of a film's buzz and trailer totally out-pacing the attention the film deserved on its actual merits. The audio on the video isn't fantastic, but the juxtaposition of the museum tour discussing the largest and most predatory dinosaurs just before one of their skeletons is crushed by the foot of Godzilla strikes me as pretty fantastic marketing. Especially behind its "Size Matters" tag line. Too bad the movie left much to be desired. All of Madison Square Garden teeming with impregnated eggs? We all know that was the work of Stephan Marbury or Shawn Kemp, not some Japanese monster.
Movie trailers sure have changed, even in the past 15 years. But a trailer from the 1960s is a sight to behold, oozing unintentional comedy and perhaps boredom. The trailer for Psycho is a great example. It doesn't actually show any footage. It's essentially a set walk through with the admittedly creepy Alfred Hitchcock with his curly enunciation and subtle command. Spoiler alert: Dire and horrible events took place in Norman Bates house and accompanying motel. Although the preview does pique interest with Hitchcock peaking into the closet and toilet, shuttering and closing it before the audience actually sees anything. Me thinks a similar marketing strategy would fall flat on its face today, but it apparently worked wonders in the late 50s and early 60s.
The Dark Knight
This should not be a surprise that it's here. And I can safely make the claim that the film's merit did not impact its landing on this list, mainly because no one has seen the film yet. But there is something fascinatingly awesome with this trailer. Equal amounts drama, action, and melancholy, the trailer is stronger than that of Godzilla or Superman Returns, mainly because the performances of the late Ledger and Bale are not hidden beneath a veneer of explosions and chase scenes. The trailer is grounded in the film itself and not in the superficial marketing that can be done to cover a film's huge deficiencies - see again Godzilla and Superman Returns.
Much more about The Dark Knight in the coming weeks, but I honestly could not be more excited for this film. A few more links. The trailer for Batman & Robin has to be one of the worst previews in cinematic history - it was also one of the worst films. And here is a Lego version of the first full Dark Knight trailer. Watch the real trailer first. Pretty amusing.
Quite simply, there is nothing I don't love about the trailer. The flowing music, gentle tone, the whimsical voice-over, well-explained plot, and cast of amazing characters. Pretty damn good.
Another incredible, solid piece of cinematic tease. The non-voice over works because the parallel structure of "The general who became a slave, the slave who became a gladiator, the gladiator who defied an empire" is so effective and well written. The spartan dialog intermixed in the trailer doesn't make it overly complicated or ambitious. The lines that are spoken are chilling tag lines - "At my signal unleash hell" and "Am I not merciful?!" - but what really drives the trailer's 500 levels of awesomeness is the ridiculously good score set against the striking battle scenes. The film delivered too - winning Crow a Best Actor Oscar while the film took home Best Picture.
A Clockwork Orange
A pretty good example of perspective by incongruity, with the playful music sounding like it dropped out of the Music Man, but with lyrics discussing blood while juxtaposed with indifferent Alex frolicking around clobbering people in the junk with his club. It is remarkably creepy, which shouldn't come as a surprise. It's sort of the trailer equivilent of seeing a clown with a gun.
And I have no words for either this one. Or this. No idea where they came from.
What can you add?