September 26, 2011

Trailers for films

It is interesting to see how trailers have changed over time. I recall a few decades ago, they would have fairly long sequences but with a loud, urgent, voice-over narration in the annoying style of old newsreels. Take this one for The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957).

These days that obnoxious narrator is gone, to be replaced by an occasional and more subdued voiceover. But now the trailers have annoying rapid-fire cuts that last for very short times. The goal these days seems to be to show a fraction of every scene of the entire film in the hope that at least something will appeal to the audience. I have got into the habit of playing a game in which I try to identify which bit comes from the climactic scene of the film. Here's a trailer for one of the Pirates of the Caribbean films.

No doubt these trailers are the products of extensive market research but I wonder if showing a few scenes in more depth in the old style (but without the old narrator) might engage the viewer and cause them to want to see the film more than these scattershot montages.


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I think the best trailer of all time was the third for the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Gets very meta.

Posted by Dean on September 27, 2011 01:26 AM

Movie posters have changed, too, and not for the the better. Now they always seem to feature the photgenic stars with expressions that tell you the type of film it is. Older movies released on DVD have had their art changed as well to reflect the new aesthetic.

Posted by Scott on September 27, 2011 08:04 AM

I like the trailer of the Pirates of the Carribean. This is really a good film. I enjoyed watching it. It is so hillarious. I like Johnny Depp performing in this movie.

Posted by Mike on October 11, 2011 07:57 AM

Personally I love the old 'news reel' style narration! I think perhaps because I'm British? Also shows my age as Bridge Over The River Kwai was made a few years before I was born - it's a great classic movie, by the way, although far better is A Bridge Too Far, check out the cast list, it has more stars in it than the sky!

Posted by Juliette on October 25, 2011 06:05 AM

I love The Bridge on the river Kwain. Is the best film about war in thas twenty century.

Posted by Emilio Luna on November 10, 2011 09:02 AM

Great insight on how movie trailer s have changed over the years. I think they have changed in the way you wrote about is reflective on the go-gog-go society. whereas we want to be highly stimulated with the most information, with the dramatic music and voice overs. Btw Bridge over the river Kwai was a movie that I saw on a recommendation from a friend. Definitely a classic.

Posted by Dave M on November 24, 2011 08:40 AM

Movie trailers indeed have evolved reflecting the creativity of the movie makers and how they like to test. I think 30 years from now, we would see even more advanced trailers with the "now so popular 3d effects" which would be a normal thing at that time.

Posted by Andy on November 28, 2011 09:33 AM

Neat comparison. Thanks for including the example videos.

These days you seem to need that pop in order to get a viewers attention. It's hard to have a narrators voice keep up with the explosions and deep emotion that are used to draw people in so I think it's definitely a think of the past.

Posted by Peter on December 19, 2011 12:44 PM

It evolves over time as the industry conforms to people's interests. Personally, I think the voice overs still work for certain movies.

Posted by Film Schools on December 20, 2011 12:41 PM

The Bridge on the River Kwai has the same impact today as 50+ years ago. Everyone should see this movie before condeming another

Posted by Ed Lange on January 22, 2012 05:17 AM