Okay, I spent a lot of time in theaters last year. Outside of watching 182 films, I’ve seen untold theatrical trailers, teasers, godawful pre-show entertainment about Fathom Events I have no desire to see, et al. But there’s a method to my madness. Namely, it’s money from the house that Mickey Mouse built. See, on weekends I work as a contractor to gather information on how audiences react to trailers shown before specific features. It’s not a glamorous job, but it pays for gas and gives me some extra dough.
However, sometimes there’s a single trailer that becomes a grating experience each time it pops up on screen, in a kill-me-now sort of way. You think to yourself, Please just come out in theaters already, for the love of God! That’s how I felt about Van Helsing years ago, and for 2011 that dubious honor goes to Red Riding Hood followed by Jack & Jill.
Having seen hundreds of trailers on the big screen and online, including some more than twenty times apiece, I present to you my list of the ten best trailers for movies that were released in 2011.
Battle: Los Angeles
The alien invasion flick was released back in March, and Columbia Pictures did its best to hype the hell out of it. Apparently enough people got a CoD meets Aliens vibe, because the film had a $35 million opening on its way to grossing $211 million worldwide. Credit the use of Johann Johannsson’s “Sun’s Gone Dim”, and the increased edits to keep viewers on edge.
While my first exposure to Drive was the opening robbery/getaway clip that popped up online as the film made its world premiere at Cannes, this red-band trailer that followed is also damn good. In fact, revisiting it again, I think every line Ryan Gosling’s character speaks can be heard in this two and a half minute trailer. The green-band trailer, which almost mirrors the red-band minus a few shots, also has the distinction of bringing about one of the most ludicrous lawsuits, where a woman complained that the trailer wasn’t an exact representation of the film she eventually saw. She expected Fast Five and got something completely badass. And, I guess, she wasn’t in the mood for something badass.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
This international trailer for Rise of the Planet of the Apes is only a minute in length, but it accomplishes more in that one minute than the typical 2:30 time. Why it works as well as it does is because it emphasizes the human, emotional impact of the story versus the special effects foremost. So if any of the studio suits are reading, special effects are fun, but give us a reason to care!
The Devil’s Double
Brit Dominic Cooper pulls double duty as Saddam Hussein’s son, Uday, and his body double, Latif Yahia. Set to the beat of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” the trailer does its best to present itself as a Middle eastern Scarface. Plenty of cocaine and guns drawn helped to make The Devil’s Double something you wanted to say hello to.
You had me at Amblin Entertainment.
So how does one begin to make a “safe” trailer for film dealing with sex addiction? People already expect to see “strong sexual situations” as the green-band prefaces the reason for the NC-17 rating. Leave it to writer-director Steve McQueen to have a trailer that makes great use of Harry Escott’s rearrangement of Hans Zimmer’s “Journey to the Line” from The Thin Red Line. As the background music, Escott’s piece has a slow-ticking and orchestral build up. It’s a powerful piece and would best recapitulate what viewers would witness if they paid to see it full.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
To properly market a Cold War thriller is an interesting proposition. Will viewers be turned off by the time period or the lack of matinee idols? They either get it or they don’t. Personally, all the trailers I’ve seen for Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy are slight variations of each other. With an intriguing story – hell, it’s about hunting down a Soviet mole in Britain’s SIS! – and an impressive ensemble (including Gary Oldman, John Hurt, Toby Jones, Ciaran Hinds, and Mark Strong), it was hard to ignore this trailer.
With parody trailers galore, it was this first teaser to The Muppets that instantly hooked me. Made to look like a rom-com starring Jason Segel and Amy Adams, the teaser evolves to include Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and the rest of The Muppets. At one point even the announcer is confused as to why Kermit and Miss Piggy are here, and Jason Segel goes on to stop the trailer and ask “Are there Muppets in this movie?” Nothing like breaking the fourth wall in a trailer.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
As the feature trailer to the epic conclusion of Harry Potter reaching puberty, here we had an advertisement that emphasized the cinematic fight that has been ten years in the making. With flashes of moments from past Harry Potter films to the epic-sized fight between the Jets and the Shar, um, the people at Hogwarts and the Death Eaters, the trailer is enough to give fans of the series goosebumps.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Whoever cuts the trailers for David Fincher’s films should get some special reward. Just like the trailer for The Social Network was the best trailer for 2010, here again is another Fincher release topping the list. Marketed as the “feel bad movie of Christmas” and set to a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a visual feast with no less than 150 transitions in its 1:42 run time. Matching the song beat for beat, your eyes become glazed trying to absorb each transition.
Travis Leamons is one of the Inside Pulse Originals and currently holds the position of Managing Editor at Inside Pulse Movies. He's told that the position is his until he's dead or if "The Boss" can find somebody better. I expect the best and I give the best. Here's the beer. Here's the entertainment. Now have fun. That's an order!