Cuphead

It’s mid-June, and that means the Electronic Entertainment Expo (more popularly known as E3) has come and gone, and left behind an embarrassment of riches in the form of game trailers and other videos featuring the gameplay Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft and their ilk promise to deliver into the hands of gamers over the next year and beyond.

From the perspective of a musicologist, perhaps no trailer at E3 this year has been as interesting as the release trailer for the upcoming cartoon shooter Cuphead. First introduced at E4 2014, the game aggressively asserts a quasi-nostalgic, 1930s Americana style (quasi, as most players will not have experienced this style in its heyday). Each of the trailers features original music in the style of 1920s and 30s American jazz recorded live and composed by Kristofer Maddigan, a percussionist and composer based in Toronto.

In the first trailer, from E3 2014, the audioviewer is initially introduced to an animated trailer format from the 1920s, before  the widespread adoption of recorded sound, instead using title cards to convey speech and what sounds like live music. The first reads, “By golly! Cuphead and Mugman are in trouble!” amidst the pounding, Krupa-style drums of hot American jazz and rapid keyboard flourishes. While short, at a scant thirty-five seconds, the trailer nonetheless manages to capture all of the essential tropes of silent film era cinematic animated trailers.

 

The trailer featured at E3 2015 ups the ante, more than doubling the trailer’s length, increasing the tempo of the frenetic percussion, and offering a touch more by the way of plot, stating that “Cuphead and Mugman gambled with the Devil…. and lost!!!” A subtle bit of sync between the sound image occurs at 0:15 as a solitary, high piano chord hits at the same time we see the protagonists in shock over losing to the devil in a game of dice. A grooving ostinato in the double bass (plucked, of course) and trumpets with snarling mutes underscore the plot as Cuphead and Mugman are made to serve the devil to pay off their lost bets. Throughout, animations that strongly evoke the days of late 1920s Disney (think Steamboat Willie) match perfectly with the visceral jazz music. At 0:53 we are treated to a somewhat unexpected sync point, with the wail of the brass matching the mermaid’s attempt to blow Cuphead away. The title cards and final titles at 0:57 onward further hammer home the nostalgia act, stating “Coming 1936. (Plus eighty years)”; however, that number would eventually end up being eighty one. Ragtime piano plays it out.

 

Fast forward to this year, and the game is finally nearly ready for release. Animated typography in the style of old movie trailers promises a “thrilling game” as brass and woodwinds gradually ascend a diminished chord by tritones and minor thirds, eventually resolving to a glorious major chord and alternating tom-toms that heavily emulate the sound of timpani, showing off the main title card. It gives way to a parallel minor chord at 0:26 and woodwinds change hands as they steady escalate a series of alternating half steps down and minor thirds up, with some deviances in the pattern for good measure, with no particular reference to a steady rhythmic measure. Despite the series of heavy action sequences showcasing gameplay, we only hear this musical arrangement. At 0:38 we get the final release date – September 29th – as the brass and winds coalesce on a triumphant cadential 6/4 with a Picardy third, ending with a faint bit of the static one would hear at the end of a film reel.

The whole musical arrangement for Cuphead’s E3 2017 release trailer appears to be, to some extent, a riff on Also sprach Zarathrustra, Op. 30, the Richard Strauss tone poem made famous by Kubrick’s selection for it to represent the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. So, one might say this piece is a 19th century work popularized to represent the (since-surpassed) near future of 2001, and since rearranged in the style of the early 20th century to appeal to the ears of 2017. Whatever the case, the Cuphead trailers make for a joyful celebration and reminder of the most charismatic qualities of early American cartoons and cinema, replete with the musical stylings of the era – something in part afforded by the novelty of revisiting such media in the form of a video game.

In an era of gaming where the number of polygons a console can push doesn’t appear to be so impressive anymore, the most eye-catching and immersive games are arguably the ones that turn back to the art of cinema and lean heavily on artistry to engross the gamer-as-audioviewer. In this respect, it’s no surprise that Cuphead’s heavy aesthetic borrowings from the 1930s would resonate with such fresh appeal.

 

 – Curtis Perry

Dunkirk

 

There is something severe about the Dunkirk trailer. For 2 minutes and 18 seconds, audiences bear witness to the plight of the allied forces trapped on the beaches awaiting evacuation under heavy enemy fire from the air, land, and sea. The shots are tastefully dramatized without the indulgences we have come to expect of depictions of war. The bleak tones of grey that characterize the state of desperation are all consuming. However, it is the music that generates the profound intensity of the trailer – the sparse dialogue and action sequences merely accompany the sounds of Dunkirk.

The film is directed by Christopher Nolan, ergo, the film is scored by Hans Zimmer. Unlike most blockbusters, which opt to use popular music or cover songs in their trailers to connect with the audience, Hans Zimmer’s instantly recognizable style and cultural capital caries enough clout to all but guarantee the film’s success. A partnership like no other, these two creatives have built a bonafide genre of film together, largely defined by their penchant for the epic. Evidence of the duo’s influence in film trailers is ubiquitous. Look no farther than their 2010 collaboration, Inception, which gave birth to one of the most recognizable (and co-opted) sounds in cinema, so infamous that the internet refers to it as the onomatopoeic “BRAAM.”  In the Dunkirk trailer, Zimmer resists the impulse to use the sound he is credited with creating in favour of finding new ones.

The Dunkirk trailer opens with a ringing tone moving in and out of focus and then steady percussive ticking, like a clock in perfect 4/4 time accenting the first beat. At 0:17 a guttural bass tone slowly wobbles in, joined by a mid-range horn before dissipating. At 0:26, the bass bows deeply and the ticking finally relents, sounding only the first beat of each bar. Much like a piece of music, this break in the trailer leaves the audience in suspense, listening, waiting for the inevitable climax, or “drop.” The drop comes as a hail of gunfire. Serene, unmoving strings and choral sounds emerge from the chaos at 0:40, disturbing in their stark juxtaposition of on-screen tragedy. Again, at 0:57 the music is interrupted by the sounds of war. A heartbeat sound enters at 1:06, becoming the ostensible pulse of the music for the remainder of the trailer. Unfiltered piano and a dirty synthesizer appear at 1:28, providing a much needed harmonic progression, though offering little resolution. The music moves in crescendo, gaining momentum as the heartbeat morphs into a steadier beat and additional synthesizers join, rife with distortion. The music cuts abruptly at 1:58, recalling the serene voices and slow heart beat, lingering for the last few seconds.

Nolan and Zimmer are back.

 

–Andrew Sproule

Wonder Woman

This week on Trailaurality we are looking at the trailer campaign for Wonder Woman, opening in theatres worldwide today. With a Thursday box office opening pegged at $11 million in the U.S. alone, the film's opening gross lands it in the vicinity of 2014’s original Guardians of the Galaxy. Additionally, the Warner Bros. and DC Films box office foray into superheroine antics has been “certified fresh” by Rotten Tomatoes, standing tall at an approval rating of 93% by critics and audience alike as of this writing. In fact, this is higher than most of DC or Mavel’s superhero movies; in fact, it is the best reviewed film since Christopher Nolan’s seminal 2005 film The Dark Knight, and is only bested by the first Iron Man foray in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In light of the exceptional success Wonder Woman is currently enjoying, it’s especially worth delving into its trailer campaign to see if one can glean any hints of the praise it would come to receive.

