Trailers That Lie

2008 03/09

Trailer cutters are just too damn good at their jobs. They’re particularly good at finding just the right song to make a movie look cool. Sometimes all you have to do is put this song with that movie and it looks produced by Jesus Christ himself, or at least one of the better apostles.

It seems like every year they get me with a new song/movie combination that’s so fitting, so utterly perfect, that when I finally see the movie and the song isn’t there, I’m left unfulfilled.

Here are some of the biggest cons of awesome in the history of trailers.

Starship Troopers – 1997

Blur – Song 2

Imagine just how awesome Starship Troopers must looked to the teens of the late 90s. In this series of TV spots, Blur’s mock grunge anthem serenades Johnny Rico and his Roughnecks as they blast bugs with glee. “Woo-Hoo” indeed.

Wide-eyed teens by the thousands paid their 10 bucks to see the PG-13 Mad City and then snuck right into the R-rated Starship Troopers hoping to catch the Blur-on-bug action for a full 2 hours. If the movie hadn’t been so god damn amazingly good, this would have been a real tragedy of a lying trailer.

300 – 2006

Nine Inch Nails – Just Like You Imagined

Who could have hoped for an awesome song like this to be in a period movie like 300? Me, that’s who. This movie looked bizarre, hell it was bizarre. Maybe, just maybe, it would be bizarre enough to keep this jam in the soundtrack. With NIN setting the tone, I thought “hey, this just might be something worth an agonizing wait.” Well, I agonized for a few months, and you know what? This movie was pretty good. Not “Just Like I Imagined,” but pretty good.

The Bank Job – 2008

The Clash – London Calling

I went over this one in my full review, but suffice it to say, London Calling absolutely makes this trailer. It turns what’s merely a competent heist thriller into a badass bang and buster with style that’s a throwback to 60s era British caper flicks. Unlike the previous examples, The Bank Job doesn’t really hold up without the musical accompaniment. That’s a damn shame, because I don’t only feel lied to, but I feel lied to and I just spent 11.50 on a movie that wasn’t that good.

I asked a friend of mine who works for a trailer cutting company what her thoughts on the subject were. Now trailer cutting is a real cloak and dagger industry, so she risks her career longevity to provide us with this information. I kid you not.

Often times, a trailer is cut using dailies from production. The final version of the film won’t be finished until well after the trailer is circulated. Now obviously, the trailer editor and the film editor are two different people and are likely to make different decisions. But that’s just where the confusion begins.

At our company, we employ a music supervisor, who (when not dicking around online) is listening and catalogueing music all day. It’s their job to take a producer’s vague idea of what music might work (epic, but light, dark, but good-natured) and turn it into a list of songs that might work. The actual production has a similar position, but again; two different people, two different decisions.

Once a draft of the trailer is cut, it’s sent to marketing executives for approval. Unlike the film, which is in the hands of the producers, directors and writers, the trailer is studio supervised to a fantastic degree.

Then there are financial and logistical considerations. Tool, for instance, flatly refuses to put their music in movie trailers, but most music is under the umbrella of one mega corporation or another. If the music’s rights are owned by Warner Bros. then obviously a New Line production will have access to that music, perhaps even at a discounted rate.

Very few producers are allowed input in the trailer cutting process. Only those with a great degree of clout (Spielberg, Apatow) have such privelages.

What does all this mean for the future?

Pineapple Express – 2008

M.I.A. – Paper Airplanes

It means you can’t trust your ears.

Here you see an awesome trailer for a movie that isn’t out yet. Now, I really want to see M.I.A.’s song be in this movie. It works so well in this trailer that I’ve already formed a connection in my mind between the two. Paper Airplanes is, for better or worse, the aural symbol of Seth Rogen being shot at. Every time I hear the song from now on, I’ll think of the movie, and every time I watch the movie I’ll remember the song. Thankfully, I realize Pineapple Express is an Apatow production, so it’s possible that he’s on top of this. But if he isn’t, and even if the movie kicks total ass, I know I’m going to be a little disappointed.

This is the fear I live with every day. Fear of the tiniest disappointment imaginable.

(Update: Yeah, the song’s not in the movie.  But it did kick total ass.)