Friday, September 24, 2010

the commodification of awesome

I'm a 90s child. You probably are too. I'm not even sure where to start on this one. Here's the trailer for Jurassic Park. You don't have to watch it all. Just watch any part of it for like 30 seconds.

Circa 1992. Now compare it to this recent trailer for Avatar. You can just wait for my skip instructions later if you don't want to watch it all.

This brings me to my topic. The level of intensity in the beginning of Avatar's trailer matches the 'climax' of Jurassic Parks. I'm not sure why, but every trailer for a movie that wants to look awesome follows a very similar structure. At 2:20 music starts playing that is in every single movie trailer. It's got intense percussion and stabbing strings. Text will usually flash at you between scenes. I don't know why, but the text in trailers is always an order now. Like "Take the Plunge" or "Experience the Adventure". Then at 3:24 it all culminates and plays a sound that usually coincides with a character doing something dangerous (in this trailer the Navii jumps on a Pterodactyl thing), then stops for an eerie silence like the trailer is proud of how much it just rocked you. Go on, skip to it. Every. Single. Trailer does this. You didn't even need me to tell you that. You already know. It's been public knowledge for a while. It's been public now ever since Pablo Francisco's stand-up special. Trailers have looked like this ever since roughly the time of the trailer for Two Towers came out. Studios realized sometime around there that this trailer (and ones like it) are the most effective for amping people up. They have broken down audience reactions to trailers so mathematically and scientifically, that they've developed a sort of trailer template. They literally have a fill-in-the-blanks trailer that any movie can be put in in order to look awesome. Now, we're only talking about trailers here. Do a little research and you can avoid bad movies, so as long as you stay informed, you're good. So what's the harm? It's annoying. It's like being bombarded with pictures and sound so that I'll pay you to stop. BOMBARDMENT!

That's not the primary reason, but I couldn't resist that reference. What I wanted to say was that this trend of fill-in-the-blanks production is seeping into movies themselves, and many many other forms of media. I recently read a very good blog about visual styles in movies (referred by, original here). Basically what he says is that because most human skin tones register as orange on the color wheel, the best way to make a scene pop visually is to ramp up the orange on skin tones and make the backgrounds blue. These colors are "opposites" so they look good together. Naturally, film makers want their stuff to look good, so there you go. Much like trailer makers have found an "awesomeness stencil" , cinematographers and such now have a "pretty stencil". Almost anything in stages of film making, game design, music production, and just about everything you enjoy has been scientifically researched, broken down, distilled and thrown back at you because you and everyone else said you liked it. If they can give you what you like, logically you'll buy it. Heck, I can't even really fault them for it. They're just giving us what we want. Matt (see friends list) just wrote a good blog about art in which he quoted Syndrome from The Incredibles. "...when everyone's super, no-one will be". If we continue taking only the most exciting elements from films, only the most explodey designs for videogames and only the most catchy parts of music, everything will become SO BORING. Remember that part in I Spy with Owen Wilson and Eddie Murphy? The part where they find the invisible jet, and after 'clicking' it in and out of invisibility several times Owen says "it loses its special after a while"? Perfect example. Our bodies and minds naturally build tolerances for things, like when you tap the same place on your arm for a long time and eventually stop feeling it. You can't eat chocolate every meal and expect it to be as delicious as the first time. It'll be passable for a while, especially if you're one of those people who loves chocolate, but eventually you're going to make yourself throw up, give yourself diabetes and you will have spoiled the simple joy of chocolate for the rest of your life.
I'm not even saying that these things need to be 'stopped'. I'm not saying that what they're trying to sell us needs to go away. It just needs to not be produced by cookie cutters. Take Quentin Tarantino for example. His movies are way more intense than anything a trailer could ever promise, and pretty much do what they set out to. The level of awesome that is "promised" to you by an intense trailer is surpassed by his movies and then some. He doesn't need a cool trailer because honestly his movies are better than any hype you could give them. Metal Gear Solid got practically no commercials and is (to me) superior to Halo in every way despite the incredible hype for Halo. I wasn't expecting a "point" crossover with Matt the same day he wrote it, but honestly: The true greats speak for themselves. If your movie is boring, a great trailer isn't going to fix it, and if your movie is great, it doesn't need a great trailer. If it sucks, color pallette adjustment won't help, and if it's good, the absence of color regularization will just add personality. And for goodness sake, try to be original. Tarantino has his own style, his own everything really. And that's what I want to see. I don't care if every movie explodes, but please people: try to explode originally -- see Machete btw.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Can't find it?