Sitting at five and a quarter million views on YouTube, the official final trailer, released May 7th during the MTV Movie & TV Awards, starts with a seven second micro-teaser with lyrics that immediately scream “we are the warriors.” The moment, which appear later in the actual trailer, tips the listener off immediately that it uses Warriors, a track by Imagine Dragons. While an appropriate choice in itself, the fact that the track was also used to promote theLeague of Legends video game makes for a neat intertextual tie-in as well as a ploy for long-term musical brand awareness.

Having presumably captured the attention the of audioviewer, we are whisked away to the world of the film with a more gentle track and various voiceovers off screen which are revealed to take place as an on-screen conversation between Diana Prince, Princess of Themyscira (Gal Gadot) as a child with her mother. The music, Francoid-Paul Aïche’s Aria, continuously builds, ending as her mother says “be careful of mankind… they do not deserve you.”

Next, the title cards appear at 0:40 alongside an adult Diana and a frenetic, strings-driven track. We see Steve Travor (Chris Pine, best known as Captain Kirk in the most recent Star Trek films) warning Diana of the horrors of World World I underway in the film’s universe between thunderous triplet arrays of drumming courtesy of original trailer music track Catapult, by Position Music. These triplets give way to a sprightly, galloping 6/8 compound meter of lower strings and piano as we see Diana making the decision to leave the island where she grew up.

At 1:12, these elements of percussion and strings come together along with a strong male voice, tightly synced to the action of Wonder Woman, in costume, scaling a wall. At 1:25 the trailer takes a lightly comedic turn as Travor (Pine) deadpans, “the war’s that way, but we have to go this way first.” This presages a turn in musical aesthetics at 1:28 as we hear a groovy electric bass. At 1:38 we get a brillaint sequence as an older man asks Travor who Wonder Woman is. Between Travor’s consternations (e.g. “she’s my, ah”; “and er, uh”), we see and hear blasts of action by Wonder Woman set to heavy metal riffs. Those substitutions of what would normally be descriptive language after these filled pauses are both funny and dramatically effective; by implication, Wonder Woman is “beyond words” in a way that only music can attempt to describe. At 1:51 the lyrics and full track come in full, largely uninterrupted force for the last third of the trailer, incessant right to the end at 2:42.

We’re looking forward to the trailer campaign for the inevitable sequel – as there’s little, er, wonder at at this point that there will be one.

 

– Curtis Perry

Game of Thrones: Season 7

 

This past Wednesday, the whole world stopped and was beholden to the new Game of Thrones season 7 trailer. According to HBO, the trailer was watched 61 million times across digital platforms. For those of you keeping score at home, that is a new world record. However, as one of the most highly regarded series on television, Game of Thrones is held to a higher standard than most, and so too are the trailers. Fans of the show wait for months for their first peek at the upcoming season, and when it finally arrives, these trailers are deconstructed and analyzed religiously in an effort to glean tiny insights into what the new season has in store.

Revered as works of art in their own right, Game of Thrones trailers are famous for their thoughtfully selected musical accompaniment, which typically feature potent lyrics that audiences in the know recognize as apropos. However, season 7’s trailer broke this pattern, instead opting to make characters the narrators and use music more subtly. The trailer features an orchestral arrangement that begins with violins lingering over a high note before making way for the primary motif: an ascending two-note figure played arco on the double bass, evoking a Jaws-like sound. From here, the trailer music only builds. With each break, a new layer of percussion and strings is overlaid over the previous, adding to the intensity as the trailer ramps up towards a syncopated climax. As always, the trailer masterfully interweaves sounds of marching, church bells, and the clashing of swords into the musical progression. Still, despite the effective use of orchestral music, the trailer lacks some of the punch that allusions to the narrative through lyrics so readily bring.

This week on Trailaurality, as we look forward to the seventh season of Game of Thrones, we listen back to a couple of the series’ most memorable trailers, and the songs that make them great.

 

 

The trailer for the second season of Game of Thrones immediately cemented the series into trailer enthusiasts’ hearts with its use of Florence and the Machine’s “Seven Devils.” In addition to being a powerful song featuring ethereal choral sections and a haunting yet simple piano motif, the lyrics resonate with both the onscreen action and the overall themes of the series. “Seven devils all around you! Seven devils in my house! See they were there when I woke up this morning, I’ll be dead before the day is done.” Game of Thrones is rife with betrayal as factions from opposite ends of the world clash as their leaders work towards ultimate conquest. For fans in the know, the number seven is of particular significance in Westeros, as there are seven Kingdoms, seven Gods, and seven Hells.

 After an emotionally traumatic end to the fifth season of Game of Thrones, the trailer for the show’s sixth season continued to play on fans’ heart strings. A beautifully covered version of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” by James Vincent McGrow carries all of the weight of the series and offers little hope for its characters, nor its fans. The familiar lyrics ring: “The world was on fire and no one could save me but you. It’s strange what desire can make foolish people do.” These lyrics, powerful on their own, had added significance after a fan-favourite character was infamously killed off in what the audience perceived to be an impulsive and short-sighted series of events. For the makers of the show, systematically murdering fan-favourites has become a twisted, wicked game.

Indeed, the wicked game undoubtedly continues this summer. Winter is coming July 16th, 2017.

 

– Andrew Sproule

Blade Runner 2049

 

Continuing the theme of “what if Harrison Ford, but older?” explored by Indiana Jones and Star Wars films released this past decade, the trailer for Blade Runner 2049 dropped last week shows that new director Denis Villeneuve deeply understands the universe that Ridley Scott wrought some thirty five years ago. As a cyberpunk dystopia, its arrival follows the box office bomb that was the recent Ghost in the Shell adaptation and the TV adaption of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

It wouldn’t be Blade Runner without Vangelis' menacing, synth-laden score, and Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson (The Theory of Everything) promises to deliver on these expectations beautifully. As Jóhannsson recently said in an interview with Slashfilm, "this is a sequel, not a remake, so we're doing something that exists in the world but is new as well."

However, we are made to wait a bit longer to see what Johannssohn is devised for the film, as the music for this trailer comes courtesy of Cieran Birch, titled "Decay" and published by Elephant Music. The trailer follows the initial teaser, which featured the original Blade Runner theme as composed by Vangelis; the music, written by Cato, clearly takes cues from Vangelis, but is also very much its own sound.

After a six-second “trailer for the trailer,” our first scene opens with a pulverizing saw tooth bass tone. At thirty seconds we get the studio title cards, and musical motif that ends cadentially at 0:45. We are reminded at this point that Scott is still involved as Executive Producer, further reassuring an audience who may be rightly concerned about the idea of a Blade Runner sequel.

The next round of shots introduces the viewer to Harrison Ford’s voice, reprising his role as Rick Deckard. Coincidentally, Deckard has been missing for the past thirty years in the film universe. Deckard trepidatiously steps into his old apartment, gun in hand, pointed and shaking at Ryan Gosling’s character, Officer K. A synch point with his footstep brings the synth down to a deep, low rumble as we hear Officer K’s nonchalant response, and the proverbial torch being passed to a new generation in acting.

