Sunday, July 12, 2009

Castrating Trailers

A physics lesson: movie studios enjoy making money. They make money for fun, and they make money to survive. They release movies to make money. A movie makes money for a studio when people go see the movie in theatres, buy copies of the movie, or sell the rights to the movie to other money-hungry entities like television stations, publishing companies, and smaller studios. If a lot of people see a movie that movie will make a lot of money in turn. The more money a movie makes the more money a studio makes.

Why do people see movies? To be entertained. How do they know they want to be entertained by a certain movie? If they hear from people they trust that they'll like it, or if they see clips of the movie that amuse or enlighten them. What is an easy way to see many brief glimpses at a movie? Through the art of the trailer, anywhere from one second to over three minutes long, revealing moments from a movie that are meant to encourage people to become interested in the movie, and pay money to see more of it. Physics. 

Certain trailers are cut to appeal to certain audiences. A trailer made for, say, Away We Go is cut together to indie music, and presents scenes from the film that are amusing and touching, so you're already invested in the characters and hope to see more of the same in the full feature. A movie like Transformers 2 shows off the flashy computer graphics and massive explosions because they want people to come to the movie to see giant transforming robots beat the hell out of each other. They don't show the 30 minutes of exposition and military jargon because no one wants to see a movie for that. I'm being longwinded, but stick with me, I'm going somewhere.

Jennifer's Body was written by Diablo Cody, directed by Karyn Kusama, and stars Megan Fox. It has two trailers: the Red Band trailer cut for a more 'mature' audience and the Green Band trailer cut to appeal to tweens and the general public. The Red Band is allowed to have more profane language, bloodier violence, and had the power to sell the movie. See for yourself:

The Green Band Trailer is not only safer for children, it is safe from anyone who could have been interested in the movie's Red Band aspects. The Red trailer included a sense of humor, a better, more elaborate look at the story, better music, and what I hope was a sound representation of the movie. The Green plays up the horror, sticks with the generic suspense music before shifting into watered down heavy metal as opposed to the fun energy The Waitresses' "I Know What Boys Like" brought in the Red, and the trailer makes the film seem boring. 

I'm not a Diablo Cody defender. I thought Juno's gotta-be-hip-gotta-be-witty dialogue was tiresome and barely funny for most of the movie, and think despite a few good performances wasn't able to lift itself out of the screenplay to become a good film. Sure, sure, she isn't to blame for the sets, or the music, or the direction, but she had a heavy weigh-in on the film. As for Jennifer's Body, I'm interested. I was interested in Juno, yes, but the dialogue seems to flow better in this, a campier, self-aware film than Juno ended up being. I think it has what it takes to be at least pretty entertaining. At least, that's what the Red Band trailer is having me believe.

The Green Band trailer for Jennifer's Body is an out-and-out castration of the first. It slices it open, and leaves it shriveled and impotent. Had I seen the Green before the Red I'd have had absolutely no faith in the film. It doesn't look funny, it doesn't look smart, it doesn't look good, damn it. It looks like I'd never see that in my life, that Green Band's interpretation. How is that a smart marketing move? See, I'm connecting what I said earlier to what I'm saying now. I think the release of such a soulless trailer next to the meatier, interesting trailer is a god awful plan. Most people, at least most people who would want to see the movie, wouldn't appreciate the Green anywhere like they would the Red, but many of those people will never see the Red Band trailer if they don't frequent film sites, or see any of the shit Fox has to release the Red with. 

There are plenty of films that have released perfectly adequate Red and Green trailers. Funny People and Observe and Report, recently. Most anything produced by Judd Apatow, ever. Why did this have to happen to Jennifer's Body? And why is it that she isn't alone in this treatment?
I saw the Green Band trailer for The Goods and nearly spit at my computer in disgust. It didn't look funny, and it felt like it had the potential to suck humor out of the world, leaving giant holes of sadness and anger where the once was mirth and joy. Then I watched The Goods according to Red Band, and things got better.

Sure they both have severely unfunny Pearl Harbor jokes, but the Red Band tries to make something of it. I may actually see The Goods thanks to the Red Band.

What are marketers thinking with this craziness over here? Give the people a fair look at both movies, not vastly different, good versus bad trailers. I've made my peace. You have three days. 

 - Eric T. Voigt, Knows What He's Having

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