Tarantino v. Kubrick

Chris Croft

Film, Form and Context



Tarantino v. Kubrick


            The creation of movie trailers is an art form that has been studied and critiqued almost as much as movies themselves. Like films, the art form has evolved over the years in many ways, to appeal to the ever-changing tastes of the audience, to better utilize new technology, and to of course maximize opening weekend box office. Major aspects of modern trailers include the amount of plot information that is actually communicated to the audience, the editing rate (measured in cuts per minute), and a clear indication of the genre of the film. It’s interesting to note how different directors approach the creation of trailers for their films. Consider two of the greatest directors the film industry has ever seen: Quentin Tarantino and Stanley Kubrick. Each of them has a very distinctive style of film making, and so naturally, they have different approaches to their trailers as well. While Tarantino utilizes a more normative approach to his trailers, Kubrick has found success in using highly creative and often outlandish previews.


Over the past several decades film trailers have been edited at faster and faster rates, shifting from an average of 16 shots per minute in the 50’s to almost 40 cuts per minute since the 90’s. Part of this is a function of the times – a reflection of the fact that editing is simply easier today with computer software than it was in the 50’s when film had to be cut and spliced manually. Another contributing factor could be modern taste, the faster cuts providing a greater sense of thrill and are simply more attention grabbing. Whatever the motivation behind the upward trend, Kubrick is without doubt one of the fastest editing directors of them all. That isn’t to say Tarantino doesn’t buy into this modern convention, his 1992 classic Reservoir Dogs had more than 50 cuts in the 1:30 trailer, which in the early 90’s was still pretty quick. Kubrick though, seems to treat his trailers as works of modern art, considering his 1964 film Dr. Strangelove contained well over 100 cuts per minute. This was certainly a stylistic choice, and was done intentionally to create a memorable and unique trailer that people would remember (clearly it worked).


            A major component of contemporary movie trailers is the music and sounds both diegetic and non. These sounds set the mood of the trailer, and in turn, the films – or at least how the audience perceives the film based off of the preview.  Tarantino is famous for his use of popular and tasteful music in his films’ soundtracks, and his trailers often reflect this. Take for example Pulp Fiction, which uses several very popular songs in the trailer including “Misirlou”, the famous surf rock track by Dick Dale, “Surf Rider” by The Lively Ones, and Al Green’s classic “Lets Stay Together”. Kubrick on the other hand, is more likely to use an epic classical piece in his trailer; like his use of Tchaikovsky’s “Overture of 1812” in his trailer for Clockwork Orange.


            Finally, one of the more recent conventions of movie trailers is the idea of disseminating as much plot information as possible in the trailer without actually ruining the movie. Critics have suggested that perhaps people nowadays need to be sure of what they’re getting before they make the investment of going to the movies. Whatever the reason, studies have shown that for a film to perform well in the box office, it needs to reveal a lot of information about the plot within even a short 2 minute trailer. Tarantino has bought into this idea, as seen in his most recent film Django: Unchained, as in the trailer, you see quite a bit of the film! You are exposed to all of the characters central to the plot, and even a few who really don’t play that big a of a role. You hear a lot of dialogue and get to see a bit of action as well. You definitely know what you’re going to see by the time you decide to see this film in the theater. With Kubrick films though, he seems to refuse to give his audience any real clue as to what his movies are about. In one of his classics,  2001: A Space Odyssey, there are no words at all in the entire trailer. The only information it actually gives you is that the setting of the movie is in space. Somehow though, this tactic has worked well for Kubrick.


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            Noting how a director allows his trailers to be released, especially auteurs like Tarantino and Kubrick can tell you a lot about how they approach cinema – as you can always get a taste of their personal style from their previews. From Kubrick’s bold innovation to Tarantino’s unique take on classic, proven methods, we see this as much in their films as we do in their trailers.




Asian Versus American Martial Arts Film Trailers

Asian Versus American Martial Arts Film Trailers



Jessie Mao

Martial arts have been practiced in Asia for thousands of years, but it was only recently within the last century that it was brought to the West. Hong Kong action star Bruce Lee is often credited for sparking interest for martial arts in American cinema in the 70’s. I was interested in how the depiction of martial arts or extensive hand-to-hand combat varied across recent Asian films and Hollywood films. For the first group I selected The Grand Master (2013), Ip Man 2 (2010), and The Raid: Redemption (2011). The first two are made by Hong Kong filmmakers, and the third is made by Indonesian filmmakers. The second group consists of three films made by American filmmakers: The Man with the Iron Fists (2012), The Karate Kid (2010), and The Matrix (1999). In my analysis, I was interested in looking at lighting, special effects, and editing.