Are these synthetic sounds particularly well-suited to dystopian fiction, or are these aesthetics merely inherited from the original? By 2017, the world of Blade Runner feels increasingly like a parallel universe than an implausible near future as it did in the early eighties. The style of “80s synth” has achieved recognizability as an aesthetic, and one of the most important films to use it is taking that mantle and hopefully extending it in imaginative ways that leverage the technological advances in synthesized music that have occurred over the past three and a half decades.

By 1:26 the audioviewer is introduced to some sounds of an aesthetic and overall fidelity that reminds us that we are indeed watching an action trailer from 2017. At 1:39 and shortly thereafter, gun shots are rhythmically tightly synched to the soundtrack, another very common technique in action trailers these days.

At the end of the trailer, an unknown character tells Officer K, “your story isn’t over yet. There’s still a page left,” and the camera pans up to a smiling Gosling. We'll see -- and hear -- what this page brings later this year.  

  - Curtis Perry

The Defenders

Still defying the laws of market saturation, film studios are pumping out superhero movies at a seemingly unsustainable pace, and audiences worldwide continue to eat it up. And like all trends in cinema, television networks — as well as streaming services, their ostensible future replacements — have followed suit and are now clambering to carve out their own niche cinematic universes. Since 2015, Netflix has produced four original superhero series: Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. Following the tested and proven comic book formula (see Avengers and Justice League), it was only a matter of time until the four superheroes would somewhat reluctantly team up to fight for the greater good. Enter obligatory crossover series: The Defenders.

The trailer for The Defenders begins with an eerie high pitch ring of a scraped cymbal. Moments later, this sound is replaced by a four-beat snippet of an immediately recognizable guitar riff, a tease that is gone as quickly as it started, hardly leaving the audience enough time to identify it. As the reverb of the guitar fades, it is replaced by a whirlwind of unintelligible bass swells and tinnitus rings in crescendo and then abruptly cuts away. This use of sound design has become commonplace in trailers as an aural marker to demonstrate intensity and anticipation. This tension is for the highly anticipated moment that the Netflix original series crosses over, as Matthew Murdock (lawyer by day, Daredevil by night) enters an interrogation room uninvited to the aid of Jessica Jones, who is under investigation (for crimes that, based on her character’s history, she has likely committed).

At the 0:27 mark, the Netflix title card appears and a dampened piano plays a faint melody, subtly recognizable as the song teased at the beginning of the trailer, though the intermittent distorted bass swells, atmospheric synth, and extraneous sound design dominate the aural space. At 0:59 the mysterious guitar riff makes its return, and this time a raspy male voice sings “Come” and all of the pieces suddenly fit together. A synthesizer-laden remix of Nirvana’s “Come As You Are” emerges as the four-member roster of The Defenders are introduced one by one. Cobain’s haunting vocals are not set to the iconic guitar riff, but a guttural pedaling bass synth. Between narration, Cobain interjects, “Come as you are, as you were, as I want you to be.” This cut of the remix, however, skips over “As a friend, as a friend” and at 1:29 jumps straight to “As a known enemy…” cutting to the face of an unknown woman. All accompanying sounds cut away at this point to ensure the audience connects the lyrics with the visuals. The trailer uses the music to reveal the season’s presumed villain, a woman named Alexandra played by Sigourney Weaver.

At 1:36, the music cuts back in full swing, providing an epic musical backdrop to a series of intense action sequences. The instrumental section features an electric guitar solo processed through a wah-wah pedal that replicates the original note for note, with a few added embellishments. The trailer ends with a series of added percussion, punctuating the on-screen fight.

Individually flawed as they may be, this unlikely group of heroes will come together as they are on August 18 with no apologies.
 

– Andrew Sproule

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 '80s Edition Ultimate Trailer

As a series that already leans quite heavily on 80s – or is it 70s? – nostalgia (Sony Walkman, anyone?), the pastiche trailer that Marvel posted late last week leans in even further with an official pastiche of the venerated early 80s sitcom television (not unlike that other sitcom about an alien, ALF). On top of the groovy fonts and faux-analogue visual filters, Erwin Lehn’s “Intro Juice” and Werner Tautz’ “How You Doing?” provide a laid-back feel to the campy affair. While the calligraphy of the title cards and the music is distinctively 70s, Marvel insists on calling this an 80s throwback, in keeping with the general 80s vibe of the series. Perhaps they mean early 80s, but I digress.

A laugh track appears at 0:07, perhaps the clearest aural marker of the sitcom genre, clueing in the audio-viewer early on about the parodic nature of the trailer. “Intro Juice,” a distinctively muzak (elevator music) style piece reminiscent of the Price is Right theme tune with upbeat, punchy brass, and steady drums, provides the backdrop to a series of witty banter by Guardians’ main protagonists. A cut to this tune about thirty seconds in both functions as an aural marker that we’re actually watching a comedic trailer, as well as providing a means of transition to the second half of the trailer.

What ensues is smooth, quasi-romantic strings and a more prominent electric bass rhythm alongside the introduction of title cards. When Star-Lord’s father reveals his identity, the music again suddenly cuts out with an audience gasp. The date on the title card again cleverly alludes to the generic conventions of television, suggesting the film is “Premiering May 5th 8PM PST.” While not strictly wrong, the language of a series premiere and a specific time zone, rather than a date, is far more in keeping with advertising for a new television series than it would be for a feature film. More interesting, however, is the decision to include a “television static” sound effect at the end. Like the dial-up tone to access the internet through a modem, the sound is now but a relic of bygone technology, and for many, I suspect, its presence draws out a certain sense of comfort and even nostalgia in the listener.

This is immediately followed by “Thor Meets World,” clearly alluding to 90s sitcom Boy Meets World, which plays for just a few seconds, wherein we see Thor, in full Nordic garb, making a face behind the glass window of a door, clearly vying for the attention of what looks like a classroom – and, surely, the attention of the theatre-goer as well. The music here is more directly humorous that the tracks preceding it, with plucky bass alternating between the root and fifth and staccato flutes providing a coy ambiance that starkly contrasts Thor’s appearance.

While fan-made recut trailers are not difficult to find in the age of YouTube, an official sendup by Marvel itself as part of its promotional campaign is a fresh move for the studio, and one that particularly befits the tongue-firmly-in-cheek, knowingly-wink-to-the-audience universe of Guardians of the Galaxy. The choice of music and aural cues successfully navigate between the parodic generic space of the retro sitcom and the aural cues of the modern trailer, offering the audio-viewer a refreshing change of pace.

 

 – Curtis Perry

Gears of War

Powerful music is the signature element behind the popular Gears of War trailers. They use music in lieu of dialogue to say what words cannot adequately convey. The trailers effectively use the loaded emotional affect of the music to invite the gamer into the shoes of the protagonist, translating the overwhelming weight of the apocalypse and the despair the protagonist endures despite the increasingly bleak outlook. All four installments of the Gears of War series use uninterrupted music, creating an aural backdrop in the absence of any obvious narrative, leaving the audience to focus on lyrics for context. The Gears of War trailers are surreal, dreamlike sequences to get lost inside, where the music is an integral part of an ultimately incomplete cypher.

