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A Tale of Two Trailers: Gravity

A Tale of Two Trailers will periodically analyze two movie previews, often for the same movie, to see what works to pique potential viewers’ interest and what doesn’t.

Summer is typically the season of big-ticket sequels, tent-pole releases, and anything else that studios think will be big, loud, and profitable.  The rest of the year is typically the safe haven for smaller-budget movies, film festival darlings, Oscar bait, and indie films.  These flicks can live or die by the trailer–if it captures your attention in two minutes, it’s golden.  If not, viewers won’t give it a chance unless a friend recommends it (we all have friends whom we adore and friends whose taste in movies/music we trust, and they aren’t always the same people).

In that vein, two trailers for Alfonso Cuaron’s highly anticipated Gravity highlight completely different approaches.  The first trailer is the flashier one:

This is the stereotypical mass market trailer.  Start with sparse but soothing piano and string music overlaid with plain vocals, but 30 seconds in…BAM.  Explosions, quick jump-cuts, frenetic and disorienting camera-work, screaming–basically, everything that will be in a preview for the next Transformers sequel.  This Gravity looks to be “pulse-pounding,” “edge-of-your-seat,” and perhaps even “high-octane.”  That’s not bad by itself, but this has been the template for every horror, thriller, or action movie preview of the last 15 years.  There’s not much new or fresh to make me want to shell out $10 to see it.  I had the same problem with the official Sinister trailer and the trailer for the prequel to my beloved The Thing.

This next trailer, though, terrifies me:

You may think, “what the hell about this terrified you?”  In the traditional sense, there’s not much going on.  You don’t see the events leading up to Sandra Bullock’s character floating untethered 372 miles above the earth.  But I doubt that’s the point of the movie, and besides, there IS a lot going on.  Bullock’s voice, perfectly conveying her attempt to stay calm, but you can hear the panic bubbling up; her calls for help drifting off unheard into space.  The red warning lights indicating that everything that might keep her alive until the (unlikely) rescue is running out.  And a large part of that clip is filmed from her point of view.  The thought of floating through an endless nothing in the stifling confines of a spacesuit until you die of dehydration or asphyxiation–or maybe you freeze to death or burn up on reentry–with only the pulse of blood in your ears, your breath, and your voice to keep you company while you wait, indefinitely?  That is what terrifies me, and that is why the second trailer sells Gravity.

The film premiered at the 2013 Venice Film Festival to great reviews.  Unfortunately, we in the US will have to wait until October 4.

What do you think?  Does either of these trailers get you hyped to see Gravity?  What makes a good trailer, and what is one of the best trailers you’ve seen?  Let me know in the comments section.

Article written by Matt Shorr