In general, the use of lighting and color throughout the two groups were more dependent on the style and context of the films themselves rather than the cultural background of the film. For example, the overall look of The Grand Master, The Raid, and The Matrix involved hard lighting in low-lit scenes, with low saturation and a cold color temperature. In the opening scene of The Grand Master, the entire fight takes place in a harshly lit and undersaturated setting. The occasional lightning strike only further emphasizes the stark contrast and silhouettes of the image. The cinematography allows you to see the distinct shadows and reflections on each water droplet. This is not unlike certain shots in The Raid, as the police force moved and attacked through a rundown apartment complex. in what seemed to be extremely early morning lighting. In The Matrix, almost all the shots seem to be color corrected to a bluish green. Many shots in the three movies are taken in rooms that do not feature much ambient light, with only one light source coming from the side, usually a window, creating dramatic and harsh shadows on the faces of the characters.

(Screencaps from The Grand Master, The Raid: Redemption, and The Matrix)

It is not surprising that the use of lighting across these three dramatic and serious films were similar. Though the film Ip Man 2 is also similarly dramatic, it generally has a warmer tone to the trailer. Most of the shots have saturated and natural-looking colors, since many scenes take place during in the day. Most shots have soft lighting, but even in the scenes with harder lights, there is still a wide range of colors and tones. In the scenes inside the boxing ring, however, the colors were noticeably more muted, hazy, and sickly yellow. This was to make the scene feel more grungy and uncomfortable, as the British antagonist beat down the Chinese fighters one by one.

Though The Man with the Iron Fists also features hard lighting and high contrast images like the first three trailers, what makes this trailer unique is its highly saturated colors. While other movies have been color corrected to look colder, this trailer was color corrected to look yellow and warmer. This corresponds to the overall style of the film, tying into the extravagant and decorative style of the set and costumes.

The Karate Kid is a film that targets a younger audience and therefore involves more humor and is less dark than the previous films. The overall look of the film actually heavily reflected the geographic setting. Many shots were taken outdoors and featured soft, diffuse lighting. Plenty of establishing shots featured views of the misty and scenic rural and urban China. Shots of mountain ranges and quaint backyards had a bluer and greener tint. A stylistic feature of The Karate Kid that differed from the other trailers was the use of lens flares (0:45, 1:30, and 2:14).

I noticed that not only was the lighting designed to affect the style and atmosphere of the scene, it was also used to establish characters. In The Grand Master, the female lead always had a soft light on her face, even if the male lead in the same scene had hard shadows on his face. This may be done to deliberately emphasize the softness and genuineness of her character, while the male sports a more rugged and masculine look. Comparing this with Iron Fists from the second group, the females had harder shadows on their face. This could be attributed to the fact that the females in this movie are supposed to be sexual and deadly, and so the light illuminating their faces are supposed to look more antagonistic.

Special Effects


The use of special effects across the two groups have some significant differences. In general, there is much more emphasis on image manipulation and CGI in the American films, while the Asian films are more focused on the actual stunts of the martial artists. The primary special effect used in the Asian martial arts films are photo manipulating the wires out of the picture. There are many fight scenes with people flying in the air — whether it be minions getting knocked into walls or martial artists jumping in unrealistically high trajectories. Aside from the ubiquitous use of wire removal, there was a CGI shot in the train station fight scene from The Grandmaster (1:53), where the train was probably computer generated and then composited into the shot. There were also some explosion shots in The Raid (1:30), but it is likely that those were not done digitally. Since The Raid is a lower-budget film, the entire trailer has a rawer look, and it is probable that it did not involve much CGI.

Western martial arts films, while they do also make use of these wire stunts (The Man With the Iron Fists 1:14), feature much more computer generated imaging in the combat scenes. There is a lot of weaponry in Iron Fists that are clearly computer animated. Certain fight scenes are drizzled in with fantastical special effects like flower petals (1:23), smoke, and water. At one point, the central male figure morphs into a gold monster-like being (1:39), which is clearly a computer animated model. The entire look of the film would not be the same without all the special effects. Though The Matrix is an older film, it also features frequent digital manipulation of the images, as seen in the scenes with the sticky mirror, the bullets ripping through the air, the bending spoon, the girl with the floating cubes, and Neo’s mouth sticking together. There is a scene where the agent dodges bullets at superhuman speed (1:43), depicted by overlaying low-opacity frames of the moving actor. And of course, the famous multi-cam shots that was pioneered by The Matrix shows just how important creating amazing visual effects was to the filmmakers.

