Analysing Trailers… ‘The Dark Knight’

Posted: June 21, 2010 in Media

(Above: Just one of the posters produced for the sequel, starring the late Heath Ledger)

I watched the trailer a few times (above). Here is what I found after analysing it closely, along with a few of my favourite screenshots from the trailer itself…

Genre…

Judging from the trailer I believe the film promoted here is mainly an Action/Fantasy film. It looks like it will be an action film because there are lots of scenes of violence involving all kinds of weapons, including guns and knives. There are also lots of cars and motor vehicles involved too: like posh, elegant sports cars, lorries, Batman’s motorbike and his Batmobile of course. And actions are well known to have cars as a typical convention within their genre, mainly for car chases as seen in action films such as ‘James Bond’ and, like we have here, superhero films (For example, like the elegant cars featured in Iron Man). There are also many explosions featured in the trailer, and I think this implies action and further violence within the film itself. Moving on, the film promoted is clearly a Fantasy/Superhero film. We have the title of ‘DC comics’ at the very beginning to immediately tell audiences the trailer they are about to see originated from a comic, like all superheroes usually do (like Marvel comics and Spiderman). And we also have two very big and very popular characters being shown within the trailer, which are Batman and the Joker. A very popular match, they tell audiences this is definitely a superhero/Fantasy film- as we have a superhero, a supervillian corrupting the piece, and very deep sense of the battle between Good and Evil.

Narrative…

The Joker’s voice gives the audience a hint at what is going on narrative wise within the film: ‘You’ve changed things….forever. There’s no going back.’ It lets the audience know straight from the off that something is wrong/ the equilibrium has been disturbed. His mortal words make us tense and we, the audience, wonder who is speaking, what has happened and whether the hero will be able to fix it. We then see various shots of the iconic hero Bruce Wayne/Batman- in the shots he is usually alone, isolated and looks upset or distraught. This connotates ideas that something bad has occurred and our hero is troubled- but what has happened? And will he be able to stop it?? The Joker is then revealed to us as the villain we heard speaking to begin with. And the trailer reveals to the audience he is the one disturbing the equilibrium- explosions, having loads of knives, in a prison cell, threatening characters, his evil cackle, and talk of ‘people are dying’: they all reveal to us he is the villain of the story and therefore we wonder whether the hero will be able to stop him. The dialogue: ‘Gotham needs you’ – insinuates he is the hero of the story as he is the one who must protect it from this new threat. Essentially giving us this Good Vs Evil – but clearly, audiences will be interested to know which side will win.

USP…

A big USP is the fact that the film promoted is a trailer. So instantly it will grab the attention of those who watched/enjoyed the first film ‘Batman Begins’. Another USP could be the fact that this film is a ‘Batman’ film- this means it already has a big fanbase: older films, comics, cartoons, toys/figures, TV programmes etc etc directly implies that this film is guaranteed an audience already because of the popular superhero it revolves around. Another USP is the fact the trailer features many big HollyWood stars: Christian Bale (Batman Begins) Heath Ledger (Brokeback Mountain) Sir Michael Caine (The Prestige) Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank Redemption)  and the fact the film features all these popular actors will ultimately bring in audiences who have enjoyed their previous works and improve their expectations of the film.

Target Audience…

Most likely to be ages 12 and over- generally superhero films are for younger children/young teenagers but it is at the higher end of this scale as it looks as though the film will be quite scary- mostly because of the Joker, his appearance, threats and the scenes including knives and guns. So this implication of violence ultimately means that although superhero films are usually aimed at children, this film may be aimed at a higher age group as it seems it will be scary and violent.  It seems as though boys are the main target audience in terms of gender, as usually superhero films are aimed at boys more than girls, as they are thought to enjoy action and fantasy films more. The trailer also features a lot of male character, including the central protagonist himself, which means that boys have got more to relate to and girls meanwhile, haven’t.

