Analysing Trailers… ‘The Last Airbender’

Posted: June 18, 2010 in Media

(The new fantasy film was once a cartoon series)

We watched a trailer for the said film about 3 times and analysed it’s conventions. We thought about general things such as camera and sound and why certain things were used and what impact they have on promoting the film…

Genre…

Well the trailer seems to be promoting a film of a mixed genre- something fantasy/action. I think fantasy because there is talk of  ‘one’ true, but would usually seem like an unlikely, hero (A small boy) which is a usual convention of fantasy films- for example, Frodo the hobbit in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy (within the films hobbits are looked down upon as they are not powerful and are very short) and the ogre Shrek in the four ‘Shrek’ films (within the children’s films the hero used to be seen as ugly and villainous because he was an ogre).  Also, we can see various superpowers, which are included more in fantasy films than most- such as controlling air, water and fire. I think a sub genre of action could be included as a lot of clips of fight scenes are featured within the trailer and it seems as though there is a war of some kind involving different groups of people (also regularly seen in fantasies- Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings etc). And these fighting/battle scenes imply violence within the movie itself.

Narrative…

Well we can get a basic jist of the narrative from what is mentioned in the trailer. A boy is found, and he is claimed to be some kind of oracle or hero to save a troubled race. Most of this we hear from the narrator who tells us this boy is the ‘last of his kind’ – putting responsibility on him to help and insinuating he is the only one who can. It is clear there is an upset in the equilibrium right from the off- as we are told that this hero must bring balance to a ‘world at war’ – clearly signalling something is wrong and we wonder whether this unlikely young hero can save them/stop the war. Therefore audiences will be intrigued to go and watch to film to see whether/how the new equilibrium occurs. There is also talk of villains ‘some will stop at nothing to destroy you’…showing that there is also a threat to the hero as he attempts to restore the equilibrium, so audiences will wonder what this threat is, be it a villain or something else, and whether the hero will be strong enough to fend it off. 

USP…

There are a few USP’s but maybe they are not as promising as others featured in trailers. An element of fighting can be argued to be a Unique Selling Point as this something a certain audience will love to see- and good fight scenes featured in trailers can lead to audiences being intrigued to go and see it. Another could be the fact this film is based on a cartoon that used to be shown regularly on  favourite kid’s TV channel ‘Nickelodeon’ (originally named ‘Avatar’- obviously when it came to making the film they had to think of  a new title then!) and therefore the film is likely to already have an audience waiting in the lines to see it even if they view the trailer as good/bad. They will at least give the film ‘a go’ if they enjoyed the cartoon series- which is good news for film makers as they already have an audience waiting for them before the film was even released. Another USP could be the director of the film- which is M.Night Shyamalan- who directed the very popular film ‘The Sixth Sense’ and people who have seen and liked his previous works are more likely to go see the film if they see in the trailer he has directed it. Clearly a useful convention in trailers then, although I think more could be acheived if the had put ‘From the director of The Sixth Sense’ as it is likely more have heard of the film name than the director’s. But then again, this appears to be a kid’s film- and I don’t think putting that the director of this film directed ‘The Sixth Sense’ (A horror about a little boy who is haunted by ghosts) would achieve approval from parents- so it’s probably a wise move to include the director’s name afterall!

Target Audience…

Mainly I would think younger people- probably to about 14-8 years of age. It doesn’t look very ‘scary’ but could possibly be violent or the plot harder to understand for ‘very’ young children (under 8). But it would probably be for under 15’s because of the fact it is based on a cartoon, which is aimed at children- it also seems like a very basic fantasy/action with obvious plotlines and older teenagers/adults are most likely to get bored and want a film that challenges their mind more. I think boys are far more likely to be the target audience than girls, because stereotypically it is thought of that girls don’t enjoy fantasies/actions and boys do. Boys would appreciate the superpowers included and the promise of fight scenes and wars- which ultimately most girls would be bored by. Boys can also relate to the main character- himself a young boy- and girls have no one to relate as such-apart from the one female character seen in the clip.

Music…

At first, the music is slow and quite simplistic, thus drawing the viewers in as soon as the trailer begins. Dramatic bells toll- connotating perhaps a religious narrative or that something big is about to happen (like the disruption of the equilibrium). But then, as the action begins the build up, and the pace increases, the music follows suit. It helps create tension within the audience- making them wonder what will happen and eager to watch the film to find this out. The style of the music included is also very ‘war like’ and dramatic- it makes us question who will emerge victorious and whether the hero will save the day and therefore restore a new equilibrium to the story. It also connotes perhaps deaths or tragedies and we want to know what  has gone wrong…and what the ultimate outcome will be. 