This difference across the groups may be due to several reasons. For one, this may be because of a gap in technology across the computer graphics industries of the East and the West. The American film industry is on the forefront of CG technology, and thus have more mature and accessible digital imaging practices. This leads to the second possible explanation: that since American viewers have seen special effects in films for a longer time, they are more accustomed and even more expectant of it. In the Asian film industry, on the other hand, though high budget films are now featuring industry standard CGI, the use of special effects in other forms of more commonplace media such as lower budget films or television is either less prevalent or of lower quality. As a result, filmmakers may not feel the need to incorporate a lot of digital special effects in their films in order to compete for viewership.

Alternatively, the reason could have little to do with technology, but more to do with cultural background. Asian viewers have been watching martial arts films for decades, and continue to do so because martial arts films have become a prominent genre in Asian mainstream culture. Many of the actors in Group A, such as Donnie Yen in Ip Man 2, actually practice martial arts and do their own stunts. Throughout history, fans watch martial arts movies because the fight scenes are exactly the “special effects” that they came to see. So having extraneous special effects in these films may actually take away from the experience.

Furthermore, the context of the individual films are also important. The Matrix falls into the genre of science fiction, and Iron Fists has clear elements of fantasy mixed into it. Therefore, it is not surprising that these films have much more special effects. On the other hand, two of the three Asian trailers tells the story of a famous martial artist. The films are not only intended to showcase the action, but also to depict a certain degree of historical accuracy as a tribute to Ip Man. If we look at The Karate Kid trailer, we see an American film that featured little CGI because the film focused on the relationship between a teacher and student, and the look of the film featured real scenery rather than having spectacular digital effects.



One notable difference between the Asian and American trailers is that the amount of time that was allotted to the fight sequences was significantly different. Asian martial arts trailers spent much more time showcasing the extensively choreographed combats than the American films, which spent more time showcasing plot or special effects.


Movie Fight Duration (s) Trailer Duration (s) Percentage
The Grand Master 58 125 46%
Ip Man 2 70 137 51%
The Raid 26 105 25%
The Man with the Iron Fists 28 136 20%
The Karate Kid 15 151 10%
The Matrix 6 151 4%


Something interesting to note is that even though The Raid had the lowest percentage of fight footage out of all three Asian trailers, it had the longest shots when it came to combat choreography. Without fast cutting to fake the action, the fights seem much more realistic, and probably means the actors were doing their own stunts. This ties in with our previous speculation about the Asian emphasis on martial arts stunts over digital effects. Due to cultural and historical reasons, Asian viewers are more interested in the martial arts in a film. As a result, the trailer should showcase what would attract the most viewership to this movie. For American films, on the other hand, the combat choreography is less integral, and so either there is just a smaller percentage of fight time during the actual film, or the editor just chose to cut less of it into the trailer.

In general, there were only subtle differences between martial arts films made by Asian filmmakers and ones made by American filmmakers. Some of the differences can be attributed to the fact that nowadays, there isn’t a prominent and well defined martial arts genre in American films as there is in Asia. Most of the American films cross over to another genre, such as sci-fi or fantasy, because there is no longer the same type of interest in pure martial arts as there was in the 70’s or 80’s. As well, there isn’t the same type of historical setting that the East encompasses which lends itself to creating more and more stories involving martial arts. However, the integration of martial arts in big Hollywood blockbusters show that the influence of martial arts continue to remain relevant in contemporary American pop culture.








Comparison of First and Third Installments in Comic Book Franchises

It feels like every other movie released in the last few years is a sequel or part of a franchise, the box office always dominated by films from the Marvel or DC Universe. Sometimes we forget that movies based on comic books were not always the blockbuster, guaranteed-to-succeed powerhouses that they are today. Franchises have a beginning, and sometimes their success can come as a surprise. For my six trailers, I chose to examine three major comic book-based franchises: X-Men, Batman (Christopher Nolan’s reboot), and Iron Man. For each franchise I chose to compare the trailers for the first and third installment in each series.

