This is part 2 of my post about watching trailers after seeing the finished film via the film Black Panther. Click here to read part 1!
The teaser introduced us to Wakanda and its king: The Black Panther. Now it's time for the full trailer to seal the deal by give us more story.
Or is it?
Similar to the teaser, this trailer starts by building up Wakanda. Martin Freeman's character mentions a myriad of otherworldly phenomena (from previous Marvel films) which he says can't possibly compare to Wakanda. This is a classic trailer setup which kicks it off with:
"How much more are you hiding?"
The music in this trailer is an amazing remix of:
The song Bagbak by Vince Staples
"...which marries futuristic-sounding techno beats with hip-hop bass, for a song about being black in modern America and trying to seize a piece of the American Dream in the midst of racism and constant threats like police shootings." (Comicbook.com)
"It's an iconic piece that became a slogan for the real-life Black Panther movement in America during the '70s, a spoken-word poem that essentially calls for an awakening of social consciousness in African-Americans, and a turning away from the mind-numbing elements of popular-culture such as TV." (Comicbook.com)
The trailer remixes these songs with what sounds like production music to give it a trailer's 3-act structure. More importantly, both of these cues not only provide great music; they say to the audience unequivocally: this film is about black history, black issues, and it's going to be black as heck. These songs aren't in the final film, but they provide shorthand to thematically tie the trailer to it.
Like the teaser, the majority of this trailer simply builds up Black Panther as a character. Angela Basset says: "It is your time" and Lupita Nyong'o tells him: "You get to decide, what kind of king you are going to be."
The middle section continues this introduction via a montage intercut with the title cards: "In 2018" , "Hero" , "Legend" , "King." As I discussed in my post about transitions, title cards give the editor permission to skip around in time because they cleanse the palate. This mid-trailer montage is fairly unconventional. Typically this is where exposition, and escalation dialogue live, but instead we get a lot of pretty action.
Even though there isn't any dialogue in the middle, some of the lyrics serve as exposition. The lyric: "Show me my respect" is cut to the introduction of Michael B. Jordan's character Killmonger. I could easily imagine this lyric being spoken by him, but as someone watching the trailer I don't know whether to take it so literally or treat it like a random lyric (having seen the film I know it's the former).
After the montage we learn just a little bit about Killmonger. He's waited his entire life for "this" (we don't find out what it is), the world is going to "start over" and he's going to burn all of something. This is capped off by T'Challa saying the fate of the world is at stake.
Does this tell us what's going on in the film? I suppose, but it doesn't sound much different from any other multi-hundred million dollar film where the heroes save the world. There's a hero, a villain, and a fight for the fate of the world; that's what I expect from a Marvel film, and there's already so much unique being shown to me, it's satisfying enough.
There's more dialogue in this trailer, but we don't have much more information than we got from the teaser. This trailer does a remarkable job of getting a lot of mileage out of the film's set pieces, and making them seem more important than they are. Conversely, it takes important scenes and makes them feel like less than they are. The long and short of it, is this trailer doesn't feel spoilery to me at all.
One smart thing it does is how it elevates the status of some of the film's set pieces by carefully choosing where they appear in the trailer.
I think the audience subconsciously assumes a scene's position in a trailer must be its relative position in the finished film. For example: Black Panther's air drop out of the ship is very early in the film, but in the middle of the trailer. Not only is it in the middle, but we get some great music editing further elevating its impact.
The other set piece moments are Black Panther flying through the air in slow motion, then landing on the top of a van, and also jumping onto the side of a building, and ripping a wheel off a van in motion. As an uninformed audience there's no way for us to know where these scenes happen in the film, but since they're the most exciting scenes in the trailer, they work as climax shots.
The only shots from the last third of the film are of Killmonger revealing his Black Panther suit (which is technically a spoiler) but before seeing the film I just assumed this meant he was "another" Black Panther. No context means no feeling of being spoiled. Then there are shots of Black Panther fighting Killmonger; this is hardly a spoiler because OF COURSE we assume the villain will fight the hero.
In addition, I think focusing so much of the dialogue around the character and his motivations partially inoculated the trailer from the audience thinking they're being spoiled. Too many lines of dialogue about the plot eventually feels like you're spoiling something even if you aren't. This trailer is quite the opposite; it shows very little while making it feel like it's showing a lot.
Once again, here are the questions I ask myself when rewatching trailers after I've seen the film:
- Does the trailer's story represent the themes of the film?
- How much of the full story does the trailer tell?
- How does the trailer "cheat" to tell the story faster?
- Does the trailer misrepresent or obfuscate the film's story?
I think this trailer doesn't tell much of the full story, but yes it does musically embody the themes of the film. I wouldn't say the trailer cheats to tell the story faster, it just avoided it almost entirely by telling a very broad and simplified version.
The only way I think the trailer misrepresented anything is by tricking the audience into thinking they've seen the best parts; I think nowadays we just assume a trailer is doing that. In this case, it's a good kind of misrepresentation because the audience can go in, and as soon as the third act is finished they'll realize there's a LOT they didn't see in the trailers.
So there you have it! Writing these posts is honestly the most I've thought about a trailer's editing after seeing the film; usually it's just me watching them and thinking: "Huh, good job!" or "Huh, I see what you tried to do..." But if it's your goal to make trailers I hope you try this exercise; reverse engineering trailers is one of the best ways to learn, and to get yourself into the head of other professional trailer editors.