 

 

The trailer for the first Gears of War game was as memorable as it was ominous, thanks in large part to the foreboding rendition of Tears for Fears’ song “Mad World” by Michael Andrews featuring Gary Jules. The cover is a significant departure in tone from the original, doing away with the unmistakeable synths of 1983 in favour of a lonely piano and vocal arrangement. The trailer begins with gentle piano in stark juxtaposition with the onscreen sequence as the protagonist surveys the aftermath of recent carnage. At 0:06 Gary Jules sings “All around me are familiar faces, worn out places, worn out faces” as the protagonist kneels alone, looking at his reflection in a puddle in a street of decay before turning over a decrepit stone statue of a boy’s face. “No tomorrow, no tomorrow…” echo as the protagonist runs from an unearthly threat, and seconds later at 0:34 Jules sings, “the dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had,” prompting the audience’s realization of the relentless struggle that defines life in this apocalypse. The lyrics foreshadow the final shot of the trailer as the survivor escapes from the unsafe streets into an apparently vacant building, only to find he has delivered himself to the monster, “when people run in circles it’s a very very mad world.” Jules repeats “mad world” as the trailer fades to black, leaving the audience hanging on his last words for unsatisfactory closure. A mad world indeed.

The music for the trailer for the second installment of the Gears of War series promises as much hope as the first. The song is appropriately titled “How it Ends” by DeVotchKa. The trailer begins with the protagonist absorbed in thought sitting in solitude under a tree staring longingly at a photograph, leaving the audience to assume that the woman in the photo was someone he loved. The synthesizer plays a 2 note progression that descends stepwise divided in steady eighth notes. At 0:21 the lyrics sing, “they all depend on you” as helicopters appear, leaving the audience to assume that you are their reluctant leader. At 0:27 the lyrics say “you already know how this will end.” The music suggests that the main character believes his fate is inevitable as he climbs into a cockpit to be shuttled deep below the surface towards the fight. These lyrics are repeated until the end of the trailer.

 

The trailer for Gears of War 3 is accompanied by “Heron Blue”by Sun Kil Moon. Like its predecessors, the trailer uses the instrumental opening of the songs to set the tone, this time with the picked twang of an acoustic guitar as the camera pans across a devastated city turned to ash, littered with bodies of civilians turned to stone. At 0:16 the lyrics sing “Don’t cry my love, don’t cry no more” as the camera zooms on the stone remnants of someone obviously crying before being reduced to rubble. “A city drowning God’s black tears” echoes at 0:36. The trailer fades to black during an instrumental interlude with unsettling dissonance as the protagonist, now joined by his compatriots, face down an impossible host of enemies.

The most recent installment of the Gears of War series marks a return to the trailer world’s penchant for cover songs, this time tackling Simon & Garfunkel’s “Hello Darkness My Old Friend” as covered by Disturbed. The voice of frontman David Draiman eerily sings “Hello darkness my old friend” referring obviously to the dusk of night while simultaneously suggesting the protagonist’s internal struggle. At 0:21 the lyrics sing “because a vision softly creeping.” Here, the music is used to explain the visual elements of the trailer: the audience is privy to reoccurring flashbacks to a peaceful past with the protagonist’s family. The music serves to provide much needed context, thereby mediating otherwise disorienting cinematography. The trailer ends on a terrifying note at 0:46 as the lyrics sing “Within the sound of silence” interrupted halfway through by the screech of an attack.

 

— Andrew Sproule

The Last Jedi

This week’s pick for trailer music analysis was clear: Disney and Lucasfilm have officially started the hype train for the second entry of Star Wars’ sequel trilogy, The Last Jedi.

 

A clever shot reveals what looks like a starry space scene set to slow glissando strings, intentionally deceiving the audience before revealing that they are in fact on land. We find Rey on all fours, out of breath, in synch with an orchestral hit at 0:20. The first scene is not unlike how we find rogue Stormtrooper Finn out in the desert in the first trailer for The Force Awakens. The title card for Lucasfilm gently enters and exits at 0:18 as Rey’s theme begins with its soft dyads and mallet percussion. The force theme quickly follows at 0:23, and we finally get to hear Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker once more – a voice off camera simply stating, “breathe.”

This trailer, with music entirely arranged and produced by Frederick Lloyd of Pusher music, focuses on the relationship between Luke and Rey, emphasized musically through the use of Rey’s theme and the Force theme (also known as Binary Sunset), typically most associated with Luke. The two themes are carefully arranged such that one can hear and recognize both in counterpoint. We know that the main musical material is certainly the work of John Williams, but it is unclear whether others have had a hand in the arrangements.

At 0:48 Luke asks, “what do you see?” Rey’s theme comes to the forefront and a montage of scenes updating the audience on what’s generally happening post-Episode VII is accompanied by various sound clips from the past: At 0:46 we hear Leia saying “help me, Obi-Wan”; at 0:51, Darth Vader breathes; at 0:53 Ben Kenobi says “seduced by the dark side”; at 0:59, Yoda says “surrounds us, binds us.”

At 0:52 we hear Kylo Ren’s theme, a harmonic minor melody of unclear tonality that introduces uncertainty. Are we to associate the presence of this theme as a response to Luke’s question? Or, are we to see it as merely an acknowledgement that Kylo Ren is still out there in the world?

At 0:59 the upper register of the strings breaks through with a major chord that, in the context of the immediately preceding minor key, suggests the Lydian mode, sounding bright in both harmony and register. Rey finally responds at 1:04, saying “a balance.”

At 1:13 Luke responds, “it’s so much bigger.” The force theme comes back with a vigorous rhythm backing it as well as an augmented melody, coupled with similarly expansive shots depicting space and land battles, alongside the title card for the release window (“this Christmas”). Insistent brass and leaping arpeggiated strings further intensify the action as we see glimpses of the other main characters of this generation of Star Wars, Poe (running with BB-8) and Finn (still in stasis, healing from the events of Episode VII).

At 1:30 Luke’s voice enters again, saying “I only know one truth,” and the music responds in anticipation, holding on to a prolonged cadential chord, falling out at 1:37 and never actually resolving. In pitch black and without music, Luke says “it’s time for the Jedi to end.”

The music then blares forth again at 1:42 as the main title card zooms into focus and the force theme makes one more appearance in augmented form, and once again ends on the dominant chords, refusing to musically resolve.

There is one last, speculative bit: as the title card for the date fades to black at the end, one does hear choir of low voices, sounding a familiar theme associated with this trilogy’s main villain, Snoke. Is this a coincidence?

Clearly, the two themes we now associate with Luke and Rey aid in the audience’s understanding of their brief dialogue, as well as assist in asking the questions the viewer would want answered by the film itself: is Luke fully with the light side of the force? Who is “the last Jedi?” What is meant by “a balance” in the force?

We will just have to wait to learn – and hear – much more as this trailer campaign continues over the course of 2017.

 — Curtis Perry

 

Deadpool 2

Everyone’s favourite Merc with a Mouth is back. Clocking in at a lengthy three minutes and forty-one seconds, the Deadpool 2 trailer is really more of a short film – a continuous sequence that is so asinine, so excessively self-aware, and so true to the original material that the trailer could very well serve as the opening scene in the feature film. True to Deadpool form, the music consistently serves as a punchline in jokes so subtle that they are liable to soar above the heads of most movie goers, clever references directed towards the hyper vigilante pop culture connoisseur. For readers who are familiar with Deadpool, it should come as no surprise that this trailer warrants Trailaurality’s first ever “Not Safe For Work” warning: viewer discretion is advised for depictions of violence, strong language, and even a little male nudity.