Camera…

 Overall the camera work within the trailer is quite normal. Reaction shots are used to show two characters reaction to something they have found- and by seeing the expression on their faces of confusion, shock and fear we. the viewers, wonder who or indeed what it is that has been discovered- further increasing our attention of the trailer itself. Extreme close ups are also used, mostly on the main character, the hero of the story, and we can see very complicated tattoos all over his body. By using an extreme close up the audience’s attention is therefore focused on it and therefore we know that these tattoos are symbolic and important to our understanding of the narrative of the film- but they are not explained in the trailer itself and we will have to watch the films for answers. An extreme close up of the main character’s face (mainly consisting of his eye) also backs up earlier assumptions that this is the central protagonist and hero of the film- as we are closer attached to him than any other character. Long shots are used of action/fighting sequences to give us a bigger look at the whole scene and shows that the film itself will be very visual. High amgle shots also look down on certain characters- insinuating a ‘trouble’ ahead and that they are vulnerable and innocent- therefore the hero needs to save them- but the question is: will he be able to?? these are the questions audiences will want the answer to.

Pace…

Generally I thought the whole trailer had quite a slow pace. It takes a while to build up in tension and explain what is happening through the narration/voice over and by the time the pace finally fastens the trailer is nearly over. The slow pace can insinuate a plot that is easy to understand, like a children’s film, as if the pace of the trailer was too fast younger audiences would become distracted and confused. It does become fast paced for a little bit: we see fast cuts of fighting scenes, superpowers, etc and we therefore know that there will be some kind of battle and because all this is fast paced, we become tense and wonder who will win. But, the pace becomes slow again as the trailer comes to an end- leaving the feelings of the audiences still, and in quiet awe- but still tense as to what will happen.

Dialogue…

There is little dialogue spoken within the trailer- and perhaps this in attempt to try to keep the plot of the film a secret do audiences will want to go see the film to make sense of the trailer they see. ‘I knew you were real…I always knew you’d return’ spoken by a female character gives ideas to the audience of this hero, as I said, to be God-like, a prophecy to save mankind, which, as we know by previous Fantasy films, takes many unlikely forms. there are also talks of ‘destiny’- a common form amongst fantasy films- the hero may not like the task he has- but he cannot escape it because it is his fate and destiny to be the hero to save ‘mankind’. ‘he will need you…and we all need him’ refers to togetherness and friendships between characters and also points our ideas back to the fantasy genre- the world cannot survive without this hero- everyone is counting on him to ‘save the day’ and restore the equilibrium.

Voice over…

I’m pretty sure there is a voice over featured here. As always, the voice over gives audiences a little more insight into the film- but not too much otherwise there would be no point in watching the film itself. ‘You are the last of your kind….’ direct, this voice over speaks straight to the audience and makes it seem to viewers as though they are the ‘hero’ and personally connected to the film itself. It will catch their attention more by saying ‘you’ than anyone else. ‘You are the only one who can…’ Again, directly this addresses the audience members and tells them a  bit more about the plot and hero of the film- he is the ‘only’ one, a last hope to save a nation- but will he be able to do it?? That’s what audiences will go to the cinema to find out. Also, ‘some will stop at nothing to destroy you’ introduces the threat of the film, insinuating a ‘good v evil’ style of film. A threat is established and we know the hero will have a struggle to try to repair the equilibrium that has been ruined.

Special Effects…

Naturally, considering what genre I think the film to be, there were vast amount of special effects: the ice cracking, the superpowers the characters can be seen using, the lands that don’t actually exist and the fight scenes are all likely to be created by special efffects. This insinuates an unrealistic, supernatural plot that will allow audiences to escape to a ‘fantasy world’ – a reason why most people indeed go to the cinema- to escape their ordinary lives and be encapsulated by another. The special effects also tell us the film will be visual and creative- which can appeal to youngsters mostly as they would enjoy a film that looks nice and adventurous rather than a film which looks realistic and like any other ordinary day at home. The special effects also tell us that this film may be a big budget one- which could either persuade people further to see it …or contradict their likeness to go and see the film. 

Credits and Intertitles… 

We open with the titles of production companies- usually ignored a bit, but here tells us a lot about what film is being promoted. ‘Nickelodeon Movies’ tells us the film is very likely to be aimed at a younger audience, as this is a children’s TV channel and consists of showing cartoons. ‘From M.Night Shyamalan’ also could persuade audiences t go see it if they are fans of his previous works in film- which they are most likely to be without necessarily knowing it. ‘This July’ unlike other trailer I’ve analysed, this one actually gives reference to specifically when it will be released at the cinema. This can make the audience excited, as they know how long they have to wait for it to come out, and also shows that this is likely to be aimed at children- as July is the beginning of the Summer holidays and children are more likely to go to the cinema if they are off school than in the academic term. And then we get intertitles which relate to the actual plot of the film: ‘The last of his kind’…’Will risk everything’…’For Mankind’…here we get implications that there will be sacrifices made by the hero, like most true heroes, and he will try to restore peace to the story- but audiences will want to see whether he succeeds in his task. And then finally and traditionally, the name of the film is at the end of the trailer, so audiences have to watch the trailer ALL the way through to know the basic but most important aspect of the film: the title ‘The Last Airbender’- written in large, shiny, metal like letters implies the film will be epic and powerful. Containing things like wars and fighting between different nations. ‘Summer 2010’ also shows, like I said, kids are the main target audience and this is all ended by quick and simple credits. They quickly go as the music fades off- leaving the viewer eager for more information and wanting to see whether the hero will succeed in his task.

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