Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Trailer Audio Branding: Suicide Squad

By now I imagine everyone's seen the trailer for "Suicide Squad", unveiled at Comic Con recently:

To be clear, this post will concern the aesthetics of trailers, rather than the merits of the films they promote. Especially in the case of "Suicide Squad", which-- despite the valiant efforts of this promo to convince us otherwise-- doesn't exist yet!

It's no secret that trailers for action-oriented films tend to lean on walloping hits and stabbing music cues, often relying in recent years on what I like to call The Blat. And while I enjoy the wallops and stings as much as the next guy, I'm even more enamored of a recent trend that seems to stem from somebody's idea: "Hey, what if we did the exact opposite?"

Hence the approach of the "Suicide Squad" trailer, which takes a decidedly low-key approach sonically. While none of the trailers under discussion here is devoid of booms, crashes, or ominous drones by any means, the heart of the musical score in this one ramps up with some light chimes and then settles into a quiet, plaintive vocal performance accompanied by wistful strings. As far as I'm able to tell, the score was assembled by trailer music house Confidential Music, and the singer is Becky Hanson. The song, it turns out, is none other than "I Started A Joke" by The Bee Gees:

Often stripped of sound effects altogether, disturbing and violent imagery stands in stark relief to the more delicate musical choices in this trailer. Given the prevalence of slam-bang promos and the punch-drunkenness they can induce, this more restrained approach makes a lot of sense as a strategy to stand out.

And speaking of D.C., it reminds me of how refreshing I found this trailer to "The Dark Night Rises" back before it came out:

This one was nice too.

Of course, as this person points out, the strategy of taking an "old" song and mellowing it out to create a different mood is already becoming a cliche; trailers for Terminator Genisys, San Andreas, and many others (see the comments in the above link) have employed this M.O. as well.

Thinking of the "Battlestar Galactica" reboot a few years back, and the trailer for "Battle Los Angeles" for that matter, there appears to be an emergent trend in epic visual narrative work to dump the sonic bombast and instead feature delicate quietness in contrast with the imagery. And while I'm all for bombast, it's always nice to witness alternative approaches.


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