Last week, after they changed the official title (in the UK at least) from The Avengers to Avengers Assemble, the Marvel supergroup’s latest promo Hulk-smashed the record for trailer views, amassing a staggering 13.7m downloads in 24 hours. Whether that figure will equate to bums on seats come April 27, Norse Gods only know. In the meantime, though, it gives us a chance to look back on some of the smartest, funniest and most memorable film adverts to grace the multiplex.
Let’s commence with a commercial so completely conscious of it being a commercial it’d cause the cast of Community to collapse in a meta-tonic state. While the job of a trailer is to get anticpation high and tickets sold, more has arguably been written about the trailer for Jerry Seinfeld’s documentary than about the documentary itself. Kudos should also be given to that other promotional necessity; The Tagline. These included such pearls as,“If you loved Seinfeld, the same guy’s in this” and “It’s an excuse to eat candy for 81 minutes.”
No plot. All mood. Which is quite an apt description of Kubrick’s last film. What it lacks in information it more than makes up for with its pick of Chris Isaak’s ‘Baby Did A Bad Bad Thing’ as the tune. Cruise and Kidman may not have the impact they once did but if younger readers imagine Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie making a semi-porno with David Fincher, they’ll some way near to locating the impact and brouhaha that occupied the initial release of the trailer for Stanley Kubrick’s final feature. And also for younger readers “brouhaha” means “Epicamazeballsnessness”.
Completely dialogue free, the publicity for Fincher’s take on everyone’s favourite revenge rape read led some to think he’d shot the movie in Swedish. In reality, those behind the teaser were just taking a leaf out of the Kubrick school of plugging. Great song? Check. Fast cutting? Check. Big word coming at your face? Check. Want to check the film out? Checkity check, check, check.
Proving that marketing bodies have earned their pennies since well before the age of iTunes, The Marx Brothers trailers may be absent of the gloss present in today’s promos but look beyond the shoddy editing and you’ll find meta-wit (the MGM lion replaced by a growling Groucho and a silent Harpo) combined with the display of everything the audience wants in bite-sized snippets.
Standout trailers from the Brothers Coen include the The Man Who Wasn’t There (sleek, poetic), O Brother Where Art Thou (funny, colourful) and A Serious Man (inventively repetitive). But it’s the Elbow sound-tracked Burn After Reading promo that sticks out as a perfect illustration of simplicity. Away from Pitt’s dancing and Pitt being punched in the face, the minimalism works to inspired advantage by giving nothing away about a film that itself gives nothing away. “Report back to me when it makes sense”. Indeed.
The Summer of 1999 was supposed to belong to The Phantom Menace. While the “jumped up fireworks display of a toy advert” ultimately won the battle, The Matrix won the war. For every question answered, another is asked resulting in whatever film you bought a ticket for (at the time it was probably Cruel Intentions or Analyse That) you’d spend the duration of said movie thinking, “Just what the hell is The Matrix?”. Trailer purpose achieved.
While every single one of the Alien trailers have the capacity to make the most cynical Xenomorph drool acid, (yes even the Vs Predators look good in 2 minute bursts) we’d like to give a special mention to Alien: Resurrection. Another testament that a great trailer doesn’t a great film make, the ad for the fourth outing shows off Jean-Pierre Juenet’s visuals and that epic underwater sequences to great effect. It’s almost good enough to convince you it wasn’t as bad as you recall. Until you remember that hybrid. And that ending.
The use of single images is a great way to present a picture while guarding what’s inherent within and kicking off Fincher’s ‘Ode to Zuckerberg’ with a series of snapshots drilled into the collective conscious – Comment, Like, smiley faces, Add as Friend – marked The Social Network as the first adult film to tackle this brave new online world. A hauntingly appropriate version of Radiohead’s Creep by Scala just added to the angst effect.
The second Kubrick trailer to make the list and, quite frankly, it could have been more. The Shining, 2001, Full Metal Jacket, A Clockwork Orange all show off the draw of the films without falling victim to the cardinal trailer no-no of “showing the best bits”. Perhaps that’s because Kubrick films have so many best bits to offer. None more so than his greatest work making humanity chortle to the point of light-headedness at its possible demise. And like any great trailer it asks a lot of questions including, most importantly, “Where are my shorts?”.
“Here we have a quiet little motel…” Maybe it’s the jaunty music or the fact that Big Al is referred to as ‘The Fabulous Mr. Hitchcock’ but everything about this teaser for the original slasher movie reeks of class. Despite being half a century old the concept of a director wandering around his set introducing the audience to the horrors that await still hasn’t been replicated. Which is a shame because Michael Bay taking us on a tour of Transformers 4, “Then we blew this building up and then we blew this building up and then we blew this…”, might actually demonstrate how far we done fell.