Sunday, May 8, 2016

Game of Thrones Season 6 Trailer: Rhythm and Tension

This week, we will be reviewing the second trailer for Season 6 of Game of Thrones. Be advised that unlike the previous trailers reviewed so far, this trailer contains blood and some brief sexually suggestive imagery.

This trailer is different from the previously reviewed trailers in a few notable ways. One is that it relies a bit on the viewer's pre-established knowledge of the events of the previous seasons. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, and it seems justified here, considering Game of Thrones has a large and complex story with one of the largest ensemble casts on television. Establishing the backstory or the characters in any way would be impractical, so it focuses more on what is going on visually. It does give a couple characters some lines that show their motives, such as Sansa's line about how she can only think about what was taken from her.

One thing that this trailer does excellently is build tension slowly. The first twenty seconds of the trailer are relatively silent, until the background music of vocal chanting begins. The viewer hears a few short "HA" chants after brief clips, after which it begins a slow, intimidating rhythm of chanting. As the trailer goes on, the music builds, with drums and more voices coming in to increase the intimidation factor.The music stops to allow a character to deliver a dramatic line, but then increases even more with the intensity.

While people who don't watch the series won't understand why these things in the trailer are happening, the trailer does try to gain their attention by focusing on what is happening. The trailer shows a great deal of fighting, intimidating dialogue, and a bit of sex appeal as well, which is a bit shallow, but it shows that they know how to get people's attention with the trailer.

If there's one thing this trailer could do better, however, it would be that it could emphasize more of the political dialogue aspect of the show. Game of Thrones is, in reality, a very rich and well-written show, for the most part, and this trailer doesn't really reflect that. It seems mainly focused on appealing to fanservice and the audience's sense of "ooh, that looks cool," and that's not necessarily a bad thing, especially considering how well it manages to avoid spoilers, but it could focus a bit more on the deeper, more personal aspects of the show that make it really worth watching.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Star Wars: The Force Awakens- Video Re-review

This is a brief re-review of the Star Wars: The Force Awakens Trailer. This trailer was mentioned in many other posts as an example of how well a trailer can succeed when done correctly, so it seemed appropriate to show its strengths with the aid of video.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Final Fantasy XV: A Trailer of Brotherhood Ten Years in the Making

So far, this blog unintentionally became a blog strictly for trailers for superhero movies and Star Wars. While there's presumably nothing wrong with that, it would be a good idea to take a look at a very different kind of trailer this week. Today, we will review a trailer for an upcoming video game, but it would first be important to give a bit of context for the game itself.

(Skip the next three paragraphs to get straight to the actual review.)

Back in 2006, the Japanese video game company Square Enix announced three games: Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy Agito XIII, and Final Fantasy Versus XIII. These three games were each designed to tell their own separate story, in their own universes. Final Fantasy XIII released in 2010, to mediocre reviews. Since then, that game has received two sequels: Final Fantasy XIII-2 and Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, which was frustrating to many fans, since very few people wanted a sequel to that game to begin with. Final Fantasy Agito XIII was rebranded "Final Fantasy Type-0," and released in 2011 in Japan.

Final Fantasy Versus XIII, however, went through many years of trouble with its development. After its announcement with a few excellent and exciting trailers in 2006, it vanished. The heavily-anticipated game wasn't given any advertising, and any time a member of Square Enix was interviewed and asked about the game, they would brush off the question with a "We're working on it" type of comment. Five years passed, and in 2011, Square Enix finally revealed a new trailer for the game. This thrilling trailer made the fans excited for the game again, and the fans wanted to know the release date of this promising game. But then the game disappeared again, in the exact same way it did the first time. Finally, two years later, the game was given a thrilling re-reveal, and was officially renamed "Final Fantasy XV."

But then it disappeared, yet again. It wouldn't be for another year and a half that the public received any significant news about the game. But then, in late 2014, the game made its grand reappearance. All of a sudden, the public began sporadically receiving trailers, new pieces of news, and even a demo for the game. This stream of information went on for a little over a year, until finally, just last month, the release date of this game was finally revealed as September 30th, 2016. Fans of this series have been waiting a very long time for this game.