For the first group of trailers — X-Men (2000), Batman Begins (2005), Iron Man (2008) — it’s important to remember that while these films helped launch billion dollar franchises, none of them were considered guaranteed successes. X-Men represented a shift in the tone of comic book films, choosing to forgo the campiness of older Marvel adaptations. Batman Begins was an attempt to reboot a series that was considered on its way out. (1 Batman & Robin (1997) received abysmal reviews and has a rating of 12% on RottenTomatoes) Iron Man was not expected to be a smash hit, but greatly exceeded expectations becoming the second highest grossing movie of 2008, beaten out only by The Dark Knight. The stars of these films were not superstars at the time, but were soon after. Robert Downey Jr. was a cautionary tale of how drug addiction could destroy a promising career before Iron Man. Hugh Jackman had barely broken into the film industry before X-Men. (2 His filmography on his imdb page shows he was only in one film before X-Men, the musical Oklahoma!, and several television shows) These films have had a long term effect on both actors’ careers. Downey and Jackman now top the highest paid actors of 2013 in spots one and three, respectively, according to Forbes.(3 Celebrities 2013: Highest paid actors : http://www.forbes.com/pictures/mfl45egdgg/robert-downey-jr-8/) Christian Bale was already a respected actor when he took the role of Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins, but Christopher Nolan’s gritty adaptation gave him world wide notoriety he previously had not experienced.

The second group of trailers — X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), The Dark Knight Rises (2012), Iron Man Three (2013) — are all the third film in established, successful franchises. These movies were all released between five and seven years after the start of the series. Their lead actors were now established faces of the franchises. The directors were given bigger budgets, as it was considered a safe bet that these films would be incredibly successful, summer blockbusters. I thought it would be interesting to see how these factors affected four different visual aspects of the films. For my analysis I chose to examine editing speed (in shots per minute), lighting style, the quality and prominence of special effects, and the amount of screen time dedicated the “star” of the franchise. (4 I put “star” in quotation marks only because the X-Men series, while having an ensemble cast, tended to focus on Jackman’s Wolverine, the only character to get his own solo franchise separate from the series.) I included a detailed chart that contains the exact breakdown of each trailer, including the percentage of screen time for each actor and the number of shots in each trailer (as well as I was able to measure on my own) but here I will discuss my overall findings and the trends I noticed.

First, both The Dark Knight Rises and Iron Man Three decreased in editing speed and included more extended shots of visually engaging action sequences, with only flashes hinting at other aspects of the movies. These movies use similar techniques, omitting plot in favor of demonstrating one example of a particularly spectacular moment from the film. (5 In Rises the shot of the football field collapsing, in Iron Man Three the shots of Tony Stark’s house being destroyed) Iron Man and Batman Begins attempt to convey far more information and thus cut more quickly between scenes. These films need to take the time to introduce the audience to the protagonists, clearly demonstrate the tone of the story, and give as much information about the plot as possible. Rises and IM3 on the other hand already have a built in audience and have the opportunity to peek curiosity by showing less plot, but demonstrating why it would be incredible to watch. X-Men and The Last Stand did not change in editing speed, partially because the ensemble nature of the cast requires a lot of cuts to show as many of the character as possible.

Second, special effects and lighting change distinctly between films. The changes in special effects are very noticeable and lighting is used to enhance this change. In the trailers for the original films, CGI is less frequently shown and the action that is present is done using primarily practical effects. (Quick shots of real flames and explosions are found in all three trailers) The small amount CGI that is shown in the X-Men trailer looks cheesy and unconvincing. The lighting in all three movies also tends to be less saturated and darker. While this helps set the more serious tone that these movies are trying to get across, it also help hide some of the less convincing special effects. In the sequels, the trailers focus far more on special effects and there is significantly more CGI. As I previously mentioned, The Dark Knight Rises and Iron Man Three dedicate a significant amount of time to longer shots of specific almost entirely CGI action sequences. X-Men: The Last Stand similarly dedicates more time to displaying its improved special effects and CGI. It’s telling that even Rises focusses on CGI given that director Christopher Nolan is well known for trying to avoid using CGI as much as possible in his films. These movies are all marketed on the basis that the audience already knows the characters and are already committed to the franchise. The trailers are trying to build excitement to get more audience members to show up to the openings weekend and pay to see these spectacular special effects on a big screen, not wait for them to be released on DVD and Bluray. The lighting is also brighter, the colors more saturated. It heightens the details of the special effects and makes the overall look of the films more engaging. Also because these films already have the established serious tone from the original films, the darker lighting isn’t necessary to communicate that feeling.


