Hollywood Misuse of Trailer Card Captions

There is a small unaddressed issue in movie trailers for as many as they have. Many use the Title Card captions incorrectly, failing to capitalize or use name recognition. Often trailer editors use the same film as a marker of success too often thinking they can fool the audience with the same film every time a director makes another lousy movie. But audiences don’t quite forget. Renny Harlin, the director of ‘Die Hard 2’ and Antoine Fuqua the director of ‘Training Day’ are the two best examples of this. It seems too often producers fail to use the right genre of films or elements of success. How much weight does being involved in a previous success truly have and should it? It’s a tried and true play that I don’t think often gets a close enough look.

No Sense of Timing

You know what the problem with advertising this movie from the writer/ director of The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, and the Visit? Is that the same director made The Village, The Lady in the The Water, The Happening, The Last Airbender and After Earth in between. Now I actually do not mind The Village or even The Happening, but everybody at this point knows about M. Night Shyamalan’s career setbacks wherein his name is both heavily synonymous with those works and when advertised elicits groans from the audience. It’s why his name was completely left out of advertising for After Earth. That era of Shyamalan was left behind and he made a half-decent film The Visit, which was a modest hit, helped adapt Wayward Pines which was a modest hit. I liked his contribution to Devil but that’s 6 years removed and not enough of a critical or commercial hit to justify audience reaction. The point is you could argue Night is not the same director he was when he made The Sixth Sense as he was when he was in charge of Wayward Pines or directed The Visit. It signals a rebuilding of his career and starting small again more sharply focused if he is just known at this point as the director of The Visit. Otherwise audiences won’t follow the ruse. M. is quoted as saying about his films in his early 2000’s heyday that he did not want the trailers of his recent works to reference older films as that would give the impression of audiences to expect the same film, same kind of experience. This is a more mature director and should reflect as such rather than a desperate callback.

No Appropriate Use of Quantity

“Saving Mr. Banks” is of course a Disney film that has a lot of assets in its back pocket that the trailer completely fails to utilize in a way that would to maximize its storytelling premise. It’s a Walt Disney film about Walt Disney! And the trailer fails because it inconsistently jumps from point to point, navigating Disneyland without a map. It’s most egregious error: Two-Time Academy Award Winner Tom Hanks and Two-Time Academy Award Winner Emma Thompson. If you don’t know the difficulty of achieving that level of excellence of which having a fancy prefix to your name in a trailer is the only visible audience payoff, just ask Leonardo DiCaprio. The movie, by simply labelling them as “Academy Award Winner” seemingly bumps them to the same category in relation to film contributions as the Three-Six Mafia and Eminem.

From John Lee Hancock, the director of The Blind Side, which shamefully hit you over the head with sentimentality comes a similar movie that Rotten Tomatoes called “aggressively likable to a fault.” That only makes sense coupled with the long-suffering once and future screenwriter of “Fifty Shades of Grey“. Kelly Marcel whose 2011 Blacklist entry for her screenplay put her on the map brings a sort of even-handed nature to the film as well a slightly more feminine touch. The scales seem balanced, a mixed gendered pairing (often the best in hollywood) of a director and writer offscreen and on. Let us also not forget Walt Disney himself is a 22x Academy Award Winner who was nominated for Best Picture himself bringing Mary Poppins to the big screen. It only makes sense T. Hanks (Philadelphia, Forrest Gump) getting his multiple awards in there. The immediately interesting story brings together two titans in friendly and at times aggressive cooperation, so his foil is the perfectly cast also two-time academy award winner Emma Thompson (Howard’s End, Sense and Sensibility).

Other minor offences to this trailer are its misuse of its logo. With the modern Disney logo 20 seconds in then cutting to Walt Disney productions 30 seconds in could have been economical rather than borderline redundant. The rest of the title cards don’t all conjoin together to collectively say anything. Finally the movie logo comes up saying “Disney SAVING MR. BANKS” rather than “Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks”. A bit too forward in ownership of the corporate agenda if you ask me.  Altogether the trailer, seemingly edited by multiple people, comes across as a mishmash of corporate entity and buzz phrases rather than a movie about people coming together to make a classic like Disney wanted. The movie is much the same. Had they gotten it right it would have been a $100-150 million film rather than a $83 million film. That brand investment could’ve managed a bit better.

