Top 10 Trailers of 2011 (a mix of movies, video games, and not-actually-video promotional materials)

I think it’s interesting to keep track of great marketing maneuvers. The kind of things that are easily lost in time (especially if the product promoted is eventually revealed to be garbage. That doesn’t mean the trailer was bad! ). This list is mostly designed to catalog why certain strange things impressed me. I listed 15 things, because I didn’t have the heart to cut 5 of them. They’re listed in order of personal importance, not necessarily in order of quality or import to society (because it’s my blog – neener neener).

15. Red State Teaser
This teaser was edited by Kevin Smith and released pretty directly to the fans (through his smodcast network. If you don’t know what smodcast is about, then you aren’t allowed to criticize kevin smith. Sorry). Thought this clip did an excellent job of establishing that this wasn’t going to be like previous Smith films, while also saying “i’m going to be creepy as fuck.” Bold choice to eschew music and fades, in favor of hard cuts and chaotic imagery stew. I bought the film because of this clip, as it reminded me that I really love Kevin Smith (and i’d recommend it. It’s more like 3 films in one – two thirds of the film aren’t nearly as creeptastic as this teaser implies). The only problem I have with this trailer is that it doesn’t stand on it’s own. Too offputting. I have zero interest in watching it again for it’s own merits (maybe it just feels too random and taunting?)

14. GTA V announcement trailer
This was a masterfully crafted mystery. I read tons of conflicting opinions of what exactly the trailer was exposing and suggesting. Fascinating that many different sites picked at least 3 different characters out as the “clear” protagonist (old white guy, muscular black dude, or the bald latino guy) (my vote is for the skinny south american dude, btw).
It’s easy to forget that GTAIV launched with a rather boring teaser which mostly just demonstrated the new game engine and location (New York). You had to wait for the second trailer before you really got any real character/story meat to chew over. But this GTA V debut teaser trailer masterfully gives you tons of story directions and potential character, and location, while leaving no clear idea which way the game will go. nice.

Time will tell how well this GTAV trailer works for the final product (or if it’ll be dwarfed by follow up trailers), but i think it was a surprisingly solid and smart effort, worth acknowledging.

13. Rage Untethered Trailer
While the final game probably lands on my top 5 dissapointments of 2011 (fucking bullshit PC pop-in!), this trailer really got me excited. Moody visuals, an original song from Mark Lanegan, fun arty title cards/objects. I can only knock it for some of the car driving animations looking kinda stiff and lifeless. But all in all, this was a classy trailer that really got me thinking this game might offer it’s own take on the post apocalypse (punks meet cowboys meet mutants?). I was excited to share it with my friends who love Lanagen (well, basically, alex yao).

12. Saints row the third : E3 Debut trailer
An incredible suggestion of what the game could offer. stylish assassins? rap shit? hong kong shit? hacker shit? space jets? wtf? This is what a teaser is supposed to be. After watching this video during E3, I was left with only a “what the fuck kind of game IS this?!”
baffling curiosity that really got me interested in this game. (in retrospect, I think it helped a lot that I knew none of the characters from the series. So I thought we were just swirling around various archetypes. kind of hurts to realize many or all of these dudes were in the previous games. hmmf).
<a href="“>Followup trailers just made it sound weirder and wackier. I decided to buy the game after seeing the Tron-world cybergang warfare trailer, and also greatly enjoyed the Battlefield3 mocking trailer. The whole genius edgy trailer campaign culminated in Tim and Eric’s overwhelming 12+ minute Genki anti-trailer.
So far, I haven’t enjoyed the actually game (rap culture = barf), but I deeply respect the advertising.

11. Gears of War 3 : Dust to Dust Trailer
Last year they teased us with the ashes to ashes trailer (which continued GearsofWar’s strange obssession with hopelessness and moody songs). This year, just before launch, they followed up with this Dust to Dust companion piece. This trailer is too smart for it’s own good. It segues subtley through the first two games (you can see the first game’s end boss, General Raam, pointing around in the opening shot, on the right. Followed by some flooding from the second game’s climax) before leaving us with the characters in the midst of third game’s hopeless situation. It was touching how they hammered the brotherhood between Dom and Marcus in these trailers (given that Dom had lost everything in the second game). Also dig how they made sure you’d notice that women were going to be in this game, fighting alongside the men. Weee.

10.Hesher trailer
Notably cooler than the movie? I developed a bizarre theory about what this movie was about, based on this trailer (I thought Hesher was clearly the same person as the little boy, and that life in his house had just frozen due to whatever tragedy, like a special Limbo. So I figured the boy was interacting with his older self, and vice versa, and the movie would ultimately shift narrative focus from one to the other.) (reminder: that theory was way off).
I spent the whole movie looking for little details that might support my theory, and was surprised when it never fell into place. So maybe this trailer ruined the movie for me in a way? Or maybe that was just my personal failure to follow. Either way, I’m still impressed.
strongly reminds me of a guy I grew up with (and share a birthday with), Risha Eryavec, who used to walk around with no shirt and long black hair, being all rock star as shit. (I kind of prefer this more story focused trailer, but the youtubey audio is out of sync. Honestly can’t remember which I watched initially. both are pretty good methinks).