Finally, the screen time of the star. Originally I predicted that the stars of these franchises would be given more screen time as they became more famous and successful. However I was mistaken. The Dark Knight Rises and Iron Man Three devoted significantly less screen time to Christian Bale and Robert Downey Jr. Perhaps at this point the franchises themselves were enough of a draw that the actors’ star power was not necessary. Or perhaps these franchises are now so intrinsically linked to these actors, its not even necessary to show their faces as much. Perhaps the extra focus on CGI and spectacle just left less screen time to devote to the stars. Once again X-Men was the exception, Hugh Jackman was given almost the same amount of screen time in The Last Stand, most likely due to the ensemble nature of the cast.





Budget (USD)

Gross (USD)

Screen Time of star

Special Effects


Editing (# of shots,shots per min)

X-Men (2000)




8s of 2:30min (~5%)

-Very little amount of CGI, most of the CGI looks cheesy

-Primarily show practical effects and makeup work

-Dark lighting, high contrast lighting

~119, 48spm

Batman Begins (2005)



~23s of 2:24min (~16%)

-Almost no CGI, focusses on practical effects primarily

-Not very saturated, limited color palettes in shots

~111, 46spm

Iron Man (2008)



~50s of 2:29min (~34%)

-Hardly show the actual iron man suit, only from a distance in quick cuts

-Nothing too flashy, mostly explosions

-Primarily dark, higher contrast lighting, mostly desaturated colors


~87, 35spm




Budget (USD)

Gross (USD)

Screen Time of star

Special Effects


Editing (# of shots,shots per min)

X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)



180% increase


7.25s of 1:39min (~7%)

-Noticeably superior special effects, far more and better CGI

-Longer shots of special effects, trucks flipping over,Golden Gate Bridge scene

-Brighter, more saturated colors

~83, 50spm

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)


67% increase


7s of 2:04min


-Focusses on one particularly CGI heavy shot, a few brief explosions, otherwise not effects heavy

-Very blue and orange color pallet

-Contrasts rich color outdoor scenes with muted  indoor/underground

~51, 25spm

Iron Man Three (2013)


43% increase


~23s of 2:05min (~10%)

-A lot more focus on special effects, shows the multiple Iron Man suits up close and in action, interacting with actors

-Dedicates screen time to incredibly effects heavy action (house getting destroyed)

-Brighter, richer colors

-Even darker scenes have bluer blues


~60, 29spm



X-Men: http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi339519001/

Batman Begins: httpv://youtu.be/vak9ZLfhGnQ

Iron Man: http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi447873305/

X-Men: The Last Stand: http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi1258225945/

Dark Knight Rises: http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi2823134745/



Iron Man Three: http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi1265935385/

Comparing the trailers for horror films from Asia and their American remakes.

*Since I broke up the text with the videos, I attached the paper in full to this post as well: Paper

I will comparing the trailers of Asian horror films and their American remakes.  I picked three Asian horror films, and then found their American remake counterparts.  I divided the discussion into three parts, with one section for each pair of trailers.



My first comparison will be of Hideo Nakata’s Ringu, a 1998 Japanese horror film, and Gore Verbinksi’s The Ring, its 2002 American remake.  Both trailers start by introducing the concept of the cursed video tape, and then follow the protagonist’s actions trying to discover the reason for the curse.  The editing in Ringu’s trailer is very fast paced, with shots lasting a few seconds max, with most being much less than that.  The Ring’s trailer is much slower at the beginning, and builds up to the quick shots.  The beginning shots are longer, and more cohesive.  Near the end, the trailer’s editing becomes similar to Ringu’s, speeding up and becoming less coherent.  Both trailers use editing effectively to make a scary trailer.  Ringu’s quick editing is disorienting, and causes the scarier parts – such as seeing the villain’s eyes looking down at one of her victims – to be unexpected.  The Ring’s slow pace develops a sense of dread that culminates at the end of the trailer with the the titular ring appearing.  Furthermore, both trailers’ soundtracks enhance the effects of their editing as well.  Ringu’s is faster, while The Ring’s is slower and more ominous.  Another key difference between the two trailers is the behavior of the young boy character.  Both are the protagonist’s son, but Ringu’s boy is more matter of fact and objective to the situation, while The Ring’s boy has a stronger psychic, all knowing overtone.  The Ring’s boy reveals that he makes contact with the villain, and draws her at school, along with the ring.  Finally, another big difference is the way that the trailers are narrated.  Ringu’s narrators are rarely seen on screen.  The narration is dialogue from the movie, but set over different scenes.  The Ring’s narration is nearly always seen on screen.  The characters in the scene are the ones speaking the dialogue.  This difference also ties back to the way the trailers are edited.  Ringu’s trailer’s editing is too quick throughout to have dialogue shown on screen; the shots simply don’t last long enough.  The Ring’s trailer, however, can afford to show the dialogue as it occurs.



