Nothing gets movie fans talking like an action packed trailer, which means the first public look at an upcoming film really can mean the difference between a runaway blockbuster and a box office disappointment. It’s not all that shocking that movie trailers – just like movie posters – have become an exact science, with the same colors, poses, and tricks used by every major studio. But once you take a closer look at blockbuster trailers, you may be surprised at just how similar they really are.
Here are Screen Rant’s 5 Ways Movie Trailers Are All The Same.
You have to give credit to Christopher Nolan for working a major plot point of Inception into the trailers, setting the action to the booming music of “Mind Heist,” a song drawing on the booming notes notes used as a countdown by the movie’s dream thieves. Audiences didn’t know what to make of it in the trailer, but rival studios didn’t need to find out before following suit.
It wasn’t just the Mind Heist blasts that were stolen immediately, but the structure of the sequence as a whole. You can find the exact same structure in trailers for The Avengers, G.I.i Joe 2, Prometheus, and Transformers 3. These days it’s hard to find a trailer that doesn’t flip from black screens to random action beats to drive the back half of a trailer home, which means movie fans might completely forgot there was ever a time before “the Inception BWOOMMMMM“.
The Bass Drop
The popularity of earsplitting horns, massive explosions and out of control electro-rock in most blockbuster trailer came at a price: with so much going on, it was hard to actually keep up the tension or suspense (instead of boring viewers by the trailer’s end). The solution wasn’t brilliant, but it was obvious: drop everything back down to silence, just to build it all the way back up.
But how do you pull that off and make it seem cool at the same time? How about an electronic bass drop, sounding almost as if the power to the audio has been cut? It’s not even funny how quickly movies raced to steal this trick, and use it in the exact same way. It appears at the beginning of Mad Max: Fury Road‘s trailer, multiple times in The Hunger Games promos, Furious 7, and more.
Whether it’s leading into a slow mo tease, a cryptic tagline, or spoiling the most epic moment of the film, you apparently can’t get there without dropping the bass beforehand. How else will audiences know that what they’re looking at is awesome?
The Ominous Voiceover
Knowing that a movie trailer will turn into a frantically cut roller coaster by the end, studios know they’ve got to start quiet – so the loudest moments feel even louder. What better way to open than with random lines of dialogue without any real context (preferably spoken over somber strings, low rumbles, or single, high pitched musical notes)?
It seems almost every trailer debut for a blockbuster property begins with this trick, in movies like The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Man of Steel, Batman V Superman, Avatar, X-Men: Days of Future Past… the list goes on and on. The convention is easy to understand, since single lines of dialogue really can sum up a movie’s themes, getting audiences to use their imagination.
But when every other movie decided that disembodied lines divided by unnatural pauses were better than actually showing the scene they’re pulled from, the move became a meaningless one.
There may have been a time when a single scene, stunt, or just assorted settings would sell an audience on the action in store. But at some point, movie studios decided it was better to tease every dollar of the film’s budget in one frantic montage. Set either before or after the Foghorn sequence, this montage can be filled with characters screaming, shaky-cam footage, close-ups of the hero and villain in combat, you name it.
It’s this part of the trailer that can be the most irritating to fans trying to avoid spoilers, since a closer look at split second cuts can reveal entire twists and plot points – leaving viewers to wonder why the studio would spoil some of the best moments.
In Star Trek Into Darkness, the montage ended up spoiling the entire third act of the movie. For Iron Man 3, Tony Stark’s Malibu Mansion was shown tumbling into the ocean long before he ever heard of The Mandarin. Selling the movie is still the top priority, but even if the franchise is a guaranteed blockbuster, this strict trailer formula demands some things get spoiled months ahead of time.
The Final Gag
Once the trailer has opened calmly, built to its first crescendo, dropped the bass back to zero, then built to a foghorn-filled montage of assorted action, probably leading into the movie’s official title, there’s still… something missing. One last joke, one last wink to the audience, or if nothing else, one last rhetorical question followed by another glimpse of a completely different action set piece.
With the action typically sandwiched between the setup and punchline, this final gag is the studio’s cherry on top. It can also be the cheesiest moment of all, when successful franchises take a victory lap, already seeing the piles of money coming their way. It isn’t just action, either: if it’s a horror movie you’re selling, this final ‘scare’ is just as predictable, starting silently, before one last jump scare to get the squeamish screaming.
But it’s action comedies that get the worst deal, since it’s usually one of the movie’s best jokes that gets the spoiler treatment just to get potential fans laughing.
Those are the most common tricks and conventions when it comes to cutting a trailer, but which ones have we missed? Can you think of the best trailers to buck the trend? Let us know what you think in the comments, and be sure to subscribe to our channel for more videos like this one!