The Joys Of A Good Movie Trailer

I had been thinking about writing a post about movie trailers for a week or so, when I saw this post on NPR‘s pop culture blog, Monkey See. Let me just say that Monkey See is a great blog. If you’re every feeling frustrated that I never seem to post new things here, check out that blog and see how the professionals do it.

Some movie trailers are bad. Some movie trailers compile all the good bits of a movie into 90 seconds to lure you to the theater to be disappointed for 90 minutes (or more). But some movie trailers are good. Some movie trailers are great.

The Social Network: Good use of dialogue

One of my favorite movie trailers of recent years has to be The Social Network. Sure, when I first saw this trailer, I was skeptical. But that was more because I didn’t know yet that Aaron Sorkin had written the script. First off, this movie is great. It’s beautifully shot and the dialogue is smart and snappy. But what makes the trailer great is that a) there’s no obnoxious voiceover, b) the pacing builds up speed and thus tension as you go through the trailer, c) the music – the music starts out being the main thing you’re focusing on. You’re listening to the lyrics and they provide an interesting commentary on the Facebook phenomenon. And then after we stop just looking at close ups of people’s profiles we start focusing on the dialogue and the action. It gets to the point where you’re not even noticing the music anymore, but actually it’s building just like the pacing. It all supports itself so well. And it was this trailer that made me think I might want to see this movie, despite me being skeptical about the premise of a Facebook movie.

Hanna: An excellent action example

Another example of a trailer that uses good music (by the way) is the trailer for Hanna. This is a great action trailer. It makes you feel bad ass just watching it. And it applies similar tactics of using the music to reinforce the pacing as The Social Network trailer.

Where The Wild Things Are: Good use of no dialogue

And sometimes, sometimes trailers eclipse the actual movies in terms of greatness. My favorite example – Where The Wild Things Are. Where The Wild Things Are was an interesting movie. But it faced a difficult challenge of stretching a 20-page kids book into a feature-length film, and it didn’t really pull it off perfectly. But the trailer. The trailer is the perfect encapsulation of the book. It’s exciting. It’s sad. It makes you think about the magic of childhood. Sometimes when I need a small boost of inspiration, I watch this trailer. The music is perfect. The text is perfect. The lack of dialogue makes the images more powerful. If you need an example of how they could have done this trailer wrong, check out the second trailer. Too much dialogue and explaining a trailer can definitely kill the magic.

And unrelatedly…

Music videos. Sometimes music videos can add a whole new layer to a song that does more than just add a visual element. This music video for “Somebody I Used To Know” by Gotye emphasizes certain emotional undertones at specific moments beautifully. The music video itself is a clean concept – not cluttered with multiple locations and outfits. It’s a complicated concept that is impressive in terms of what it took to pull off. When I listen to this song, I picture this music video. Somehow this seems like a sort of related concept to me. Music plus visuals equals a happy awesome 2 to 3 minutes.

Definitely share any favorite trailers of yours. I love trailers. If I get to a movie before it starts but I miss the trailers, I think about going home and trying to make it to a later showing. I’m almost serious.

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