The next pair of trailers I will compare are the trailers for Takashi Shimizu’s Ju-on: The Grudge, a 2002 Japanese horror film, and its American counterpart, 2004’s The Grudge.  It is interesting to note that Shimizu also directed the American remake, I expected that the trailers would be similar.  And they are in some respects.  There are even scenes in the trailer that are identical, such as the scene in the elevator and the scene in the shower.  Both of those scenes are some of the bigger scares in the movie, so it makes sense that they are shown here.  However, Ju-on’s trailer showcases the ghosts much more often than The Grudge’s trailer, becoming the main focus of the trailer.  The Grudge’s trailer’s main focus is the protagonist, portrayed by Sarah Michelle Gellar.  I am not sure the level of notoriety that actress playing the protagonist in Ju-on’s film has, but at the time Sarah Michelle Gellar was an extremely famous actress, so I think that is why the trailer features her so much.  She also is the only actor or actress with title billing in the trailer.  As such, The Grudge’s trailer features the secondary characters much less than Ju-on’s does.  This also could imply that Ju-on had more of an ensemble cast, while The Grudge had one enormous star in Sarah Michelle Gellar.  That being said, the two trailers have similar pacings, relatively slow throughout with a few bursts of quick editing.  Both are scary, but I think Ju-on’s trailer is more effective, as it focuses on the ghosts themselves instead of the victim.  That also relates better to the main idea of the films anyways.  That idea being that this grudge is ever present and not interested in revenge against the person that committed whatever deed that created the grudge in the first place.  One final note is that both movies have very particular sound effects to scare viewers.  One being Toshio’s catlike growl (Toshi being the ghost of the little boy), and the second being a guttural throat scratching sound that Kayako and victims of the grudge make (Kayako being the ghost of the woman).  Both trailers feature Toshio’s noise, but only Ju-on’s features Kayako’s growl.  I think that Kayako’s noise is more unique and scary, so I think that featuring it also is a point where Ju-on’s trailer is stronger.



The final two trailers I will compare is Kim Ji-woon’s A Tale of Two Sisters, a 2003 psychological horror film from Korea, and The Guard Brothers’ 2009 remake titled The Uninvited.  These two films are the least similar of the three sets that I am comparing.  The plot of each film is roughly the same, but the details are very different.  Interestingly, this is not necessarily evident in the trailers, as they both focus on the core of the story.  Aesthetic wise, the first difference that I noticed was that Tale’s trailer has mostly warm tones throughout, while The Uninvited has a lot more cool tones.  This color choice carries through to the title cards in the trailers as well.  Tale’s title card is warm, while the Uninvited’s is cool.  I usually associate cool tones with horror movies, so that may have made me think that the trailer for the Uninvited was scarier.  The Uninvited’s trailer also feature the protagonist’s psychiatrist, which turns out to be a very important person in the film.  This exemplifies one of the main overarching difference that I have found between the Asian films’ trailers and the trailer of the American remakes: the American trailers tend to introduce more of the main plot than the original films’ trailers.  They both give away a lot of the main plot, but the American trailers reveal and feature more the secondary actions and characters that drive the plot forward.

Top Action Movies 1950 vs. 2012

      The two sets of trailers I have decided to compare are three trailers of the top three action movies in the 1950’s and three trailers of the top three action movies in the year 2012. The top three movies, The Seven Samurai (1954), The Vikings (1958), and The War of the Worlds (1953), from the 1950’s are taken from the list posted on toptenreviews.com, where the results are based on reviews that people have submitted. The top three movies of 2012, The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, and Skyfall, are taken from the list on movieweb.com. The main difference between the two sets of three trailers is the time period. I will compare the editing, camera movement, and sets of the two different sets of trailers. The significance of the difference between the two sets will give a better idea of the differentiation between what audiences preferred in trailers of action movies from two different time periods. One of the main factors will be the addition of digital to the action trailers of 2012 more so than the 1950’s.

