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