The Art of the Pop Culture Trailer

Looking at the appeal of trailers and the common occurrence when trailers are better than the finished products. (Also this post is an excuse to watch a bunch of cool stuff!)

The Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3 as it’s affectionately known, ended on June 12th. During the four days it was in session, a lot of cool video game trailers were shown as usual.

I’m not a video game connoisseur (although I’m pretty good at playing them), so my interest in E3 mostly resides in the trailers. One of my favorites is still from 2011’s E3.


I’ve never played an Assassin’s Creed game, but that franchise is known for having some of the best video game trailers in the business. This year, for example, the franchise featured yet another cinematic beauty.


Of course, if you know anything about video games, you’ll know trailers are not very accurate in terms of what to expect in terms of both in-game graphics and gameplay. Assassin’s Creed does a great job of replicating some action sequences from their trailers, but even then it’s not as sweepingly epic.

Consumers have become so annoyed by the discrepancies between the crisp trailers and the actual games that nowadays, many video game trailers will make sure to point out whether the footage being shown utilizes in-game graphics and/or actual gameplay.

Fortunately, technology is a boss which means trailers and graphics are coming closer and closer together. For example, this NBA 2K14 trailer from October blew people’s minds because it showed in-game graphics and they were phenomenal.


At E3, people were buzzing about the new Star Wars: Battlefront because, for one, the best Star Wars video game franchise is coming back. Two, the graphics are amazing, even though they are still in the early stages of rendering.


Video game trailers are tricky by nature. Because presentation is so important, and because everybody is doing the same thing, video game trailers tend to be inherently unrealistic. They skew towards the cinematic, which is no longer an issue because everybody knows the deal by now.

People have come to accept that games will usually be less impressive than their trailers because the trailers try to be like movie and TV show trailers.

And in the end, it really doesn’t make that much of a difference. People will still buy games and play games based on cool trailers while knowing the cinematics are not representative of the actual in-game experience.

That relationship becomes trickier in the world of movies and TV shows, where the trailers utilize clips from the actual productions and have to persuade the viewers to invest; it’s advertising, marketing, and a job interview rolled into one.

Nowadays there are awards for just about everything. In the Hollywood industry, there are the usuals for acting and directing. There are also awards for posters and yes, trailers as well.

As movies and TV shows have advanced, so have their trailers. I remember back in the day when every trailer was just a set of scenes, the names of the actors, and vaguely appropriate music in the background.

While those basic foundations are still present in the trailers of today, the times they are a-changin’.

That was a reference to this? Bob Dylan? Anyone?

It seems like trailers are becoming their own art forms, which makes a lot of sense. They are like short films, although some movies may take a little too much liberty with that.

I mentioned music right above the picture of Dr. Manhattan mercifully covering his dong.

From my amateur analysis, I think music might play the biggest role in how trailers are perceived by us common folks. In the present, the sound of trailers is being utilized like never before.

Back in 2011, when Drive came out, I was listening to the radio when I heard an advertisement for it. The ad was just the audio from the theatrical trailer, but it had me hooked because of the unique combination of music, and um, violence. In fact, I was so excited, I took my parents along to see it and it became my favorite movie until I saw Her.

Anyway, check out the trailer for Drive.

You got goosebumps, right? Yeah you totally did!

While the trailer inadvertently gives away the entire movie, it was still excellent. Of course, it helps that the movie itself was pretty damn good – at least for professional critics (and me).

Moving on!

Watchmen had two trailers that actually used the visual and the audio really well (it’s all about that sloooow mootiioon).

The first one here uses “The Beginning is the End is the Beginning” by The Smashing Pumpkins.

The second one uses “Pruit Igoe & Prophecies” by the Philip Glass Ensemble and “Take a Bow” by Muse.

Director Zack Snyder must make some movies perfect for trailers because 300 won a Golden Trailer Award back in 2007.

So what is it about a good trailer that makes it, well, so good? What’s the appeal here?

I think the phenomenon is not limited to just trailers. As human beings, we’re attracted to glimpses into the unknown. While movies and video games might not be as intense as the coldness of space or the deep depths of the oceans, it’s still fun to speculate and ponder.

That is why sneak peaks are such a big deal, like revealing Batman’s outfit and Batmobile in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice which is scheduled to come out in 2016. The same obviously applies to the new Star Wars movie and basically everything that has to do with pop culture.

Hell, it applies to politics and sports as well. ESPN gets made fun of all the time because they always have “anonymous sources” that tell them where Free Agent X will sign or what coach Team Y is considering.

Of course, as I mentioned earlier, trailers are more than just speculation. They are intertwined with the movies they represent, yet the ones that are really good can be just as good as the movies themselves.

In some cases, the trailers are actually better!

Every movie trailer above was better than the actual movie, maybe with the exception of Drive.

But why wouldn’t trailers be better than the movies, generally speaking? Or why wouldn’t trailers be better than the video games?

They are the ambassadors and they must say/show the right thing.

Most of the time, they accomplish just that.

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