This information is given in the hopes that the reader will understand how heavily anticipated this game is, and how seriously the developers are taking it. Keep this in mind when reading this review for the most recent trailer.

Turn on the closed captioning in this video for English Subtitles.

In Square Enix's most recent advertising campaign for Final Fantasy XV, the focus has been mainly on the theme of brotherhood. Many of the most recent trailers depict the main character, Noctis, on what appears to be a road trip with his close friends Gladiolus, Prompto, and Ignis. This trailer keeps that in mind, but begins with the overarching story, which is a war between kingdoms. The first half of this trailer establishes a bit about this war, and shows a great deal of gameplay and fantasy imagery.

This first half does a great job of establishing the world that this game takes place in. The tagline for this game has always been, "This is a fantasy based in reality," and that certainly shows in this trailer. In some scenes we see modern looking buildings and cities, while in others we see massive titans and magical spells. The trailer blends these in a way that is exciting and gives the viewer an understanding of the feel and tone of the game.

The second half of the trailer goes more in-depth with the aforementioned brotherhood theme described earlier. The background music features a cover of "Stand By Me" by Florence and the Machine, in contrast to the exciting orchestral music of the first half. This section of the trailer features a great deal of imagery for the world of the game, showing how small the human characters are in such a big world.

However, the second half also shows how much the game will emphasize the characters' friendship. It shows them setting up campsites, being there for each other, and generally just being supportive and optimistic about their future. Not many games, and certainly not many trailers for games, give very much emphasis to themes of friendship like this. While some video game trailers choose to focus on the action of the game and try to thrill the audience, this trailer instead wants us to care about these characters that we will be controlling when we play the game. Sure, it definitely features some thrills in the first half of the trailer, but its emphasis is on brotherhood and friendship, and that's what the game is truly about.

Trailers like this are great examples of how far the video game industry has become in terms of graphical capabilities. These characters, rendered in a computer, seem able to give across so much emotion and character, to make it almost seem like we're watching a movie instead of playing a game. This trailer balances the 'movie' and the 'video game' sides of the spectrum, and promises us a game that will not only be exciting and fun, but will also feature likable characters that we are meant to care about and root for.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

A Star Wars Trailer From Over a Decade Ago...

This was a difficult week to decide what trailer to analyze. There certainly has not been a lack of trailers to look at recently, but few of them really stood out in ways that are worth analyzing. There was a teaser trailer for the upcoming movie "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," which was a fine trailer, but didn't offer very much aside from basic character intros and an annoying alarm sound effect. The new trailer for Game of Thrones season 6 was also a noteworthy trailer, but it relied on so much knowledge of the events of the series and the characters that it would be difficult to analyze to an audience that isn't already familiar with the show. 

Instead, it seems like a good idea to take a step back this week, and look at a trailer for Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. 

Revenge of the Sith is arguably a pretty mediocre movie. It suffers from things like bad dialogue, bad acting, bad pacing, and arbitrarily 'epic' action. And yet, it's considered the best of the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy. But what about this trailer? Does the trailer do a good job of getting the audience interested in the movie? 

The answer to that question is subjective, of course, but one could make an argument that it is not a good trailer. Its main problem is that it gives away too much of the movie, but it also has other issues as well. 

The trailer starts off with a lethargic monologue given by the main antagonist of the movie, but instead of layering interesting imagery from other sequences in the movie over this monologue, it just holds the camera on the man's face as he slowly drones on. This just seems like a missed opportunity. The sentence alone isn't really a boring one, but it could be made so much more interesting if the audience was treated to imagery describing what the character is saying. 

The next thirty seconds or so set up the plot of the movie with more dialogue, but only really intersperse this dialogue with unrelated action sequences. It's a good way to keep the audience's attention, but having Samuel L. Jackson say "I don't think the boy can handle [the mission to spy on the chancellor], I don't trust him," and following that almost immediately with a weird alien spaceship shooting lasers at something doesn't add anything to the meaning of what he's saying. 

