Feb 07 2012
by Zack Ruskin
[$9 Trailers is a feature that examines movie trailers, and judges how well (or poorly) they execute their job of making me want to shell out nine bucks to see them. I thought this one paired well with my review of Chronicle that went up earlier today]
While every movie trailer exists for one reason only, the methods employed to get viewers in theaters are as varied as the films they advertise. Some genres of film have such predictable trailer formulas that you can actually watch the scenes before they appear:
- Katherine Heigel is committed to her job
- She meets a guy that’s perfectly wrong for her
- Cue the sappy power ballad
- Heigel makes a sweeping generalization about love while standing in the rain
- Up pops the film’s title
“Stupid Stupid Love”
Other trailers are frustratingly vague (see Super 8), so desperate to hold back on details that may taint the viewing experience that you can’t actually say what the movie is about.
The true kudos are reserved for the trailers that exist somewhere in the happy medium between condescendingly formulaic and pretentiously withholding. After seeing the full trailer for Chronicle, I believe it is one such example.
Watch the Chronicle trailer and then read on!
What makes this trailer so great in my mind? Let’s look at three key strategies employed to successfully sell me on this film:
1.) Giving away a little, but not too much. The first thing I thought when I saw the Chronicle trailer was, “I want to know more”! The trailer gives just enough to spark curiosity, while still offering more questions than answers. Ok, these teenagers have powers, but how did they get them? Why do they start using these powers in more and more extreme ways? What triggers the change? Do these powers even have limitations? By tossing viewers a few bones (the bus in the sky, for one), the filmmakers avoid feeding us the juiciest ones, or at least the meatiest.
2.) Excellent pacing. Things begin with kids mischievously moving things, either through mind powers or forces unseen. Their mayhem level is on-par with typical high school caliber hyjinx, although we do sense a tone of foreboding, given that these kids can move stuff without touching it. Then things get ratcheted-up, first when a floating teddy bear frightens a young girl and then more substantially, when a pick-up truck is thrown off the road. Immediately the tone changes, culminating in the trailer giving viewers a peek into how these powers came to find our protagonists.
3.) The film’s title. Granted, the title isn’t directly tied to the movie trailer, but how many times have you watched a trailer only to hear the entire theater groan when the unconscionable, terrible title of the film is revealed. Memory a little hazy? Here are a few movies from 2011 that sunk themselves with truly tragic titles: Gnomeo & Juliet, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, and the worst title of all, Cowboys & Aliens. Remember: even if you saw C&A and like it, the theater reaction to that movie’s title was mocking laughter. Chronicle, on the other hand, is an elusive, simplistic and subtle enough title to not ruin any interest the trailer had garnered in me seeing the movie.
Will Chronicle be good? I have absolutely no idea. As I write this, it currently holds an 85% on Rotten Tomatoes. It has earned my $9 though; I will definitely be going to see it. And for a movie boasting no actors I’ve ever seen and a director/writer etc. I’m unfamiliar with, that speaks very highly to the powers an absorbing trailer can wield.
Did the trailer make a believer out of you? What trailers would you like to see covered next?
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- The Ten Best Movie Trailers of 2012