      The editing was much shorter in the trailers set in the 2012 era. The trailers for The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, and Skyfall, had much less dialogue in comparison to the trailers of the 1950’s. The Avengers had a trailer that was only about a minute long; The Dark Knight Rises trailer was only one and a half minutes long while Skyfall was about one minute as well. There was a clear distinction in the editing speed as the shots in the 2012 movies were more quickly cut compared to the 1950’s movies. The Seven Samurai had a trailer about four minutes long and watching the trailer made the movie look more like a historical documentary rather than an action movie. Another distinction I noticed was that in the 1950’s movies, there is much more written information throughout or in the beginning and endings of the trailer. Furthermore, the 1950’s trailers also showed fuller scenes and more parts of the movie than the 2012 trailers. In The Vikings, there were shots shown that could have been full scenes from the movie. The movies form the 1950’s had narration while the movies from 2012 had less narration; when the movies from 2012 had narration, the audio was from quotes in the actual movie rather than having another person present the information. In general, the editing in the movies from the 1950’s was much more continuous and lacked variation when dealing with the actual action scenes while the editing in the movies form 2012 was analytical and had more variation in the shot choices. The editing for the 2012 movies was much quicker and created a sense of chaos and intensity that the editing of the 1950’s did not show due to the fuller scenes showed and scenes with more dialogue shown. Also, the 1950’s movies did not come off as an action movie from the get go because of the addition of full scenes and dialogue, unlike the 2012 movies that are immediately presented as an action movie based on the footage and the editing.

      The camera movement was more difficult to analyze but there were a few subtle distinctions. I found that the camera movement of the movies in 2012 was moving more with the action of the scene and had more variation in what angles it took to capture the footage. In The Avengers, there were low shots and upper level shots and the camera movement was much quicker. A perfect example of the camera moving with the action of the film was a scene in which Tony Stark is flying upward in the air and the camera literally moves with him flying around objects and flying straight up into the air. Another example would be in The Dark Knight Rises, when a man is climbing up out of a well and the camera movement takes the angle of someone watching him climb up. The camera movement is much more dynamic and varied, especially at the end when the trailer moves upward to reveal the Batman symbol. The camera movement in the trailers of the 1950’s was a lot slower and more head on; the shots were more typical and predictable and steady. The difference in camera movement also probably has to do with the advancement of the actual equipment being used in the movies.

      The set design of the two sets of trailers was subtly different as well. The sets of the 1950’s were more practical looking, in the sense that the audience could tell that some parts of the set were not real pretty easily. In The War of the Worlds, the background sky looks very fake because there is not digital enhancement. Also, the trailers from 2012 showed a stronger variation of the set while the trailers from the 1950’s showed mostly similar shots of the same set over again. The sets were different mostly based on the fact that the movies from 2012 had more advanced equipment and used green screen. The sky from The War of the Worlds looked like it was painted at some moments.

      The overall conclusion suggests that the audience nowadays likes watching fast paced, varied, and digitally enhanced action trailers rather than in the past, the audience liked watching action trailers that showed and explained much of the movie and showed other aspects not just the action. I think the preference of the audience nowadays makes sense because people like watching action films in which the fighting sequences are vary fast and chaotic. Also, people like watching action movies in which special effects and digital enhancement are used.







Movie Trailer: Blue Valentine

The trailer for Blue Valentine is effective because it uses montage as a form of narrative compression and matches audio from one scene with visuals from other scenes to create the overall aesthetic. The movie deals with the dissolution of a marriage and the trailer lets the viewer know this simply by cutting between scenes of happiness and sadness in the relationship. The trailer is captivating because it uses a continuous audio track with other clips edited together on top. The video starts off with a long clip of one scene of the movie and continues the audio while placing other clips from various scenes in the movie over it. These scenes are an average of 2-3 seconds each with fast cuts in between them. This effectively shows the passage of time while also going back and forth between the different stages of the couple’s relationship, which mirrors the way the movie is edited as a whole. It creates an emotional montage of alternating happy and sad moments that make the viewer care about the couple and want them to succeed because they will feel connected to the emotions of the couple. The scene that is the central focus of the trailer is filmed with a shaky camera to emphasize the home-video-like quality of the scene signifying the innocence of the relationship. It draws the viewer in because it shows the tenderness of the moment. The song sung over the course of the trailer provides the backdrop for the clips.



The Dark Knight Movie Trailer (2008)

It is often a difficult task to create a trailer that conveys the overall chronicle of events, while also establishing the flavor of the original film, however, The Dark Knight trailer tackles this barrier by highlighting select crucial events that outline the general plot.

The action-filled trailer utilizes multiple visual and editing techniques that contribute to the success in alluring potential viewers.  Specifically, the trailer exhibits “narrative compression” by providing just enough information to entice viewers, without revealing the entire plot.  The collage of select original key scenes contributes to the effectiveness of the trailer.  Viewers are persuaded because each scene provides insight into the main characters, while also issuing a taste of the conflict.  This technique enables potential viewers to generally expect a film with explosions, risk, and personal rivalry, without predicting the entire plot.