Recent offender: Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk from 2x Oscar Winner Ang Lee

Amended by: Fences Trailer from two-time Academy Award Winner Denzel Washington

A Correct Use of ‘the Director’ Title card

This is the moment where Christopher Nolan goes from a director to brand Superstar. Where he gains all the fanboys screaming his name. What makes this trailer the best of all time is that it pitches us who this person is at just the right moment. The premise and theme of the movie: “Dreams” is immediately been established so the base audience is hooked. For the crossover audience, showing his name for the first time in comparison to his last non-franchise picture (The Prestige) Christopher Nolan’s name is brought up in what is arguably the best cash-in on the phrase “you’re only good as your last film”. In this case he’s fresh off the phenomenal critical and commercial success of the billion-dollar oscar-winning film “The Dark Knight”. “Who is Christopher Nolan?” asks the audience, He’s that guy responsible for all of this.

The “From the Director of” quality tag can have dubious fallbacks to diminishing returns. [see:the director of Training Day card in all Antoine Fuqua’s films, and to a lesser extent: the writer of Training Day in David Ayer films.]

Later films in my opinion tamper with the famed directors marketing streak. Does it matter more that Interstellar, a highly ambitious original Sci-Fi picture with major time-bending mechanics is from the director of “The Dark Knight Trilogy”? A series of comic-book adaptations wherein the most recent entry is solidly the weakest. Inception, via comparison is a similarly ambitious original Sci-Fi picture with major time-bending mechanics. Paramount hedged its bets with Interstellar advertising both properties instead on just the more appropriate one that began with “IN” in the title.

The most recently advertised trailer for ‘Dunkirk‘ has a small problem with compounding interest. Advertised name and brand, from the director of ‘The Dark Knight Trilogy’, ‘Inception’ and ‘Interstellar’. This at first look, may seem like a positive. It is however though quite difficult now to gauge public reaction based on Nolan’s recent individual films. Though all were hits, The Dark Knight Rises (2012) and Interstellar (2014) have their fair share of ongoing vocal criticisms due to familiarity with the Nolan-style and they were bundled in marketing with the Batman factor. Warner Bros. smorgasbord approach is wasteful especially if ever one of his films flops they’ll have no more ammo. However due to that marketing strategy no longer is there the singular focus that “Inception” had in its trailer. The director card here presents 5 films instead of just one or two. Three is pushing it. What kind of film are audiences supposed to expect here? Christopher Nolan at this point has had just enough recent major hits to both diversify his success as well as add a ridiculous amount of baggage of expectations that may prove more limiting than wide-reaching.

I mentioned earlier that you’re only as strong as your most recent film. Looking at Interstellar’s legacy, does it truly qualify as a success? Yes and no. It is a divisive film regarded in a so-so manner as the lesser Matt Damon lost as an astronaut in space movie. Applauded for its ambition, and exiled in execution as its Rotten Tomatoes score indicates, comparisons to his previous films are unfavourable due to the ridiculously major financial and critical standard of Nolan’s previous films. $675,000,000 is absolutely nothing to sneeze at, but when your film is grossly overestimated, opens #2 at the box-office and has a laughable Matt Damon performance it can be seen as a weak spot. That weak spot is rendered more vulnerable when you ask how a film that cost at least $5 million more made $150 million less than its predecessor [Interstellar to Inception]. And now with an even longer wait time between films (3 years) with even lesser star power and the same IMAX level sheen are we to expect the same kind of experience from Nolan’s take on Spielberg as Nolan’s take on Kubrick?

Chris Nolan has more to prove right now in his career than anyone in Hollywood. A champion of original event films, the likes of the still active Spielberg and Scorsese are past having anything to prove. Will he follow in the footsteps of immense spectacular success after spectacular success like Spielberg, or is he falsely deemed like Shyamalan? Juxtaposing his latest film taglines he is at a tipping point. At the point of crisis… [one must ask] will his next step be his greatest? With each film further removed from the director’s high point: 2008-2010 The Dark Knight/ Inception era, his influence becomes fractious. This is a natural occurrence among auteurs such as Spielberg, Kubrick, Scorsese, and even Shyamalan and provides great debate among moviegoers. However that marketing sting is gone. How can we know now if  Nolan’s career could have been propelled on the focus of one film after another. Inception > Interstellar > Dunkirk. Where are they/ where will they be in relation to one another? Only time will tell. And time in the Nolan-verse is a very fractured thing.


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