The trailer opens with the soothing sounds of strings from “A Walk in the Woods” by Marco Beltramias as a man walks down a dark street, accompanied by the urban street sounds of air breaks, a cat’s meow, and the distinct jingle of liquor bottles jostling in the man’s backpack with each subsequent step. The music is a subtle nod to Deadpool’s obsession over Wolverine; audiences may recognize “A Walk in the Woods” from the original soundtrack of The Wolverine (2013), the first of the trilogy starring Hugh Jackman. This is the first of multiple allusions the trailer makes to the shared cinematic universe. The song is replaced by another as Ryan Reynolds’s character stops and removes his earbuds when he sees an elderly man being mugged. The audience gets a glimpse at the vigilante’s musical tastes: “St. Elmo’s Fire”performed by John Parr.

A few expletives later, Wilson leaps into action, sprinting towards a lonely phone booth to change into his Deadpool costume, parodying Clark Kent’s absurd costume changing routine. The trailer emphasizes the Superman lampooning with the music: John William’s Superman March. The music is interrupted by frequent calls for help from the alley, trivializing the heroism that the music was initially intended to instill. The urgency that the music and the sounds of the off-screen violence conveys is further undermined as Deadpool struggles to get dressed into his costume, even stopping to make a frustrated phone call to a man named Laird who usually helps him get dressed in his costume, thereby breaking the fourth wall.

The music cuts abruptly as a gunshot rings out, leaving a void of ominous silence previously occupied by the old man’s screams. Stan Lee makes his compulsory Marvel cameo and Deadpool, recognizing him to be Stan Lee and further breaking the fourth wall, tells the man who penned his character to “zip it.”“St. Elmo’s Fire” returns at the chorus as Deadpool sprints triumphantly towards the alley, only to stop in his tracks, finding the man dead. The song stops with the familiar sound of a record slowing to a halt on a turntable. Deadpool apologizes to the deceased for not arriving sooner and subsequently lays down against him, carrying on a conversation as he eats the man’s discarded groceries. Hans Zimmer’s “You’re So Cool” plays out the scene. Deadpool references Wolverine again, making fun of Hugh Jackman’s Australian accent despite the fact that he usesan American accent in the X-Men franchise.

In all of its ridiculousness, the Deadpool 2 trailer promises a movie that is as over-the-top as its predecessor. The lighthearted R-rated trailer pokes fun at superhero conventions through its exaggerated use of music, using iconic soundtracks and sound design to position itself as a meta-superhero movie. The Deadpool 2 trailer, titled “No Good Deed,” is a basket full of Easter eggs to kick off your long weekend.

 

– Andrew Sproule

Justice League

 


 

This past week, the first official trailer for Justice League was dropped by DC.

As one YouTube commenter put it, “I used to think that people who fight over religions are dumb. Then I saw people fighting over marvel and dc [sic].” Whatever your stance on the issue, it is clear that DC continues to do superhero movie trailers right.

The trailer’s form is a classic three part structure, beginning with an air of mystery, then introducing drama and comedy, and finally focusing on action for a strong finish. As usual for the studio and the trailer houses who work on promoting its films, the use of music in this trailer is top-notch. However, not every news outlet might agree about the bombastic approach director Zack Snyder is clearly going for here. 

The trailer opens on a mysterious blend of brass and strings, with the Warner Bros and DC title cards appearing fairly quickly, at 0:10. Shortly after, atop a a war drum-like rhythm, a voiceover says, “we have to be ready […] there’s an attack coming.” Wonder Woman subsequently replies, tipping the listener off that the original voice was that of Batman, saying “not coming, Bruce… it’s already here,” as the rhythm abruptly ends the first segment of the trailer at 0:30. In terms of sound design, some suspenseful synths take over, adding to the foreboding atmosphere between snippets of dialogue at around 0:35.

At 0:40 to about 1:00 – while characters are introduced – we hear the White Stripes’ early millennium track “The Hardest Button to Button,” obviously edited to loop the riff, only to somewhat jarringly switch to a hard rock cover of The Beatles’ “Come Together,” with all of the obvious significance that title has for a movie comprised of various super heroes, well, coming together to fight evil. The cover is by Justice League composer Junkie XL (aka Tom Holkenborg) and famed guitarist Gary Clark Jr.

An original coda for the “Come Together” riff brings us to a touch of comedic flair as Bruce, responding to Barry Allen (aka The Flash) asking what his super powers are, retorts “I’m rich” circa 1:30. Lyrics for the cover version of “Come Together” enter at 1:35, emphasizing the line “you’ve got to be free,” which likely alludes to the sense of freedom of vigilante heroism that Batman enjoys. The track is augmented by various supporting sound effects such as one at 1:48 as the cast of Justice League is quickly run through.

To ramp up cohesion of the music with the corresponding image, at 1:49 we see a prisoner and his visitor’s hands touching the glass to the beat of the music, and at 1:52 an array of triplets interrupt the groove in perfect sync with a tank’s gun fire. At 2:03 the Justice League title card arrives with one more repetition of the main riff, and a brief cinematic coda closes it out to a general release window of November.

One is reminded of the success that DC had by pairing Bohemian Rhapsody very tightly with the trailer campaign for Suicide Squad. While DC films are popularly and critically considered to be playing second fiddle to Marvel’s powerhouse roster of superhero films, DC continues to show great taste in leveraging choice musical cuts to fit the moods and themes of its cinematic offerings. Expect to hear a lot more of “Come Together” in the ensuing months leading up to Justice League’s release.

 

– Curtis Perry

Mass Effect: Andromeda

The latest installment in the popular Mass Effect series is upon us, and the highly cinematic style of the launch trailer makes it easy to forget that it is promoting a video game. And while this aesthetic has quickly become commonplace in the video game trailer world, in the case of Mass Effect: Andromeda the cinematic style of the trailer is more than a demarcation of the current trend in the medium, but a reflection of the in-game experience itself. Gamers familiar with the series know that Mass Effect games rely heavily on the use of cut scenes as a storytelling mechanism. However, unlike most games, these cut scenes vary dramatically because the trajectory of the narrative itself is contingent on the choices the player makes throughout the game. Just as the title of the series suggests, Mass Effect is about the stakes and consequences of said choices, and for those who are in the know, this theme is coded in the trailer music.

 

The trailer begins with the delicate sounds of strings, filling the void of outer space as the camera zooms out in quiet contemplation. Before long however, the orchestration fills out and the music shifts with earnest and intensity as the narration outlines a dire situation and the need for a leader. At :19, the music cuts and the strings hang in anticipation, interrupted by the sound of the protagonist cocking his gun, cuing Rag’n’BoneMan’s song Human. The all-too-familiar story of the inexperienced leader, reluctantly taking the helm rings true as the lyrics sing, “Maybe I’m foolish, maybe I’m blind, thinking I can see through this, see what’s behind, got no way to prove it, so maybe I’m blind…” The footage is synchronised in perfect time with the music, cutting from scene to scene on the downbeat.

