$9 Trailers: Chronicle

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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  1. While I agree that the Chronicle trailer was better than the trailer for any Katherine Heigl romcom, I don’t like the long form trailer showcased above.

    I think it leans too heavily on the “high school” aspect of the film’s marketability, i.e. it tries too hard to appeal to high school students. The characters in the film are incredibly different than the way they’re portrayed in the trailer. Above, it seems like the standard “fifteen minutes with jerks” cookie cutter scene we get at the start of many horror, sci-fi, and other genre films.

    My favorite Chronicle trailer is the 15 second spot Hulu plays as a commercial. It has all the aspects you describe, but it doesn’t misrepresent the characters in such a way that would turn some people off. I know I wouldn’t want to spend an afternoon with the guys in that trailer, even before the trauma starts to stack up.

    Chronicle was a fantastic movie, well worth $9.

  2. Haha, god, I wish tickets were only $9 where I live. Here, they’re $12 ($13 at malls, which means $16 for Imax).

    The trailer definitely got my interest, but I don’t think it interested me enough for $12. I think if I did see in in theaters, it would be because I went to the last drive-in theater in SoCal and paid their discount price.

    I like your critique. At first, I wasn’t sure because “not revealing too much” is a pretty obvious level to judge it on, but I like how you took into consideration about the over all pacing of the trailer itself and the effort put into the name. I hope that you put as much effort into looking for more idiosyncrasies in future trailer reviews.

  3. What’s amusing about this article is that movie tickets are ~$20 in Sydney…. yeah so justifying why you should fork out $9 for a movie made me laugh

  4. “What’s amusing about this article is that movie tickets are ~$20 in Sydney…. yeah so justifying why you should fork out $9 for a movie made me laugh”

    Yep its usually around $15 in Wollongong. I lucked out though because Event Cinemas has a deal going on at the moment, it was supposed to be buy a full ticket then get a $5 ticket
    for you next movie. They just charged me $5 for one.

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