In case you don’t use social media of any sort, or you have no friends (yet somehow you choose to read this blog?), you should be well aware that two major franchises have released trailers (or teasers) for upcoming movies. Our own Amanda Taylor did a wonderful write-up about her reaction and feelings towards the “Jurassic World” trailer, which you can watch on her post. Today the internet collectively tried to tell everyone who was online that the teaser trailer for ‘Star Wars VII’ (yes, that’s how I’ll be referring to it) had been released, with the net result of me having to scroll down at least six full mouse-scroller-things to see anything that wasn’t that trailer. If you haven’t seen it, here it is:
If you are like some of my friends to claimed to have lost control of certain bodily functions from seeing the trailer, stop reading, go wipe, and then come back.
While I am immensely excited for the release of both of these films, and even more excited now that I have seen these trailers, I cannot bring myself to rave and post and repost the way some other people do. I want it to be clear that I am a fan, I am a geek, I know the lore, I will watch the movies multiple times; I just don’t work myself into an all-caps, social media frenzy like some other people. I’m looking at these things a little more quietly.
One thing I frequently ask myself is why these trailers exist, why they are made the way they are, and what the heck is a “teaser trailer” good for. So lets talk about the trailers and teasers for a moment.
Ostensibly I would say that the point of a trailer is to help build anticipation for a film. A teaser trailer is somehow meant to build anticipation for trailer? Anticipation is actually a very important element in the enjoyment of something. I’m totally on board with that notion. But the execution of that can be handled many different ways. In a TED Talk dealing with optimism bias and other cognitive stuff, Tali Sharot explains how anticipation can increase enjoyment (around 5:30). Basically, people would pay more money to have something great happen (in this case, a kiss from an attractive celebrity) in a few days, rather than immediately. In the test, people paid the most money for 3 days of anticipation. This is also why people like friday, even though they work, over Sunday, when they don’t work; The anticipation of weekend is preferred over ending it.
I don’t know how that translates exactly into anticipating movies. But I do know that these two trailer came out the same week and the movies are six months apart. So clearly someone had differing opinions about how much time to give people to think about things. I think it would be an interesting experiment to release no trailer until one week before the release, but that’s probably not an idea that will catch on…
This might be a good time to deal with the nostalgia factor that come into these trailers. Both films are building off an existing franchise. Both franchises have a ton of impact with huge demographics of people. And both have certain kinds of iconography that they use to tap into the nostalgia that many, if not most, people who saw these trailers can feel.
‘Jurassic World’ built on the basic premise of the original film, the fear of uncontrollable and powerful nature. It also built on some powerful imagery: walking alongside dinosaurs in grand, sweeping shots, approaching the island, the lab with the dino eggs, etc. It tied into the feelings of fear that many people had watching the original films (raptors are still scary). And finally, it played a portion of a fantastic theme written by John Williams.
‘Star Wars VII’ built on imagery like the desert planet, storm troopers, the Millennium Falcon, and the lightsaber. It did not do as much for building the story, or the emotions (at least for me). But it did play a portion of a fantastic theme written by John Williams.
I’m going to go ahead and throw this out there: ‘Jurassic World,’ I think, did better with the music, especially drawing me in for nostalgia. If you want more about the music in movie trailers, read this recent post by Kate Darowski.
Another element of these trailers is how much they are willing to show you. J.J. Abrams (who is directing ‘Star Wars VII’) is a big fan of mystery. He almost never reveals too much. Also, he often doesn’t reveal quite enough for some people. But the mystery is part of what drives him. And I think that is evident in the trailer for ‘Star Wars VII.’ I have tons of questions after watching it: who’s the first guy we see, why’s he in Stormtrooper armor, who’s the girl, why does her vehicle look so lame, who’s the guy in the forest (this one was followed by ‘Holy, that lightsaber looks so cool!’), why are those X-wings flying so low, who’s in the Falcon, and who’s shooting at the Falcon?
‘Jurassic World’ didn’t go in for so much mystery. But they didn’t show the super-dino, so they get points for not spoiling it too much.
I was going to write a bit about why people feel so much need to share the trailers on social media, what kind of social gain there is in being the first one to have seen it, etc. but that really belongs in a post about midnight showings (which I also don’t get excited for).
In the end, what it really comes down to is how effective were each of these trailers in promoting their respective films and building anticipation. Admittedly, I know that I will have the chance to see ‘Jurassic World’ six months sooner, but I’m not as excited for it as I am for ‘Star Wars VII.’ The trailer for ‘Jurassic World’ made me want to watch ‘Jurassic Park’ (and ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’ but that’s not the point). The trailer for ‘Star Wars VII’ made me want to see ‘Star Wars VII,’ but it also made me want to not know anything about the story going in, so we’ll see how that goes when they release a full trailer and start telling us about the plot.