"What’s the most resilient parasite? An idea." Little did Christopher Nolan know when he wrote that line, he’d need to add an addendum: an idea that keeps getting pickpocketed over and over again until it loses meaning and ownership, and becomes simply background noise to the general cultural conversation. It’s appropriate, when you think about it, and something that Cobb (and team Nolan) would likely appreciate, that the memory of this ubiquitous sound’s origins are slowly fading away. The Hans Zimmer-composed ominous pitched-down “Inception” horn blast, known as “The ‘Inception‘ BRAAAM" (number of ‘r’s and ‘a’s may vary) has been resilient indeed, an idea homaged, appropriated and straight-up nicked time and time again since its… wait for it… inception.
This week another high-minded sci-fi trailer hit our computer shores, Neill Blomkamp’s “Elysium,” starring Matt Damon. And yes, as original as it is — it’s not based on a brand, property or toy — the “Elysium” trailer also borrows the “Inception” BRAAAM. Sure, it’s slightly different, a little bit subtler, but it’s there, despite the best efforts of trailer sound editors trying to convince themselves they’re doing something different by tweaking the original. With that farty, slowed-down noise on the brain again this week, we thought we’d look at other culprits who requisitioned the sound for themselves, and ear-BRAAAM-ed their way into our collective unconscious.
1. “Elysium,” the current offender.
2. “World War Z”
“Get back in your car, right now! Remain in yo —” BRAAAM! Clearly hoping the sound effect will work as a memory wipe on the rumors of production troubles and reshoots that have dogged "World War Z," the decision to BRAAAM!…er, where were we? Holy shit is that Brad Pitt fighting off zombies that move like crazy schools of fish (or is it flocks of insane birds?) That looks AWESOME!
3 “Star Trek: Into Darkness”
While the “Star Trek: Into Darkness” trailer goes for the latest trailer trend — an ethereal, angelic chorus of voices that disarms with its soothing, everything’s-beautiful, everything’s-serene-for-now tone (recently seen in “The Dark Knight Rises” trailer and then nicked for the first “Man of Steel” trailer — NOLANS!) it switches gears mid-way for a more sped-up version of the “Inception” BRAAAM! Thereby helpfully letting us know that things aren’t going to be serene and beautiful all the way through the movie.
4. “Jack the Giant Slayer”
It failed at the box-office, and to be fair, the second half of the trailer is completely different in mood and tone, but even Bryan Singer had his Christopher Nolan moment. Or at least, his marketing team did. Check out the first half that has the same dancing cellos and throbbing dark underbelly sounds.
5. “G. I. Joe: Retaliation”
No one said the “G. I. Joe” series had an original thought in its head, so it’s apropos the trailer would try and stand on the shoulders of giants. Sure, it starts out plenty different, but wait til the :47 second mark and you’ll hear the very recognizable low-end drone.
It’s getting to the point where even the copycats are being copied, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get the 12-second ad for “Hannibal” currently running over a lot of YouTube trailers that appropriates the modified BRAAAM from “Prometheus.” Credit these guys for at least making a stellar trailer and taking the "Inception" horn fart, adding wailing screams overtop and quivering electronics beneath to create something rather haunting. It’s a cover version that puts a different stamp on the original, but it’s still a cover.
The first trailer for the Peter Berg shipwreck is all about booze, chicks and rock’n’roll at first, then goes a little hip-hop, but when shit gets real (in the second trailer) you know who they turn to. Granted, they try and embed the sound into their special effects, but the recognizable “Inception” BRAAAM is still utilized as the loud throb underneath each explosion. Extra credit: How did Rihanna’s dad know the aliens were gonna eventually come?
8. “The Avengers”
Joss Whedon and co. went another way, taking Nine Inch Nails’ “We’re In This Together Now” to lead their trailer on a march against the Loki-bots they would soon face. But not for the entire trailer. Check the first half, especially around the :33 mark because the BRAAAM is used, albeit very quickly. What’s clever about its use here is that they pitched the tone of it to match the instrumental version of the NIN song. Cute.
9. “Pacific Rim”
Guillermo del Toro’s marketing/trailer team like the BRAAAM! as well. They like it so much they added a clubby house beat to it, so now you can cancel the apocalypse and dance to it.
10. “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”
Twist it up y’all. Michael Bay’s sector 7G drones were listening to Daft Punk when they were getting into their “how do we change the "Inception" BRAAAM! but still steal the "Inception" BRAAAM!?” ethos when they cribbed it for this ‘Dark of the Moon’ trailer. Sure, it now sounds more like an electronic zipper on your Tron outfit, but it’s still that all-too-familiar sound.
One question: did the same three people cut all these trailers? Other culprits include "Battle: Los Angeles," "Planet Of The Apes," "Super 8," “The Dark Knight Rises” (they’re kind of allowed) and a host of video game trailers like — “Dead Space 3,” “Star Wars 1313” and “Modern Warfare 3.” Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but we sincerely hope the universe, in all its infinite variety, throws trailer cutters something else to "flatter" sometime soon.