Monday, March 31, 2014

New trailer for X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST, and a spoilers S.O.T.U.

There was so much movie news the other week, I nearly forgot to write about the new trailer for X-Men: Days of Future Past. It was the second Bryan Singer movie I worked on, after Jack the Giant Slayer, and since the X-Men comics series were my favorites growing up, working with these characters was the culmination of much geeky childhood enthusiasm (like The Avengers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles projects were). The movie will be overflowing with entertainment for fans of the comic, especially those who read the "Days of Future Past" series.

Speaking of geeky enthusiasm, the guys over at Schmoes Know noticed an unusual trait of the video: it managed to focus on the movie's broad themes, without spoiling any of the actual plot. That's not easy to do, and a relatively rare thing in the field of trailers. Historically, trailers have been heavy on spoilers and intentionally throw the juiciest parts of a movie out to attract viewers. The trailer for 1949's Casablanca is a typical example from its time, using heavy-handed devices like a campy voiceover, sensationalized score, and dominating overlaid text:

Considering the movie is among the best of all-time (and has the best screenplay of all time, according to story gurus like Robert McKee), it's almost odd the marketing for it seemed so desperate--at least compared to the more refined design tastes of today.

Flash-forward fourteen years, and you have Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds trailer (1963), which went completely in the opposite, minimalist direction. Using clips from the movie in a straightforward manner, the intensity it contains comes directly from the movie itself:

When the 1980s hit, computers were offering sleek new digital aesthetics, and the trailers of that decade relied on their eye-grabbing flash to push a new era of action films:

Contemporary advertising companies have taken the art of the movie trailers to another level, in part by creating multiple versions tailored for different outlets. Theatergoers are often treated to a two-to five-minute long trailer, often mimicking a three-act structure of its own. Like this trailer for The Dark Knight Rises shows, today's trailers can be long and story-driven without relying on much smoke and mirrors from the editing of the trailer itself. The quiet opening works well, and Hans Zimmer's score closes it out nicely at the end:

Now, onto the topic of spoilers. Working in previs is entirely about being shown the most dramatic and action-oriented sequences of a movie. You are exposed to a disproportionate amount of movie spoilers, and if you're lucky, they are for movies you are especially excited to see. Squaring this with my passion for helping make big Hollywood movies has not always been easy, and there are times where I try not to have certain moments given away for films I did not work on and am not familiar with the original material (comics, books, etc). It was fantastic to watch something like "Battlestar Galactica" without knowing any of the plot points ahead of time, but I doubt I'll care too much about knowing who the real "Winter Soldier: is when I get my socks knocked off by it.

Marketing for modern movies relies on new material being put out to keep websites abuzz with interest. At some point this is bound to reveal too much. How much is too much in your eyes?

For further reading on trailers, the New York Times article "Dissecting a Trailer: The Parts of the Film that Make the Cut" is a must-read.

Buzzfeed's 12 Posters that Totally Spoiled the Movie

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