 

The lyrics cut away and are replaced with the voice of the protagonist, accompanied by the prominent thumping of the drums as the keys and strings maintain the momentum of the harmonic progression of the song. When the lyrics enter again, it becomes imminently apparent why the trailer house chose this specific song to accompany the game’s launch trailer. Rag’n’Bone sings, “I’m only human after all, I’m only human after all, don’t put the blame on me, don’t put the blame on me.” The Mass Effect games are intergalactic stories about the struggle for power across species, with humankind caught in the middle. As such, it is up to the protagonist to make choices throughout the game that seal the fate of entire colonies and to navigate ethical dilemmas not dissimilar to those we grapple with in the real world. The song echoes the sympathetic plight of the player. The song later reiterates, “I’m only human I make mistakes, I’m only human that’s all it takes to put the blame on me, don’t put the blame on me.”

 

At the time of this writing, the launch trailer for Mass Effect: Andromeda has amassed over 2.6 million views on YouTube in two short weeks. The makers of Mass Effect recognize the importance of the franchise’s salient themes to their audience, as made evident by their prominence in Andromeda’s trailer music. For fans, immersion in this “choose your own adventure” series relies on the game’s ability to recreate an experience that is inherently human.

 

- Andrew Sproule

Baby Driver

 

After a brief hiatus, director Edgar Wright returns wit the debut trailer for Baby Driver at this past week’s South by Southwest Film Festival. In interviews, the Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Shaun of the Dead director promised us a film powered by music. In the Baby Driver teaser trailer, we are introduced to the protagonist, Baby, who suffers from tinnitus (a constant ringing in the ears). As such, he relies on music to help him focus and drown out this aural hypersensitivity. This plot device translates well to a trailer that uses some clever sound effects editing.

Despite previewing a film with a musical focus, this trailer is framed by the subtle but brilliant use of sound effects. Right away, we’re treated to a unique studio card sequence as the logos adorn a stack of 45s bearing studio names are passed through inside a jukebox. Cleverly, we see the jukebox selecting the song which will extend the length of the trailer – a cover of by BOGA of Martha Reeves and the Vandellas' "Nowhere to Run." Some clever layering of sound allows us to imagine the revving engine at 0:20 as an supradiegetic effect that expresses the character’s sudden attention before it is matched up in the next scene with the car. (To paraphrase musicologist Rick Altman, his term, “supradiegetic,” means a sound that seems to belong to characters’ actions, appearing to be diegetic in nature, but simultaneously clearly belonging to the extradiegetic musical track, outside the sound world of the film.) From a film theory perspective, this is a sound bridge – a classic editing technique in the continuity editing style. At 1:02 we hear the still-in-vogue “power station shutting down” sound effect (see here for more on this industry trend) as Baby steers his car dangerously to park, leading into the second part of the trailer’s dramatic arc. At 1:21 through 1:29 we hear the rhythmic pulse sound of a car’s warning signal, originating at a point and volume that sounds appropriate, but quickly increasing in volume as the scene changes and Baby is threatened, somewhere in the middle crossing over into nondiegetic sound space.

As the release date card is revealed at 1:34, we enter the last third of trailer as the song vocals finally enter in. However, again, sound effects are oversized. For instance, we hear a car revving, whirring helicopter blades, and even a girl blowing bubbles with corresponding sound effects mixed distinctly above the music from 1:35-1:41, before the music drops out entirely for two seconds for a few more car-related sounds, and cutting back in without missing a beat. At 1:45 we again see and hear a supradiegetic moment when the girl lip syncs to the lyric “baby” in the music. Clearly, the trailer is using a wide array of sound editing techniques both to engage the viewer, and perhaps also to emphasize the sensitivity that the film’s protagonist has to sound.

The trailer only takes a break from its insistent soundscape at 2:02, when it stops for a quick scene to show off a bit of that trademark Wright-esque comedic dialogue, before wrapping up at 2:12 and ending with -- of course -- a revving engine, with additional reverb and bass to make it sound appropriately epic as the final “note”.

 

– Curtis Perry

Ghost in the Shell

Now only a couple of short weeks away from its release, the trailer for the much anticipated live-action adaptation of the Ghost in the Shell manga comic book series is in high rotation. The trailer has received much praise for its impressive special effects and dazzling action sequences, but it is the expertly crafted and positioned music that adds the depth and intrigue that makes this trailer stand out from the rest.

 

From the very first moment, the trailer blurs the often nebulous line where sound design transcends FX and takes on a musical role. The synthesized chords set the ominous tone of the opening scene. The music quickly devolves as the on-screen action suddenly begins to unfold. The music effectively augments the frenzied onset of violence, abandoning the previous stagnant aural space for one filled with rapid dynamic swells, wobbling bass, and percussion.

The sharp attack and subsequent lingering echo of a single gunshot demarcates the end of the action as the audience is transported to a new scene. Here, relative silence accompanies key plot dialogue. A cymbal roll serves as a transition into a rendition of Depeche Mode’s "Enjoy the Silence” by Ki Theory. The cover represents a significant stylistic departure from the original, embracing an alternative rock/electronic affect, featuring remix-esque breaks and rhythmic embellishment throughout. Though Ki Theory’s interpretation of the piece is instantly recognizable, the grittier and more futuristic tone of the song resonates with the film’s cybernetic aesthetic.

The lyrics mirror the on-screen action. “Words like violence break the silence” echo as Scarlett Johansson’s character punches a man who subsequently falls to the ground as the instruments cut to silence before the inevitable crescendo back into the fray. The trailer is cut in perfect time with the song, emphatically punctuating each shot, further highlighting the rhythmic remix elements. The trailer ends with a suddenly stripped-down coda as the synthesizers quote a final melodic phrase, leaving the audience sufficiently unsettled and simultaneously wanting more.

The choice to include a cover of Depeche Mode’s 1990 hit single is not insignificant—the publication of the original manga comic book series closely coincided with the song’s release, running from May 1989 to November 1990. Indeed, trailers using the previous generation’s popular music as a way of capitalizing on nostalgia is an all too common trend in Hollywood (à la Guardians of the Galaxy). Here, the futuristic cover of “Enjoy the Silence” breathes fresh air into two old classics.

 

– Andrew Sproule

Breath of the Wild


Trailers, themselves a medium that is part-promotional, part-artistic creation, also serve as a meeting point for video games as objects of play and objects of cinema. The launch trailer for the latest entry in the Legend of Zelda series, "Breath of the Wild," offers a classic case in point.

At well over 9 million views as of this writing, the Nintendo Switch Presentation 2017 trailer for the game is remarkable in many ways. For reference, the launch trailer for Metal Gear Solid V, the latest in a similarly storied series of video games, has garnered less than half of the Zelda trailer’s viewership.

Video games as a medium have only been around for roughly fifty years, with the first game arriving in 1958 and commercialization as well as the availability of technologies to produce "video games" as we recognize them today not arriving until decades later (the Atari 2600, in 1977). While text-based adventure games and vide-based media have been available throughout the 1970s, it was only in the 8-bit era that developers and artists were able to co-create imaginative worlds with a sense of depth and cohesiveness that would foreshadow the cinematic heights that “AAA” games enjoy today. With a budget and labour force rivalling any major studio, todays games are easily (re-)presentable as a cinematic experience, in tandem with the base experience of play that they provide.

At nearly four minutes in length, the Zelda launch trailer is unusually expansive, befitting of a game that promises an essentially limitless, open-ended experience. As part of a particular tradition in this video game series of rigorously-executed musical motivic development, the main, five-note motif for the theme of this game is first heard on the upper register of the piano at twenty-three seconds in, preceded by plaintive ocean waves juxtaposed by ominous bells and strings.