The viewer can also get a sense of the movie's priorities with this trailer. Notice how in this trailer, any visuals of a dialogue-based scene involves the characters simply walking slowly, standing in one place, or sitting. For the most part, this seems to be given much less focus than the action presented. Now, it's true that many trailers do this, but a trailer should at least start by giving more attention to the characters, and showing a little bit about them. 

After this point, the trailer simply begins throwing massive spoilers at the audience. Samuel L. Jackson's character and three other Jedi walk up and declare that the chancellor is under arrest, and he pulls out a red lightsaber and attacks them. Is that really the kind of thing that should be in the trailer? It seems like a big plot point like that should be left in the movie, and not already given to the audience before they go see it. 

The next few seconds of the trailer are neat, since it does this dramatic drum sound effect that seems to grow in intensity. In most trailers, like the Game of Thrones Season 6 trailer for example, a steady rhythm like this usually lasts through the rest of the trailer and grows in intensity until the climax of the trailer bursts forth and gives us a moment that makes the audience think, "wow, I really want to see that." But no, this one just stops. It simply stops, and this built up tension dissipates and goes nowhere.

The rest of the trailer focuses on the end result of the main character becoming evil. It shows some of the horrible things he does near the end of the movie, which seems like a very illogical thing for a trailer to do. Now, some people argue that this is fine, since the audience who will be watching this movie already knows that the character will become Darth Vader in this movie, and Darth Vader is one of the most well-known antagonists of all time. But even so, it seems like a very bad idea to have footage of this in the trailer. Instead of showing the character struggling with his descent to evil, it just shows him being evil. It takes away from the mystery of what he does in this movie and how the movie ends.

The rest of the trailer is just more action before dropping the title card. Overall, it just seems like a pretty shallow trailer, that simply throws action at the audience and gives away almost all of the movie's main plot points. It certainly doesn't give the impression that the movie will be very deep, but it is obviously designed to appeal to Star Wars fans, and show that the movie will be action packed.  

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Is there a basic formula that all trailers follow nowadays?

If you follow RedLetterMedia on YouTube, you may have stumbled across this video:
In this amusing video, the makers took clips from a bunch of trailers and cut them together to emphasize just how similar many trailers are. It's pretty jarring, in fact, when you realize that most of the trailers you've been watching follow the exact same tired formula.
This is actually a good opportunity to look back at the last four trailers that this blog analyzed, and see how they follow similar formulas.
For reference:
Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice Comic Con Trailer
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice Trailer 2
Captain America: Civil War Trailer 2
When starting these trailers, each one begins with some establishing shots and somewhat cryptic or serious dialogue. All the trailers involved here do this.

Oftentimes, the trailers will begin with the music of a single note being played on a piano. Notice how the Star Wars and the Captain America trailers both do this.

Over the next minute or so, the trailers will build in intensity, with the music growing along with the scene.

In the case of all the trailers except for the Star Wars trailer, this build up will suddenly stop, and cut in a line of dialogue that will either provide slight comic relief or raise the intensity of the trailer. Notice how the second Batman v. Superman trailer does the former, and the BvS Comic Con trailer and the Captain America trailer do the latter.

Then, it's time for the action montage. All of these trailers do this. These montages usually have audio of important or dramatic dialogue playing over the visuals, and of course, epic music.

When the "epicness" of this montage builds up to its crescendo, we get a hard cut to black, followed by one last cryptic line over a black screen or a brief scene of comic relief. In the case of the Captain America Trailer, that comic relief is done after the title card.

After this, we get the title card and the "order tickets now" prompt.

While each of these trailers certainly have their different tones and messages, it's amusing that each of them follow such a similar formula. But the strange thing is that some of us may not have even noticed this unless we had someone to specifically point that fact out. This post wouldn't have even happened if the aforementioned RedLetterMedia video didn't exist.

This isn't to say that any of these trailers are necessarily "bad" or that they're lazily done. Even so, we always hear about how formulaic Hollywood has become, and that makes it particularly funny to think about how formulaic trailers have become.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Batman v. Superman: What's the Verdict?

Batman v. Superman has just been released to theaters. Today, we're taking a look at the response to the movie, and asking two SUNY Brockport students what they thought of the advertising campaign and how successful they believed it was.