Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 
Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable

The Trailer Test: Why the New 'Die Hard' Trailer Is Probably Better Than the Movie and 'Hansel and Gretel' Is Better Than Both

Photo of Eric Kohn By Eric Kohn | Indiewire October 31, 2012 at 12:09PM

In the process of teasing the bigger picture, a trailer should also tell a story, whether or not that story correlates with the movie in question. For the excessive genre movie with strengths that relate more to movement, violent, attitude and sudden noises rather than pithy tools of the trade like character development, the trailer presents a tricky proposition. In a running time that can often represent roughly one percent the length of the feature, the trailer must sample a lot of physical details. Sometimes, a speedy montage will do the trick. In the case of "A Good Day to Die Hard," the trailer for the fifth installment of the increasingly creaky "Die Hard" franchise released late last week, the challenge results in a series of abrupt cuts with only the illusion of a narrative sustaining them.
1
"Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters."
"Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters."

In the process of teasing the bigger picture, a trailer should also tell a story, whether or not that story correlates with the movie in question. For the excessive genre movie with strengths that relate more to movement, violent, attitude and sudden noises rather than pithy tools of the trade like character development, the trailer presents a tricky proposition. In a running time that can often represent roughly one percent the length of the feature, the trailer must sample a lot of physical details. Sometimes, a speedy montage will do the trick. In the case of "A Good Day to Die Hard," the trailer for the fifth installment of the increasingly creaky "Die Hard" franchise released late last week, the challenge results in a series of abrupt cuts with only the illusion of a narrative sustaining them.

At a minute-and-a-half, about a minute shorter than the standard trailer length, the trailer wastes no time establishing the world where the movie takes place. Bruce Willis, looking simultaneously suave and wizened in accordance with the aging action star mold, arrives at the airport with his grown daughter (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, first introduced in 2007's "Live Free or Die Hard") while the first bars of Beethoven's ninth -- a "Die Hard" staple stretching back to the 1988 original -- immediately situate these events in the "Die Hard" universe.

Seconds later, another familiar reference point kicks in. "Dad, try…try not to make an even bigger mess of things," his daughter says, as McClane turns to her with a bemused look and then walks away. His response, whether spoken or imagined, takes form of a muttered three-word reply heard in voiceover: "Yippee ki-yay," he says, as we cross-fade to the 20th Century Fox logo and the Beethoven score returns. A rejoinder harkening back to McClane's first encounter with baddies in an office building, the response means nothing without the context of the franchise. These ingredients alone could make for a solid teaser of another "Die Hard" movie. Eighteen seconds have passed.

But there's a lot more ground for this trailer to cover.  A series of fades track McClane's trip to Moscow. Unsurprisingly, this all-American hero looks distinctly out of place in the Russian landscape. "First time in Moscow?" an overly friendly cabbie asks him. "First time," McClane answers. The follow-up question further sets up the precise definition of the McClane persona. "American?" the cabbie asks as we see a close-up of McClane holding "The Idiot's Travel Guide to Moscow." One more detail is needed to complete the picture: "Are you a cop?" An unrelated shot of men in riot gear drifts past before McClane quietly responds, "Yeah." Forty-five seconds have passed, and already the trailer has told a peculiar fish-out-of-water story that could be retitled "An American Cop in Russia."

But this quiet build-up mainly exists to emphasize the cacophony of explosions yet to come. "Welcome to Moscow!" the jubilant cabbie says, and his response is followed by an immediate cut to exploding cars. Relevant questions: Where? Why? However, the remainder of the trailer provides no specifics as to the threat or reason behind the abrupt acts of violence that follows. A fortified vehicle rams through the Moscow streets as "Ode to Joy" soars. McClane dashes through the streets and comes to rest in front of a speeding vehicle. Its driver looks up. "Jack!" McClane shouts. The young man looks back at him. "Dad?"

A minute has zipped past and we know the full kahuna. McClane and his grown son face down bad guys in Russia. With another 30-odd seconds to go, the rest of the trailer includes a melange of explosions and gunfire alongside a few passing glances that father and son share in the midst of the mayhem. Finally the movie erupts into absurdity as the two men dash away from some unknown threat and make an impossibly leap through the glass window of a skyscraper, plummeting to the ground with the aid of virtual camerawork. The title card rolls past and then McClane makes one final, specious guarantee: "Nobody's gonna die today," he grunts as they prepare for more shooting and then, believe or not, hurtle through yet another glass window. With seconds to go, the trailer crams in a final exchange: "Need a hug?" McClane asks. "We're not a hugging family," his son replies. "Damn straight," his dad replies.

This article is related to: the trailer test, Die Hard 5, A Good Day To Die Hard, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Bruce Willis, Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton






Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome

Most Read



Awards Season Spotlight

Contender Conversations

Indiewire celebrates the best and brightest from Independent film, Hollywood, and foreign cinema.

More