At the :50 mark, the intimate shot of the forest accompanied by oboe gives way to a mélange of percussion, strings, and epic choir that almost sounds cliché within the milieu of epic trailer music, albeit entirely appropriate for the high fantasy setting of the game. It is an introduction for a lengthy score that expertly interweaves themes old and new and permeates nearly the entirety of the trailer.

At 1:15, we hear the first of many voice-overs that hint at the story without necessarily giving away any real sense of the plot. At1:46 there occurs a boisterous battle-theme montage of gameplay shots, switching perspectives from the cinematic to one that diegetically positions the viewer as imagined player with agency in the world of the game. This is suggested by the camera angles which are predominantly shown behind the protagonist of the game, Link. 

However, a brief interlude in the music breaks the pace, leading to a second section of this theme now laden with heavy brass and a series of cinematic moments, presumably from the game’s cut scenes. A second interlude at approximately 2:50 introduces dialogue overlaid on the music, which adds further orchestration and introduces the three-decade-old theme familiar to Zelda fans everywhere, calling upon previous experiences with the franchise as effectively as the recent Star Wars trailers.

The trailer ends with a title card and a short epilogue, followed by a silent presentation of the release date and subsequently logos for its game consoles, and finally the Nintendo logo, bathed in its instantly recognizable tone of red.

Taken together, the actual gameplay is deeply embedded in the trailer, confined mainly to a couple of segments that portray the gameplay experience, but this is effectively blended seamlessly with the more cinematic shots thanks to a relentlessly building epic score. This trailer may be remembered as a particularly convincing promotion for one of the key markers in the ongoing evolution of video games as an art form and as a medium for storytelling. 

- Curtis Perry

The 2017 Oscars

The omnipresent chatter in anticipation of the 2017 Oscars is undeniable. For those of you planning on tuning in for the doling out of the highest honours in cinema, you may be preparing for your annual Oscar-nominated movie binge. However, in the face of this monumental and somewhat daunting task, many of us simply opt for the CliffsNotes version – the trailers. To make things simple, there is now a one-stop trailer shop, served with a twist.

Screen Junkies has become notorious for its “Honest Trailers,” an Emmy-nominated parody series that satirizes film and television in mock-trailer style. Premiering on YouTube in 2012, Screen Junkies has become an unofficial third party trailer house, developing a distinct aesthetic largely characterized by their use of music and sound. 

The Honest Trailer for the 2017 Oscars begins as all Honest Trailers do: with a montage of YouTube commenters’ requests for the Honest Trailer in question promptly appearing on the screen, punctuated by cheesy sound design, and followed by the sounds of celluloid-film spinning on a reel before breaking down. Cue cliché trailer narration by Jon Bailey, the infamous acousmetre so closely associated to the emerging trailer genre that it is hard to imagine his voice anywhere else. Next, the Honest Trailer pokes fun at the Oscars, accompanied by music evocative of the academy’s own musical theme.

The trailer proceeds to give a tongue-in-cheek précis of each of the nominees for Best Picture, using music to make a statement about the tone of the films while simultaneously contradicting it with comedic narration. Screen Junkies begins with Arrival, using Hans Zimmer-esque string motifs and brass swells to underscore the intensity of the film. Next, the Honest Trailer takes aim at Lion, pairing the film to a sitar riff, making a general musical connection to the India-centred story. Hell or High Water is illustrated as the outlier in the Best Picture crop, connoted by a shift in tone to blues-rock guitar. Hidden Figures is treated to music that serves to approximate the historical era of the film. Manchester by the Sea is accompanied by delicate, sad piano and light strings that emphasize the tragic theme. The Honest Trailer continues with Moonlight, shifting to darker, more resonant piano playing interrupted by dinging as Screen Junkies checks off the boxes to what makes this film Oscar worthy. The smooth musical transition into Fences replaces piano for orchestral strings, keeping with the dramatic tone from the previous trailer. The penultimate Hacksaw Ridge begins with the beating of a single bass drum and changes pace to over the top dramatic strings, underplaying the excessive violence of the film in tandem with narration. Finally, enter La La Land; the contemporary jazz musical swings with full brass, smooth saxophone, and tasty percussion. Bailey’s voice is replaced by that of Brock Baker, who impersonates Donald Trump as he imagines what the President of the United States might tweet during Sunday’s award ceremony – some compulsory political satire that doubles as commentary on the intensely politicized academy.

The Honest Trailer on the 2017 Oscars is a poignant, fun take on an awards ceremony that is often criticized for taking itself too seriously. This particular trailer is the epitome of the Honest Trailer aesthetic, taking full advantage of abrupt musical cuts and transitions, peppered with sound effects, and narrated with witty cynicism. The music in the trailer is intentionally hyperbolic, and highlights the trailer tropes we have come to expect from Hollywood.

Screen Junkies has cultivated an impressive following on YouTube. The pop culture relevance of the Honest Trailers series is irrefutable. At the time of this publication, the 2017 Oscars Honest Trailer has amassed over 2 million views, easily dwarfing the 43,000 views of the 2017 Oscars official trailer. The academy-sanctioned trailer is musically much simpler than the Screen Junkies equivalent, lazily underscored by “Good Time Good Life” by Banzai featuring Erin Bowman.

The Honest Trailers series have achieved critical and mainstream success, perhaps reflecting a trend in digital media consumption away from the consecrated content of the academy towards something more, well, honest.

 

- Andrew Sproule

Logan

Given the deluge of superhero movies in recent years, it was only a matter of time before the Marvel Universe would offer a different take on the genre. Something away from the goofy shenanigans of Guardians of the Galaxy, capable of more levity than the high school backstory of Spiderman could possibly muster. Indeed, in retrospect, a movie starring our beloved Canadian Wolverine with more serious, down-to-earth undertones seems obvious.


Trailer 1:

 

The shift in cinematic tone presented by the eponymously-titled Logan is perfectly encapsulated in the choice of trailer music for its first promotional outing.

“Charles, the world is not the same as it was,” Logan cautiously intones to Professor X as the languid acoustic guitar tones of Johnny Cash’s famous cover of Hurt (originally by Nine Inch Nails) wash over turgid shots of a forest and cemetery. With the hit of Cash’s first line, “I hurt myself today,” added timpani-like strokes add impact to the first full shot of our antihero, ravaged by scars and blood.
About midway through the trailer, we are introduced to Logan’s protégé, a young girl whose name we don’t yet know.

As the title card appears, we see a montage of action shots in sync with the chorus, played in double time thanks to the introduction of a piano playing a steady, insistent tone in the upper register. More low drums and rising-tone sound effects lead to a cut of the song to the end of the lyrics where Cash asserts, “I will find a way,” and the opening guitar riff continues, offering some semblance of hope despite the sense of despair that underscores so much of this first trailer.

 

Trailer 2:

The second trailer offers a directly contrasting perspective of the film. We enter with in medias resith some generic diegetic background music playing. This relatively low-fi aesthetic serves as an effective contrast to our first SFX hit roughly twenty seconds in, a now-quite-common “power station shutting down” sort of sound that signals a key moment in the trailer’s narrative, in this case the girl’s supernatural display of physical strength. 

