By Chantel Delulio
Making a trailer for a movie is an art unto itself. It has to capture the tone of the film and tell enough of the plot that audiences are intrigued, but not so much that they know too much and thus lose any desire to see the thing. There’s a delicate science to it, but when that chord is struck it creates beautiful music that can make the hairs of even the most jaded moviegoer stand on edge.
Any good trailer can do that, even if there isn’t much going on in the source material. In fact, truly great, memorable trailers have been made from strictly mediocre, hum-drum films, or sometimes the trailer just sets the bar too high.
The whole advertising campaign (which relied heavily on intense viral marketing) for J.J. Abrams’ first outing into feature films duped more than a few people into the theater.
The trailer, however, is what most audiences ended up seeing. And it was an enticing trailer. It touted an avant garde, handheld camera approach. It gives us our characters, a likeable group of young New Yorkers in the midst of a going away party. Then, it gives us the raw panic and palpable terror that follows the head of the Statue of Liberty being kicked into a parked car like a stray soccer ball.
But Cloverfield failed to make any of these aspects work in feature length. The characters turned out to be unlikeable. The handheld camera gave theaters full of people motion sickness.
And constantly teasing audiences about what the monster actually looked like was just obnoxious. (Ten minutes before the end and you still won’t show us what the thing looks like? Come on.)
*Where the Wild ThingsAre
There’s a lot of indie kid magic in Where the Wild Things Are. Directed by Spike Jonze, written by Dave Eggers, soundtrack by Karen O. That’s quite the triumvirate. But you didn’t have to be an indie kid to get choked up watching the trailer to the film. It shows the mystery and beauty that comes with discovering that growing up isn’t always easy. And with the whole thing set to a stripped down version of Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up,” it’s hard not to feel your heartstrings being tugged at.
It does so in such a well-orchestrated way, starting with Max waking up in a strange but lovely world where Tony Soprano acts as a gatekeeper to grand and partially melancholy adventure. Then the montage of Max’s real life paralleling his fantasy life an all its splendor punctuated by the soundtrack’s, “You better look out for love!”
To give the movie credit, it’s okay. The emotion is far from cheap and it has truly scary moments. The slight hints at darkness that are present in all the best children’s stories. It does, however, start to get a little long in the tooth, and its focus tends to stray now and then. But it was, after all, based on a mere ten sentences and it may just be that the short form suited it better.
Watchmen ranks high due to the vast dichotomy in the greatness of its trailer and the meh-ness of the actual film. When the trailer for Watchmen came up before a midnight showing of The Dark Knight there was not a breath to be had in the entire audience because they were all securely baited.
The initial, thumping pulse of “The Beginning is the End is the Beginning” by the Smashing Pumpkins, followed by Billy Corgan’s voice snaking over the melody like the first blue licks of electricity over Jon Osterman’s arms. Then, there is the visual of Archimedes rising into the night out of the water. And then Nite Owl, Silk Spectre II, The Comedian, Ozymandias.
And then to top it all off Rorschach grating out the graphic novel’s most famous line. It was clear scenes had been lifted directly from the panels and onto the screen. It felt moody and heavy hinting at the grandiose of its story and the humanity of its characters.
And then the movie came out.
Even fans were pretty underwhelmed. Watchmen wasn’t the worst movie ever, but it was far from being a particularly good one. It got mixed reviews and was seen as a box office failure.
Somewhere in his little hidey hole Allan Moore sensed a victory for himself knowing that his work maintained its status as “unfilmable.” Zach Snyder and crew may have tried their darndest, but Watchmen failed to recreate even an iota of the breathtaking intensity of the teaser trailer.