It’s that time of year again: 2018 yielded a strong cast of trailers across genres, budgets, and styles. Now for our second year running, here are a few trailers that we felt stood head and shoulders above the rest this year, with a special focus, of course, on the soundtrack.
Best Epic Music: Godzilla
In a welcome reprieve from the too-often used sound effects of powered-down generations or the Hans Zimmer Inception-“BRAM,” we are instead invited to upend our decades-old expectations about a franchise like Godzilla: Claude Debussy’s “Claire de Lune” affords us a window into the terrifying, sublime beauty that is perhaps closer to Godzilla’s original 1954 incarnation as sympathetically relatable and almost humanoid. While the world of the film is on the verge of apocalypse, the immense, grandiose shots of Mothra’s spreading wings and Godzilla’s emblematic roar are the focus of attention here. It’s a bold and successful new take on trailerized music, and we’re hopeful it will catch on as a trend to watch for in 2019 and beyond. As David Lee notes in the fantasy review Black Gate, “the music tells us… that only the monsters can save us.” It’s a convincing use of classical music to help convey a fresh, serious, and, dare it be said – mystical – take on the Godzilla mythos.
Best Use of Creative Editing: Bohemian Rhapsody
What makes this trailer special is immediate and striking from the very first downbeat. The fact that so many of Queen’s hits are based on rudimentary (and still genius) riffs and motifs such as the bass drum and clap of “We Will Rock You” and the steady 4/4 pulse of “Another One Bites the Dust” offers the opportunity to mash all of these hits up to mesmerizing effect. Even the transition from the micro-teaser to the main trailer receives a smooth musical segue. It’s a bohemian medley worthy for a trailer that’s worthy of its namesake.
Best Use of Original Music: A Star is Born
While there were many trailers for filmic collaborations with star musicians this year, not the least of which included Vox Lux (Sia) and Suspiria (Thom Yorke, of Radiohead), the star goes to Lady Gaga for both writing and performing in this reimagining of the Hollywood classic A Star is Born. One rousing rendition of the hook from her duet with Bradley Cooper, Shallow, is enough to thoroughly convince many a moviegoer to attend this production, evidenced by its $388M worldwide box office as of this writing.
Best TV Series Trailer: I Am the Night
If A Star is Born is built on the strength of Gaga’s pipes, I Am the Night derives its memorability from the cavalcade of sound effects and atmospherics that plunge the audioviewer into the depths of Hitchcockian intrigue and drama. An array of effects emanating from various string instruments is accompanied by various retro telephony sound effects and synthesizers, firmly placing the series in its mid-20th century aesthetic.
Best Video Game Trailer: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
This last piece isn’t, in fact, a joke – no, this trailer gets a nod for its distinct lack of music. In a year full of incredibly bombastic video game trailers pitted in a game of futile one-upmanship, the final trailer for Nintendo’s latest entry in the 20-year strong Smash Bros. series employs the lateral strategy of implicitly suggesting its fans supply their own soundtrack. As evidenced on YouTube, the response was incredibly successful; dozens of versions of this trailer are now online, including an edit with Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” that betrays belief in its fittingness. As fan edits increasingly become a key part of the trailer media landscape and of the conversation between creators and fans, it will be interesting to see if this is a strategy that others will emulate.
Looking Ahead to 2019…
Suffice to say, 2018 was another great year for trailer music aficionados. Whether revelling in the sounds of the past, delighting in new arrangements and variations on past works, or going full bore into uncharted musical territory, today’s trailer soundscape is rife with fine examples of persuasive art, in myriad ways fully leveraging the role that music plays in its effectiveness. We can’t wait to hear what 2019 has in store.
– Curtis Perry