March 6th, 2011
Phil Gyford wonders when a film maker is going to catch up with their film's trailer:
Here's something I keep expecting to see but haven't yet: an entire movie or TV show told as speedily as a trailer.
The people who put together trailers are brilliant at overlaying video and audio, cutting rapidly, and conveying the gist of narrative and atmosphere in a very short space of time. While the trailer for a movie never tells you the entire story (even if it sometimes seems like that) you know what's going on. It would only take a few additions to actually tell the entire story of a movie, rather than just enough to whet your appetite.
We've become increasingly good at parsing very compressed video and making connections between seemingly disparate images, so I keep expecting to see movies and TV shows taking advantage of this. We're now capable of making sense of a movie told at this pace in a way that those in 1895 alarmed by a film of a train wouldn't be. [...]
I don't think this would be a remotely satisfying film to watch. The director of a trailer can get away with throwing lots of quick cuts and disjointed bits of action at the viewer because they're not trying to tell a story, just to tell you what sort of film they're trying to persuade you to see. They usually want you to come away with a) some idea of the genre of film, b) knowledge as to who the stars are, and – if at all possible – c) the strong impression that the lead actress1 gets naked on-screen at some point.
I'm not sure what the audience would gain from having several hundred discrete slices of story and character development thrown at them over the course of 90-110 minutes. Granted, it might allow the makers of the Green Lantern movie to fit in not just Hal Jordan's origin story but his entire career, but wouldn't it all end up being a blur of big action and zero character development if you never get the time to let the characters breathe? In a trailer you don't expect to see character development or callbacks to plot points from earlier in the trailer, but in a film there's always room to cast an eye back at an earlier scene and remind the audience of some parallel or bit of relevant backstory. Could the filmmakers expect that the audience would pick up on an allusion in minute 73 to something Kilowog said to Hal Jordan back in minute 17 (127 plot twists and 81 changes of scenery ago), or would they just abandon any pretence of telling a single unified story and rely on sheer forward momentum to carry us through to the big spectacular ending?
Bottom line: I can't see a mainstream Hollywood production risking losing its audience by delivering 90-plus minutes of story at trailer pace. Perhaps someone will do it on a lowish budget and figure out what sort of story can work at that speed and surprise us all, but I'm not sure I'm looking forward to finding out. But then, I'm old…
- Or lead actor, if that's more appropriate to the audience they're trying to attract. But somehow that doesn't happen half as often in practice. ↩