This mini-prologue gives way at 27 seconds to our studio title card and the main song for this trailer, Kaleo’s “Way Down We Go.” The laid-back atmosphere of this track serves as a counterpoint to Logan’s tense speech. At 0:50-0:56 the trailer offers an intradiegetic moment, as the SFX for the punches and gun fire sync perfectly with the beat. 

The studio title card at 1:18 adds vocals with a clear intertextual meaning for the lyrics, “way down we go.” Way down we go, indeed, as Wolverine’s protégé engages in extreme violence, and it becomes clear that the film portends to be as much about Logan as it is about the next generation of superheroes and heroines.

Taken as a whole, the second trailer is quite different from the first, exploring very different aspects of this film. Between these two promotional exercises it is clear that the film promises to be just as engaging as a drama as it will be as an action movie; it was likely very intentional that Marvel would begin on a more down-to-earth note to effectively market the departure of this superhero from the usual cavalcade of Marvel Universe antics. This being said, the second trailer signals that Marvel hasn’t forgotten its core fans, either.

 

– Curtis Perry

The Lego Batman Movie

If the trailer campaign for The Lego Batman Movie is any indication, audiences will be treated to music full of subtle nods and on-the-nose allusions when the film hits theatres this week. Following in the wake of The Lego Movie (2014), The Lego Batman Movie has big shoes to fill. Much of The Lego Movie’s success is no doubt due to its effective use of music, and in particular the infectiously catchy original song “Everything is Awesome.” However, the trailer campaign for the franchise’s second film has opted for a different tack, using popular music in lieu of original material, recoding the music’s meaning as a means for achieving its comedic ends.

Trailer 1

Right from the beginning of the first trailer, the music sets the tone of the film as the audience is treated to a beatboxing Batman voiced by Will Arnett, who is casually laying down what he calls “some dope tracks.” Cut to the Warner Brothers title card, the music shifts tone to over-the-top epic trailer music, synched with flying title cards listing the Batman films in sequential order, finally ending on The Lego Movie. The stark juxtaposition between the serious tone of the cliché trailer music with the amateur beatboxing is enough of a parodic musical statement to prepare the audience for the shenanigans that are all but guaranteed. The trailer makes effective use of silence, often cutting the music entirely to deliver hilarious punchlines. Wiz Khalifa’s hit “Black and Yellow” accompanies the remainder of the trailer, a clever nod to the cape crusader’s iconic costume and logo.

Trailer 2

After Batman breaks the fourth wall and addresses the audience, Mozart’s Requiem dramatically underpins the next scene of the second trailer, which features a lonely Batman speaking to his deceased parents while looking at a family photo. The music cuts abruptly when Alfred interrupts his quiet contemplation and Batman accidentally kicks his unsuspecting butler into the piano. When Alfred prompts Batman to talk about his feelings, Batman says “no” repeatedly until it transforms into song, with the classic Batman theme song that further digresses into impromptu beatboxing. The trailer ends with a contemporary hip-hop version of the theme song.

Trailer 3

The Comic-Con trailer for the film begins with synthesized bass pedalling accented by percussion shots, only to be interrupted by the theatrical dun-dun-dun cliché. More percussive shots and strings play through an intense motif, which is interrupted by a brief musical interlude featuring a heavily filtered bass guitar when Batman’s sidekick Robin ignores Batman’s advice and inevitably presses the big red button. Kalifa’s “Black and Yellow” again closes out the trailer.

Trailer 4

The audience is again treated to Kalifa’s mantra for the fourth and final trailer of the film’s campaign, this time at the beginning of the preview. Upon arriving home to his solitary Batcave, Batman embarks on various solo-endeavors accompanied by Three Dog Night’s “One is the Loneliest Number.” Batman’s seclusion is however short-lived when Robin appears, cuing the final number. Leaving all presumption of subtlety at the door, a pop remix of Starship’s “We Built This City” plays out the remainder of the trailer.

 

- Andrew Sproule

ThrowbackThursday // Vol. 8: Doom – Yeah, Yeah – Doom

Hello friends, family, and foes,

Welcome back to the wacky and wonderful world of time travel. I am your host Artesian House, in for Artful, who stepped in for Artimus, who replaced Artie, the original substitute for Arthur, some three weeks ago.

I was having a late night chicken wing with my friend Danny Mac last Thursday (no relation), when he told me that there was a new trailer for a new Doom game that I just had to see (I told him, “and hear!”). Seeing as it was near the end of the billing month, and I was approaching my mobile data limit (where 1 GB is not nearly enough to watch trailers in a selfless pub), I had to wait until I got home (where the Wi-Fi is) to connect to the old Bell310 Network.

While he fired up the iMac and got our NBA streams going, I found this new trailer on my cell-phone:

 [Warning!!! This trailer contains extremely disgusting and violent sights and sounds that will most certainly trigger some visceral reaction!!!]

I have to start with the obvious – the sound of whatever it is that cued me to think of mushing brains and their juices (maybe the foley artists squished a pineapple) - this measured sound-tool occupies a unique space in this game’s futurescape-hellsphere where comedy and horror co-exist without a tongue in cheek. For example, with a bagful of the new Doritos Roulette at your side, playing this game will not keep you refrained from eating the surprising snack, but every once in a while when you score a particularly gruesome kill, you might say (with a mouthful of that delicious Dorito mush), “ahhhhh!” or “groossss!” or, and depending on what type of person you really are, “awesome!”

It horrors me, however, to think of some of the language I have heard playing multiplayer games online. You wonder if these kids know what they are saying, or if they just know what words they are not supposed to say and then string them together into slightly coherent sentences – like some of those upbeat poems in Bob Dylan’s Tarantula. Meaning is imposed over the string of words after-the-fact and only because we care that it is Dylan or that a string of words should carry meaning. I swear, that guy could have said anything, actually anything, “penny-zip elephant cheese” and people would find what they were looking for.

Anyway, back to the sound of squishing brains. I couldn’t help but think that maybe I have heard those sounds before and I had to ask, where?  Danny said "Casino," and the scene popped into my head (pun intended). Listen again, to the gruesome sounds of a skull being crushed and again, a proper warning is due – this scene is of obscenely graphic nature, and I only feel comfortable sharing it with you, dear reader, because I know that it is “movie magic” and some foley artist recorded the sound of something other than a cracking skull with bubbly brains (unlike the popular case of that famous Italian cannibal film, where the effects were so real, a judge called the director in for murder):

//

To thankfully change the pace of this entry, the new trailer for the campaign mode takes a different approach and uses a cinematic touch that is reflected in the soundtrack. The kill-zone of a multiplayer mode is sounded out by hyper-space-marine-industrial-rock and the story mode has music to guide the…story...for a few seconds before it goes back to that micro-music culture that I just invented: 

//

You know what else is fun? Take a listen to all of the trailers for every other Doom game all the way from 1992, up until 2015 in one long trailer-of-trailers that, again, is the result of fan-art and a dedication to the series:

//

All of those pre-orders for Doom II – exactly like the Vitaphone system we wrote about not too long ago – selling the image of popularity is just as important as actual popularity, just like selling the image of having money is more important than actually having it – right 50 Cent?!

I am going to pretend then, that I am on a beach!

Take care and I will be back in time,

Art.