9. Xmen First Class: Trailer 1
freakin’ epic trailer. I was deeply afraid of this project until this trailer turned me around. Nice slow burn sexy song builds from boring lifeless shots of wheelchairs and props from previous films. …And soon enough we have magneto stabbing dudes, a red skinned demon version of nightcrawler (his father i later heard), and hints of the cuban missle crisis for historial relevance and context. Maybe it’s cheating that they used such a large portion of JFK’s epic speech? heh. This trailer mad it ok to be excited about Xmen movies again. (haven’t really been this thrilled by a colorful comic book movie with maybe-too-many-characters since the teaser for fantastic four with that awesome Puscifer track). I’d say this trailer was better than the more recently released teaser for The Avengers.

8. Deus Ex: Human Revolution: The Eyeborg Documentary: 13 minute modern tech
A lot of fanboys talk about the “purity first” trailer (which I think feels like a poor knockoff of the Animatrix’s “The Second Renaissance Part 1” cartoon … Except PurityFirst has too many non actors. too many repeated elements. too much “angry screaming by a fake protesters over something that isn’t really relevant to me.” etc. blah blah).
However, this strange 12 and half minute marketing video slash real-world-news experiment continues to make me smile. They gave a bunch of money to the briefly internet-famous EyeBorg man (who installed a wireless webcam in his eye socket), and asked him to interview a variety of other cutting edge cyborgs around the world. The strange gimmick of him lustily filming someone’s enhancement after interviewing them, so that we can witness some sort of futuristic tech connection, makes me giggle. The whole project is wrong and sleazy on some divine level (and it feels very awkward when it tries to call back to the game every couple minutes). but it is also such a unique and interesting marketing idea. (… plus, maybe I’m just a sucker for footage of real life eye ball gore – fair warning).

7. Dead Island: Cinematic tease
Glasgow-based Axis Animation crafted this excellent trailer, which is probably the most important video game trailer/story of the year. Because the arty Memento style clip has almost nothing to do with the game. Many clueless nerds bitched and whined that it was unfair (or something), but I think it is in fact a great win for non-movie based games (those that can’t leverage the co-marketing of some hollywood blockbuster, or star wars IP, etc.). Basically this Stuart Aitkin dude at Axis Animation MADE Techland a movie tie-in: by creating a short wildly popular movie that informs the game universe. This was clearly a major step forward in the potential for selling original IPs. thbbt. (but although I greatly respect this clip, it didn’t haunt me as much as those that follow)

6. American Horror Story : The whole shebang
I dig this teasey tv spot, just Like I dug the official website‘s teasing style
(of basically the same psychotic “pregnant lingerie lady meets demonic latex gimp” image). A strange awesome choice of texture, layout and composition that makes me think of Francis Bacon paintings and richard kern photos. Also, the opening credit sequence for this show is so awesome I’ve never wanted to skip it)(and it ain’t short). Dug this alternate trailer as well (great use of “Baby, you ain’t looking right” by Powersolo. Go dirt rock!). However, i’m picking this one short clip for it’s simplicity:

5. Puss in Boots: Old Spice TV Spot
Mad props to whoever made this gem, which spoofs the epic lovable old spice commercial. This little joke tv advert was clever enough to get me to go see the movie. So, win. My wife and I still giggle at it, reliably, every time we see it.

4. Drive : “Getaway” clip
This was all they needed to release, I think, to promote this movie. When a friend sent it to me, i thought it was the official trailer for the movie, and I flipped out at how bold it was, as a peice of marketing. The official trailer was solid I guess, but that is just because the movie is pretty damned good. The official trailer also goes ahead and ruins most of the movie. SoooOOooo fuck the
official trailer. Here is all they needed to show:

3. Syndicate (2012) : Announce trailer
Starts off with proper slow paced boring epic shot of some scifi city. yawn you say, but competent. cue Brian Cox narration. Reassuring, since brian cox is awesome. Cue first of several awesome don’t-give-a-fuck-european game play moments (esp. love the guy sauntering along while shooting dudes’ then gesturing to follow) (…Maybe I love this more than it deserves, since I read that this is from the game’s opening tutorial, where a coworker walks you through how to do a job. hmm.) Laudable hella-cool techno vibe thanks to the “dub step” remix of the classic syndicate theme song, by Skrillex. Manages to evoke the matrix without being too painfully matrix clone-y.
This was the year of dub step seemed to appear IN ALL TRAILERS ALWAYS. or at least the end of the year. Well, this was the first to kick it off in my mind, and the best use of it.
(if bored: dig the original game’s intro, for music comparison, as well as the original in-game tunes).

