The idea for my discussion on this topic stemmed from a text I got from my roommate last week to our roomie group chat:
“Guys! Black Panther trailer just came out! Check it out!”
Even at work I dropped what I was doing to sneak onto the computer and catch a glimpse of the mini-cinematic wonder, even if at a volume just above a whisper. I was so excited to see it. To listen to the score and hear the familiarity of intense drum beats rhythmically outlining each shot. Or maybe see the hero perform an impossible stunt highlighted by a gasp in the music just before he slams to the ground and continues running after the villain. Anything to catch a hint of how the movie might eventually pan out. Then again when we went to see Wonder Woman the other day, the second the Justice League trailer came on my head snapped to attention and I got goose bumps. In fact, the entire theater went silent as they drank in the first looks of DC’s newest creation.
Why are we so attentive to these trailers? It doesn’t seem like until recently, maybe in the past 8-10 years, that trailers had such an affect on me. It made me think about the evolution of trailers. Remember when every movie trailer had a cheesy baritone voice narrating the whole thing? Take the Honey I Shrunk the Kids, for instance, released in the year 1989.
Or if you fancy yourself some parody, a great reference would be the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy trailer released in 2005
These kinds of trailers are pretty much non-existent now, giving way instead to images of shock and awe. We hardly even have dialogue in most trailers, save for a few one-liners. Some of the best trailers now have hardly any words at all, and are simply backed by a hair-raising song that gets your adrenaline pumping. Take the new trailer for Baby Driver as a good example of this. In review of the trailer I have essentially no strong idea of what the movie is about because nothing is really explained, but it was entertaining as hell and it was definitely an incredible work of art.
I believe that this is due to production companies giving their audiences a bit more credit as sharp-thinking individuals. Production companies are counting on audiences to be actively engaged and use their critical thinking skills to interpret the trailer in their own way. It is allowing them to be more of an independent critic instead of a meat suit. This also allows filmmakers to be much more creative and free with their promotional material, since they don’t have to give the audience a play by play. Trailers are their own works of art more now than ever especially when it comes to editing and sound design. And just like a painting or photograph, the viewer is alone in deciding what they make of it and how they respond to it. It is also an intense shift in marketing. Production companies are putting in more money and changing filming schedules entirely in order to get their trailers out quicker to the public. They want to generate excitement and publicity earlier on and it certainly pays off because people are getting to the movie theater earlier than they used to so they can get a sneak peak at the coming attractions.
So the next time a trailer comes out that you have long anticipated, take pride in the fact that it was given to you with the hope and knowledge that you are a free thinking individual and that you can perceive, analyze, critic, promote, and of course enjoy it how ever you wish, rather than get lectured at with its content. You’re one smart cookie! Give yourself a pat on the back.