Analyse the media devices and techniques used in two film trailers (‘War of the Worlds’ and ‘Happy Feet’) and comment on their effectiveness.
The film trailer we watched for ‘War of the Worlds’ was the teaser trailer, so it was shorter and did not contain as much information as the Internet and theatrical trailers. ‘War of the Worlds’ is an action movie, with parts of it fitting in the science fiction genre. It is based on the book ‘War of the Worlds’ by H. G. Wells, which was published in 1090, and is about an alien invasion in England. The director, Steven Spielberg, has brought this literary classic into present times and based it in America. Teenagers and adults of both sexes are the target audience for this movie, with the science fiction and action side attracting men and Tom Cruise and his relationship with his daughter attracting women.
There are many stereotypes connected with the actors and actresses in the film that come across in the teaser trailer. Tom Cruise is clearly the most important actor as his name is the only one (besides Steven Spielberg) that is in the body of the trailer and the camera is always moving towards him. When his name appears it is bold, in upper case, very large and white so it stands out against the black background. Tom Cruise plays a definite stereotype of the brave, single hero. In almost all of his movies he plays the troubled hero, who has to fight powerful forces and this is especially true in this movie. However, the one point that breaks this stereotype is that he has children, something that has only happened in one other film, Minority Report. The trailer mainly focuses on his young, blonde daughter rather than his teenaged son because the young girl has more appeal. Dakota Fanning (his daughter) plays the stereotype of the little blonde girl with big eyes who needs to be saved. This is a great appeal to women as they see Tom in a fatherly position and it makes him seem more realistic.
Tom begins the trailer by whispering to Dakota Fanning, although it seems like he whispering to the audience. This draws the viewer in and we can immediately sense that there is danger because he is whispering. The close up on Tom’s face prevents us from seeing what is behind him and instantly builds suspense. Subsequently there is a shot of Dakota from above, in which she is staring up at her father.
The Dreamworks sign follows this and merges over the first scene, casting a blue glow onto Dakota’s face. The logo is put at the beginning because it is too happy to go at any other paint and it is too happy to go at any other point during the trailer, where it would get in the way.
Following this there are several wide shots of people running split up by the words “On June 29th…Prepare for the Event…That will change Your World.” These words build up tension by using dramatic language and the imperative. They are white or silver and have a light shinning through them.
After this there are several scenes where this is almost no music and only a sound similar to breathing. These scenes begin with a close up of Tom Cruise turning around and then crying “Rachel!” before the music starts again for the action scenes to begin. The first action scene is of a boat capsizing and tracking shots are used to show people being pulled out of the water by aliens and then plunging back into it. There is then a sequence of shots showing the destruction of the city they are in. wide shots are used to show the utter devastation and the different settings of these destruction scenes show that, unlike in human wars, it is not only the cities that are destroyed. We see shots of destroyed houses in the suburbs and bodies floating in a river somewhere in the countryside. This series of shots end in the same manner as they begin, with Tom shouting the name of his other child, Robbie.
As we see Dakota in the foreground and an unknown man in the background the music slows again. Steven Spielberg’s name comes up on the screen in a very large, bold font and then there is a scene of an axe being scraped across a wooden wall before Tom Cruise’s name appears. The trailer finishes on a cliffhanger of something moving behind Tom and Dakota, which makes you want to see more.
In the wake of the title ‘War of the Worlds’, which moves from the foreground to the background, we see the end credits and the date again. This leaves you with the date as your final thought. The release date was probably chosen because it is in the summer holiday and more people would be able to see it.
Blue, black and silver are the main colours used in the teaser trailer. This adds to the depressing and bleak ambience of the movie and can be quite terrifying. The only things that are not in these dark colours are the explosions and Dakota Fanning’s clothes, which are very bright showing her youth and innocence. However, her face and clothes are still covered in dirt. The lighting often goes from dark to light and there are frequent but irregular flashes of light, producing a supernatural feeling. Shadow is also used to great effect and produces are foreboding atmosphere.
Without sound the teaser trailer would lose a lot of the suspense and seem a lot slower. The music is very dramatic, with operatic vocals and drums used. It is relentless and unsettling, much like the aliens. The music slows at the beginning and end and speeds up during the action scenes. By doing so the music almost defines what is happening. It draws attention to the important features by using drums and crescendos. Sound effects are used to accentuate key parts of the trailer. We hear the boat capsizing, the screaming of Rachel and Robbie, the explosions, the axe scraping along the wood and the breathing of the aliens. These all add to the eerie feel of the trailer. The sound effects even carry on into the end credits, when we hear the rumbling of thunder or explosions.
Scenes are merged together quickly and the editing is very slick. Faces are highlighted by blackouts and the slow start and finish enclose the teaser trailer and build up suspense and makes us notice these parts more than others because of the contrast and the fact they are more drawn up.
Alternatively, the teaser trailer or ‘Happy Feet’ is all about provoking an, ‘aw, how cute’ feeling. The movie itself is a fun, animated, family affair with a lot of comedy. The unique selling point is really quite simple – it is about talking, dancing penguins.
The entire teaser trailer is bright and happy. Bland colours, such as white, blue and grey are used to make the white, black and yellow penguins stand out. The white snow reflects the bright sunlight and adds to the generally upbeat mood.
Due to the fact that ‘Happy Feet’ is set in the Antarctic during the summer it makes sense that all you can see it white snow, ice sheets and icebergs; the bright blue sky and sea and the white and grey mountains. In a contrast to what you would expect, this setting is clearly an extremely happy place.
Music and sound effects are very important in this trailer. ‘Jump N’ Move’ by the Brand New Heavies is the song that plays throughout the whole trailer. This adds to the united feeling of the entire trailer; it seems as though there is one scene at one time with one song playing. The song stops for the jokes and conversation to accentuate these points on the word ‘stop’. It is a very bouncy song with a very strong beat. The contrast of Jamaican music and the setting makes it more fun. Moreover, it fits with the accents of the Adelie penguins. The sound effects add to the joyous feeling of the movie. They include the giggling of the baby penguins, clapping and the sound of tap dancing feet.
Although no names are mentioned in the trailer, we do get to hear Robin William’s familiar voice. Robin Williams is a well-known actor, famous for playing funny parts like Mrs Doubtfire and in playing Ramon and Lovelace he fulfils both the stereotype of the funny character and the wise, fat, old penguin.
‘Happy Feet’ is a very humorous movie with dancing penguins and hilarious Adelie penguins. This humour comes across in the trailer when the music stops so that they can say things like, “We got it!” and “Man, this guy is so absolutely cool!”
Wide shots are often used to show the sheer number of penguins and we often witness the camera zooming but to show the viewer the dancing penguins. The establishing shot zooms in and up rapidly and because it is a panoramic shot quickly shows us the setting. Mumble, the main penguin, is always in the foreground coming towards the camera and there are often long shots of him dancing. There is also an extreme close up of his feet. This subtly shows us that he is the protagonist of the movie. High shots and over the shoulder shots exaggerate the smallness of the Adelie penguins and makes them seem more childish.
Near the end of the teaser trailer the title comes down onto the screen at an angle. It is in upper case, 3 dimensional and is red on the dark blue sky. This makes it stand out more. The release date follows this after a scene of Mumble dancing as a baby penguin. As the teaser trailer is so far in advance it only says ‘2006’ for the release date.
There is no real merging in the teaser trailer and we can see everything quite clearly. The trailer is quite fast but unlike the ‘War of the Worlds’ trailer the pace is continuous.