Another interesting editing feature that is utilized throughout the trailer as a means of tempting a future audience is, “video-audio syncretization”.  This technique is put into practice in the trailer by aligning each scene shift with background music or threatening beats, which are included to set the overall tone of the film.  Specifically, in the beginning of the trailer, action scenes are separated by a silent, black screen as an effort to evoke a feeling of uncertainty and suspense.  This technique is particularly effective because it establishes a far more immersive and riveting experience for the viewer by heightening the excitement of each action event in the brief two minute segment.


Movie Trailer: The Social Network

This is the trailer to The Social Network movie (2010).

It is best explained by sectioning it into two parts. The first minute or so of the trailer focuses on the broader context of Facebook itself, away from the narrative content of the film. The trailer uses the subjective camera as the viewer is meant to feel that they are interacting with Facebook themselves. I suppose that this is meant to comment on how much Facebook has become both interwoven and commonplace into so many modern lives. The trailer also uses digital editing as it cuts extremely fast between these clips of Facebook, as a mouse arrow hovers over adding friends, to pictures, to status updates, to newsfeeds, to relationship status changes. Throughout the trailer, the song choice highlights the emotionality, but it is particularly well cut and syncopated in the beginning portion. This serves to further engage the viewer. The second portion of the trailer, approximately a minute and a half long, features narrative compression as it highlights certain events that cross the arc of time from the Harvard college dorm room to the board-room filled with lawyers. This is done successfully in that the compressed narrative is both inclusive, but leaves out information that might be too telling. Comparatively, both sections of the trailer use different lighting. While the first is more colorful and bright, the second section is darker and more ominous in nature, until one of the last cuts. This is a particularly effective advertisement as it is serves to make a personal connection, as well as to generate interest in the film.




Movie Trailer: The Butterfly Effect

“The Butterfly Effect” movie trailer maintains viewer engagement, uses editing and narration to aide plot comprehension, and sparks curiosity. These aspects combine to successfully sell the movie.

The trailer opens with the sound of a dramatic drum roll, quickly grabbing the viewer’s attention. An ominous voiceover creates a sense of seriousness, suspense, and a tinge of fear. The medium speed editing is fast enough to keep the viewer active and make the trailer dynamic.  Not to mention, the attractive main characters could keep any viewer’s eyes glued to the screen.

This trailer does a superb job of aiding comprehension through visual distortions, color changes, and medium speed editing. The trailer consists entirely of flashbacks and transitions between alternate universes. This has the potential to become confusing to the point of incoherency and disengagement. However, the blurring, mustaching, and barreling distortions and subjective angle with an orbiting camera helps the viewer remain conscious of these transitions. The orbiting camera further engages the viewer by sucking him into the alternate realities. Color shifts to black and white and characters moving backwards in slow motion effectively signal that time is moving backwards. The medium speed editing allows time for processing the images presented.

Although this is a long trailer, it is not overly revealing. The voiceover and narrative compression simply demonstrate the movie’s dramatic appeal and complexity. The viewer remains largely unaware of the movie’s happenings and outcomes. He is left with enough curiosity and engagement to want to see the movie.


The Best Movie Trailer: “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” Teaser Trailer

David Fincher’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” teaser trailer masterfully utilizes editing speed, video-audio sync, and frame size to draw the viewer into an emotionally charged atmosphere of anticipation and excitement.  The video plays out with rapid-fire imagery, employing a series of fraction-of-a-second shots from various parts of the movie.  The trailer is vague on plot detail, and the rapid editing pace is effective here because the teaser is designed to build emotional energy through gripping images rather than convey a coherent narrative.  The emotional excitement of the video is heightened by the audio, which starts off quiet and stoic but quickly increases in tempo, sending the video racing forward into a sequence of shots.  The audio is perfectly coordinated with the montage footage from the film, as the shots change in sync with the beat of the music.  The music pushes the POV perspective on the snowy road faster and faster, while the framing simultaneously begins to close in for added tension, eventually leading to the teaser’s final bold-flashing typography title slides.  At the trailer’s climax, the beat becomes more pronounced, and the final title shots are flashed on the on-beat for added emphasis.  The grip on the viewer becomes tighter with the progressively closer shots, which serve to both accentuate the bold title slides as well as draw the viewer closer and closer toward the alluring white mansion.  By the end of the teaser, the viewer is propelled into an intense state of anticipation and excitement, ready to uncover the mysteries of this intriguing thriller.


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