Wow, I can’t believe a whole year has gone by. Sure, that’s just about the tackiest thing you can say come New Year’s Eve, but considering the fact that 2011 is Best/Worst Movie Promos of the Week’s inaugural year, it’s entitled to use the phrase. But what's really quite unbelievable is the amount of trailers that come our way in a single year. I’ve always had a penchant for promotional material, but ever since the launch of this column back in June, it’s become a weekly routine to sort through every single new promotional item that hits the web – and there are certainly a lot of them!
To close out the year for Best/Worst Promos we’re doing a top three and bottom three trailers of the year list. Just like when we’re looking at trailers on a weekly basis, the best and worst can be quite obvious, but there are also a bunch that wind up just missing the cut.
For instance, as a hardcore Paranormal Activity fan, I was itching to include the trailer of Paranormal Activity 3 in the top three, but it was just edged out. Then there was the trailer for We Need to Talk About Kevin, which will undoubtedly never let you listen to Buddy Holly’s “Everyday” the same way again. Snow White and the Huntsman also managed to get ahead of the pack, not only trumping its Snow White competition, Mirror Mirror, but also looking as though it could be one of the most monumental battle and visual spectacles of 2012.
Speaking of highly-anticipated films of the New Year, The Dark Knight Rises proved Christopher Nolan will rise to the occasion yet again, delivering a trailer that’s oozing with Bane’s malevolence. Then there’s the trailer for Cabin in the Woods, which absolutely skyrocketed the film to one of the ones I’m most excited to check out in the coming year. And lastly, while it isn’t a trailer, Miles Fisher deserves a quick shout out for putting together that hilarious and catchy music video for Final Destination 5 and his song “New Romance.”
Enough stalling -- it’s time to get to it. Best/Worst Movie Promos of the Week brings you the best and the worst movie trailers of 2011.
The Best Stuff
1. The Hunger Games: Forget the fact that I’m a Hunger Games addict and write the Hunger Games Countdown here at Movies.com, this trailer is absolutely fantastic. In two minutes and 36 seconds, the piece does an excellent job of establishing the tone and premise in not one, but three very distinct stages – in District 12, in The Capitol and, finally, in the Arena. First in District 12, there really can’t be a better way to assemble the pieces of the Reaping than what we’ve got here. From Katniss’ reaction to Prim’s name being called, to the look on Peeta’s face as he ascends the stage -- in just 40 seconds of material, it’s downright heartbreaking. Then the train rolls into The Capitol revealing a mesmerizing and almost futuristic-looking land, which pops all the more courtesy of the contrast between The Capitol and District 12. Then the trailer comes to the pitch-perfect conclusion, wrapping just as Katniss rises into the Arena and the games begin. Whether you’re familiar with the source material or not, this is a trailer that leaves you absolutely desperate for more.
2. Battle: Los Angeles: It’s a little tougher talking about an excellent trailer for a movie that already came out and particularly for a film like Battle: Los Angeles because, well, the full feature isn’t all that good. Regardless, the trailer’s silent start paired with old images of supposed ET encounters is a curious opening. And then, once the piece gets your attention, it launches into the meat of the trailer which is set to the tune of the rather eerie yet infectious “The Sun’s Gone Dim and the Sky’s Turned Black” by Johann Johannsson. Funny thing, the trailer’s almost the exact opposite of the actual film in that one of its prime assets is its slower pacing. Rather than jump from shot to shot, we’re allowed to wade in a certain group’s reaction to the attack, making it all the more powerful. Then, as the piece builds towards the “In 2011” section, the strings kick it at the ideal time, raising the stakes tenfold only to blow up in the form of an all out vicious assault. I may be eager to wipe Battle: Los Angeles from my memory, but this trailer is unforgettable.
3. Insidious: Who knew a visual text trick could be so effective? Thanks to the “Insidious Is” text animation in the film’s trailer, it’s impossible to look at that style font without imagining the letters warp into the word “insidious” and then “is” with a tinge of blood red. Then cue the ticking metronome to make you rather uneasy and launch into the story. Whether it’s images of the family laughing or poor Dalton taking a tumble, the first 40 seconds bear an unnerving sensation courtesy of the footage’s washed-out color palate and that relentless ticking noise.
Rather than let the metronome run through and perhaps become tiresome, the trailer goes quiet at the most opportune moment, as the metronome blends into the rocking of the rocking horse and then goes silent only to have the word “Insidious” hurled in your face. And that’s all before we get to the really creepy material. Insidious’ trailer is actually rather revealing, glossing over almost every single plot point, but not only does it not spoil the experience of the full film, but even after having it seen it, it still retains that same unsettling effect.
The Worst Stuff
1. Dream House: Sure, maybe the filmmakers had lost all hope for Dream House, but at least put some sort of effort into your marketing campaign. This trailer has “we just gave up” written all over it. And what’s the point? You may know your film isn’t all that great, but you can still make a buck off of it via a compelling trailer and this one certainly had the ability to pull in an audience. All they had to do was cut midway and leave people with the impression that Dream House is just a haunted house film. In fact, had the trailer not given away the fact that Daniel Craig is actually the man responsible for the murders in the house, perhaps the film itself would have been even just the slightest bit more effective. The same goes for the trailer, too, because after burning through the haunted house and the Peter Ward portions of the story, all that’s left to do is show a rather meaningless montage of images – and then completely disgrace a list of top-notch actors.
2. Jack and Jill: Adam Sandler, what have you done to yourself? Sure, from day one Sandler was winning big by playing downright ridiculous characters, but recently he’s lost the charm that turns lunatics like Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore and Bobby Boucher into guys you can actually sympathize with. Then there’s the fact that his gags just aren’t all that funny. Not only is there absolutely nothing amusing about the trailer for Jack and Jill, but the female version of Adam Sandler is particularly hard to look at. Watching a clown on stilts fall over, smack his head on the pavement and bleed from the mouth? Funny! Watching a female Adam Sandler sink a jet ski in a swimming pool and then fly out courtesy of CGI? Not so much.
Really solidifying the fact that the Jack and Jill trailer stoops to the lowest of the low is that tacky voiceover. Sure, the method is ideal for promotional material for silly comedies, but that doesn’t mean using it is commendable in the least. It’s lazy, uninspiring and rather annoying.
3. Red Lights: Is the trailer for Red Lights as bad as Jack and Jill and Dream House? No, but it’s most certainly the most disappointing trailer of the year. I understand this is only the film’s teaser trailer, but as great as Robert De Niro is, a slow track in to him paired with a series of cryptic text frames just isn’t enough. With a running time of only one minute and twelve seconds, this teaser trailer moves incredibly slow, and when you finally hit the end the big “wow” moment is merely De Niro sporting grey eyes. For lack of better terms – lame!
Even worse, this comes after Rodrigo Cortés released his stellar second feature, Buried. If the guy was capable of creating that much tension only shooting in an underground coffin with Ryan Reynolds, imagine what he can do with De Niro, Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver, Elizabeth Olsen and Toby Jones. No, really, imagine just that because thanks to this teaser trailer, all we’re really left with is our imaginations.
Almost the worst, but not quite …
A Thousand Words Trailer
What to Expect When You’re Expecting Trailer
The Skin I Live In Trailer