2. The Cabin in the Woods : Poster

Lionsgate uses a good team to create their posters. Say what you will about the Saw movies, but their posters were striking, and stood out in any theatre. (internal? external?). This poster seems to have been conceived by the same geniuses. Reminds of the clever white filth minimalism of the gory saw posters, but with a much needed dash of g rated charm. It is simply a rubik’s cube version of a log cabin. but it’s also a clever play on words (this house has many “stories” twisting about).

I’m also damned excited by the first trailer, which makes great use of The Naked And Famous song “Young Blood” and Marilyn Manson’s cover of “I Put a Spell on You” (both seem obviously relevant to the plot), but I’m still pretty worried it gives too much away… And it kinda goes on too long… hmm. (this is why I prefer the poster).

Joss Whedon wrote, produced, and is helping promote this movie. Well, feel like I can mention that I also dug the trailer for Joss Whedon’s The Avengers. It features a solid use of a NIN song (a reliable trailer trick? see 300 and Terminator 4, etc.). But I think this Avengers trailer fails to offer anything really “new” that knocks your socks off. It’s too safe to be exciting. …

Anyway. Part of me would like to think that The Avengers is just a big promotional piece for The Cabin In The Woods. Because honestly, I’m much more excited about The Cabin in the Woods at this point.

1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo teaser
brilliant promotion debuted the strongest song from the film (I would have said you couldn’t cover a led zepplin song without Robert Paige’s unique wailing. now I’d say only Karen O could cover a led zepplin song).
i’m still baffled to read that this was david fincher’s idea. i’ve never in my life thought about pairing a singer with a band to modernize an old song because it evokes the culture of the country where your film is based.

I also loved the intro for the film (basically a trippy music video that evokes tetsuo the iron man, mixed with clean modern CGI, ipods, thistles, and dragons). … I still enjoy cranking this song up to 11 while driving. Recently enjoyed a lucid dream of visuals from a chapter in A Dance With Dragons, set to this song (concerning the iron born Asha chopping fools up while she fled a snowy castle. One of her warrior women emerging topless from the forest covered in sex and gore. weee!).

Anywho. great song + great 60 second trailer + bold claims in bold text = my most memorable advert of the year.

I kinda loved these too. but not enough to knock anything else out of the top ten.

Hanna teaser
Definitely made you say “what the fuck is this movie? when can i see this?” Better than the longer spoilery-er trailer.

In Time
Great trailer poses many questions about the parables here. didn’t see the movie yet. but. maybe I don’t need to? this trailer seems filled with unnecessary spoilers. But I spent plenty of time wondering about the many parables (time is money. the rich distract the common man with drudgery and worthless work. takes time to make time. etc.). nice sexy song. pleanty of heady concepts come together for an excuse to let some sexy 25 year olds run the world (and star in all parts of their own young adult movie). Only reason this didn’t make the list: i didn’t convince me to see the movie. Not sure why that never happened. huh. (and out a the same time as The Darkest Hour trailer. which I also was sure I would go see. but then didn’t).

Prey 2: Cinematic Trailer
great use of that johnny cash song… which I enjoyed 2 years ago in the trailer for “Give Em Hell Malone“. I wonder if the blokes behind this trailer were inspired by that other trailer…
Anyway. It tells a nice little story with the badge, while also paying off their ill advised teaser (which was just blurry video on an airplane). Goes on a bit long, but seems to establish what the game will strive to be. and looks like incredible Blade Runner meets The Fifth Element world.

The Raid
Too intense! machetes verses billy clubs is awesome. Definitely the most action packed trailer of the year. I kept this off the main list because I’m not sure if the movie will offer anything more than spectacle. And the title card is embarrassingly cheap. And I hate it when foreign films eschew dialogue in their trailers to avoid revealing that there’s no english. And I constantly cringed at the likelihood of stunts going agonizing wrong (some of them must have, right? shudder).

A Dangerous Game
Deeply excited for this movie. it appears to have come out in 2, maybe 3, theaters in November. wtf? Hopefully they’ll decide to actually let the world see it someday… I’d rate this higher, but i’m not clear if the trailer is being clever in any way. Seems to just be following the movie exactly. (ie., the trailer is only good because the movie is good?)

I didn’t think this was as funny it appears to think it is. but. I love the idea of it. Dig the creepy reckless cartoon style. This movie, and Kick-Ass, convinced me to rethink my approach to my own small-time vigilante character, VidHero. So, kind of important: TO ME.

GI Joe2: Retaliation : Trailer 1
Starts off looking like transformers. Promoting the military. yawn. easy. Then we get goofy shots of decent actors acting badly. ouch. But then, it kicks in a great cover of white stripes song, and drops snake eyes over the white house. Cut to ninjas and a motorcycle with machine guns and The Rock killing people. Ninjas fighting while rock climbing. plus bruce willis. this whole trailer is a joke. but. i’m in. looks like lots of stupid fun. (and maybe I just love that song a bit too much…)


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