March 7, 2013

Movie trailers constantly fading in and out, and fading to black

Check out how many times the trailer for Iron Man 3 fades to black. I lost count, but a couple dozen. Not to mention how many fade in / fade outs there are. A trailer that's supposed to get me excited for a kickass summer action movie makes me feel like I'm nodding off instead. Eyes opening, eyes closing... eyes opening, eyes closing...

Iron Man 3, 2013

This is one of those subliminal things that's kept me out of the movie theater on a regular basis since the mid-1990s. I didn't even notice it consciously until I read other people complaining about it. How far back does this annoying style go anyways? I'm not going to exhaustively sample all action flick trailers, but here's one that's just as awful from 7 years ago --

X-Men: The Last Stand, 2006

I just knew I'd find this pretentious gimmick in a trailer for the most over-rated sci-fi / action flick ever made. Although under way by the late '90s, the fading in/out and fading to black don't continually interrupt the trailer. It's more confined to the early part.

The Matrix, 1999

If it was present during the mid-'90s, it was only getting started in a trial-and-error way. Otherwise you'd see it in the trailer for the defining action movie of the time, but you don't --

Speed, 1994

Someone else can waste away a half-hour checking the trailers for The Fugitive, Jurassic Park, Batman Forever, etc.

The kickass summer action genre only goes back to about the mid-'80s. Looking at two blockbuster examples, you don't see fading cuts there at all.

Rambo: First Blood Part II, 1985

Die Hard, 1988

Man, whatever happened to trailers with quotable tag-lines? -- "What most people call hell, he calls home." More adrenaline-pumping music too, not that plodding orchestral bombast from the 21st century.

All examples show fast-paced editing since they're supposed to get your heart racing in anticipation for lots and lots of ass-kicking. But why is there such a sharp difference between the good action movies, whose trailers do not use fading cuts, and the boring ones whose trailers fade in and out constantly?

I think it all comes back to that unhelpable "eyes opening, eyes closing" feeling you get when you're drowsy. Audiences these days are afraid of getting excited -- it makes OCD control freaks feel uneasy when something or someone else has control or influence over their body. Responding too viscerally = creepy.

This shows up across all forms of culture and entertainment. Dance music today doesn't get your body moving, slang words don't pack any punch, and nobody makes bonfires during the summer celebrations anymore.

People still feel somewhat of an urge to let their primitive side take over, so they'll still watch action movies, but only if the studios can assure them that they won't actually get too excited. Plodding music, flat inflection in the characters' voices, abuse of slow-motion sequences -- whatever will interrupt any excitement before it gets going. The nodding-off editing style of the trailers fits right in with the rest of the tranquilizing techniques of pseudo-action movies.


  1. I think this ties in with the fall of sitcoms. People don't want to watch sitcoms anymore because their lives are boring and aren't worth reflecting on screen.

    Likewise, if you're in a passive situation, then you don't want to get emotionally worked up. When teenage guys saw Rambo take on a whole army, it motivated them to take on the assholes giving them a hard time in school. Or go after the promotion, or whatever.

    But things have changed. Guys don't beat each other up anymore, nor is appropriate anymore to ask for a promotion(whatever happened to that as a cultural trope, anyway?) Opportunities or reasons for assertive action evaporate when everybody is reclusive. Why get worked up, when you can't do anything about it? It'll just give you a bad feeling, like coming down from drugs.

  2. I didn't realize sitcoms had "fallen". Chuck Lorre or whatever has super-successful shows (wasn't at least one of them the most-watched show on the air at some point?) that epitomize everything I hate about sitcoms. And if you prefer the opposite kind of sitcom, there's the F/X channel.

    Someone else complaining about all the portmanteau neologisms. I also find them annoying, but regard puns as the lowest form of humor (even lower than most of Chuck Lorre's jokes, I suppose). On the other hand, Akam makes a good point that many words have become so accepted we don't even notice they originated as combinations (acronyms are similar, and we can date what stage they are at to some extent by whether people use capitalization/periods).

  3. The fading effect is kind of interesting. I tend to perceive the standard modern Hollywood signature trailer as proceeding from fades to sharp cuts with a rapidly increasing rate of cuts across the trailer. Kind of a managed buildup rather than the action-action-action.

    nor is appropriate anymore to ask for a promotion(whatever happened to that as a cultural trope, anyway?)

    Positions are advertised, people apply for them. Company internal roles are fairly flexible in any case. Contracts are renegotiable. Asking a boss for a promotion, as such, is not really a thing.


    Dance music today doesn't get your body moving, slang words don't pack any punch, and nobody makes bonfires during the summer celebrations anymore.

    A lot of the traditional Eysenckian theories of -version run with the idea that extraverts are people who receive less stimulation from equal activity, and so are motivated to seek more stimulation.

    Maybe this links into the epicycles of version you describe - people become sensitised during rising crime cycles by the extremely stimulating environment, making society overwhelming and causing some social retreat, while during low crime cycles desensitisation takes place, subsequently causing an increase in extraversion, once a phase transition takes place.


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