**There's a subtle art to movie trailers.
First and foremost is to be the ultimate tease - a seductive flirt that whispers: "You want me, don't you?"**
The best are enticements, showing off just enough of the goods so you can't wait to drop down your cash to feast your eyes on the real deal. The worst - well, they make you feel like you've seen the whole darned film in the time it takes to listen to a pop song.
The trailer for the Will Smith vehicle "Seven Pounds" managed to build a sense of intrigue without giving away a single significant piece of the story, a real feat.
And the trailer for "Iron Man" was just so good it's even got its own parody on "The Onion."
So what does a good trailer do? It teases, yes, but it gives the audience an idea of the flavor, the genre, the tone. It often uses images from the film itself, but sometimes tricks you with some shots or graphics created especially for it. It uses voiceovers, music, and sound to pump the images to MTV intensity.
Or it forgoes all of that and does something completely unexpected.
So what makes a good trailer?
You know the studios have their marketing geniuses on them hardcore; a trailer has been the best form of advertising to whet interest in a new film since nearly the beginning of cinema.
In fact, the name is a holdover from the fact that the "trailer" used to be shown at the end of the film - but it didn't take long to figure out that few patrons stuck around after "The End." The first was screened way back in 1913, a short documentary on the filming of "The Pleasure Seekers."
Loew's, a premiere theatre chain at the time, saw the benefit, and launched a campaign using slides of the lobby cards and other promotional materials to advertise upcoming features.
One terrific early trailer is from the 1947 version of "The Preacher's Wife," starring Loretta Young, Cary Grant, and David Niven. Not wanting to spoil the surprise regarding the true identity of Grant's character, RKO opted for a clever trailer about not making a trailer at all.
From the beginning, trailers have developed their own language and shorthand, not to mention their cliches. You can't have watched a trailer without knowing the stentorian voice of the late Don LaFontaine, the greatest of the Hollywood voiceover announcers, booming out, "In a time of..." "In a land where..."
The constant reinvention of the trailer has given filmgoers some pretty memorable images that rival the watching of the movie itself. The provocative trailer for "Lolita," with its overtone of pedophilia. The music from "2001" and the stark image of the black rectangle against the sky.
There are trailers that end up seeming better than the film they advertise - the anticipation created by the trailer for "Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace" vanished like a popped balloon after fans got a look at the actual product.
Reactions to trailers can be very personal as well, based on your previous exposure to the subject matter.
The trailer for the upcoming "Watchmen" film is a case in point, a trailer that, for me at least, managed to excite and awe. It seems picture-perfect, every element of it true to what I saw in my mind's eye reading the comic. Even knowing I've got to wait until March for its release, I'm excited and full of hope that it will satisfy.
I had a very different reaction to the trailer for "Star Trek."
It's pretty clear even from the brief amount of footage in it that J. J. Abrams has taken a big step away from the the feel of the rest of the Star Trek franchise. I'm not against reinvention of the most sacred of cows, but there was something slightly wrong about the whole exercise for me. Maybe it was the shots of Spock losing his cool...
So a trailer, the very piece of advertising calculated to get my ass in a seat upon release, has made me doubt that I'll rush out for opening night tickets. It's made me wonder if I should maybe wait for DVD.
A trailer can also misfire when it gives the audience so much of the story you may end up feeling that there's no reason to spend the money on the actual film. Or it may just turn you right off, with its subject matter or tone. It can be a double-edged sword for the marketing people. Show too little and end up misunderstood; show too much and end up giving it all away for free.
Trailers have picked up their own quirks and lore as well. A lot of trailers are released without their actual music, and borrow from other films. The theme from "Requiem For A Dream" has been borrowed multiple times, notably for "The Lordof the Rings: The Two Towers" and "The Da Vinci Code."The trailer has been a favorite part of the movie going experience for me as long as I can remember. I can still recall the excitement of seeing the first trailers for E.T., or Superman, or Raiders of the Lost Ark. They made every exciting new opening like Christmas morning.
However it's put together, though, the trailer has been a part of film history for nearly a century, and a great way to start a night at the movies.
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