Music…

 The music begins slowly, with a deep, rumbling tone- like thunder before a storm- connotating something bad about to happen/the disequilibrium. This soon dies down as we are revealed to the new villain the Joker. The use of minimal background music brings tension to the viewer- he is  a powerful character and this makes us wonder what part he will play in the film. The music then reappears, but this time it is slightly faster and louder than before- matching the pace of the trailer as the cuts get faster. Again, the Joker’s voice soon invades and briefly stops the music- reinforcing the idea that this is very powerful villain and important role within the film. As the music begins once again, much louder than before as the pace of the trailer overall has overall become much faster. A sound effect of a ‘Boom’ on each shot that is significant – it makes us tense and has impact on the viewers. After once again being invaded by the Joker’s voice for a third and final time, the music begins once again as the title of the film appears. It is loud with a slower pace- it leaves us wondering what will happen and which character will emerge victorious. The music itself is bold and heroic- implying the film is a superhero film about a battle between good ad evil. An orchestra used sounds big, grand and dramatic – it insinuates tragedies within the film and therefore makes us wonder whether characters will die and whether the hero will save the day and restore the equilibrium.

Camera…

There are many various shots within the trailer itself which give many implications on the genre/narrative etc of the film. For example, there are many extreme long/long shots within the trailer, mainly of the two main characters: the Joker and Batman. It signifies they are important characters and isolated and alone: it implies they are equally troubled characters who are two sides of the same coin. There are also many midshots of different characters- the Joker, Alfred, Batman, Lucius, Rachel etc – it shows they have important roles within the film itself and gets us closer to the character themselves, revealing emotions, relationships to other characters etc There also uses of extreme close ups to heighten tension and keep mystery surrounding the plot/characters (such as the close up of the burning Joker card tells us something bad has happened but we are left unclear what). There are also uses of a ’tilt up’ which slowly goes up the Joker from his feet and finally to his face. This leaves us waiting to see who he is and surrounds his identity with mystery untill we finally reach his face. Lastly I want to point out the use of  a low angle shot which looks up at the Joker- telling us he is a powerful villain and we wonder whether the Batman will be able to stop him.

Pace…

Firstly, the pace is rather slow, as the story is opening and it is drawing us in with the Joker’s snippets of dialogue. And slowly, it gets faster through the middle of the trailer as we see more and more shots and we see a threat of a new villain. And then- even faster pace as people are said to be ‘dying’, the hero is troubled, there is conflict, more and more shots in a smaller piece of time. This makes the audience tense and we wonder what will happen, it also implies an action subgenre. This then ultimately slows down as the trailer ends- and the audience is left tense as they do not know how the film will end.

Dialogue…

Basically the dialogue is probably the most important aspect of the trailer itself. For example, at the start of the trailer we hear him say: ‘You’ve changed things….forever. There’s no going back.’ this gives us information on the narrative of the film- the equilibrium has been disturbed and we wonder how it has happened. There is tension as the Joker speaks and we wonder who he is. The Joker’s laugh is also important as it is iconic and something viewers can familiarise with- it also show that the character is insane and scary:  so how can Batman defeat him?  There also is more dialogue provided from the Joker to imply his strange and insane character- ‘Why So Serious?’. The Batman also says: ‘People are dying…what would you have me do?’ this is further reinforcement of the disequilibrium and we wonder who is dying/who is causing it? We wonder whether Batman will be able to restore the peace- he seems troubled as he is asking for advice and help on what to do. Dialogue supplied from Alfred also gives us ideas on the themes of the film as a  whole: ‘You can be the outcast, you can make the choice no one else can make: the right choice.’ this implies a very Good vs Evil plot- Batman must go to new lengths to stop this villain and we are intrigued to know whether he will succeed as it sounds as though it is the hardest task he has ever had to take on.

Voice Over…

No. There isn’t one. That’s all I can say about that really….

Special Effects…

There are lots of special effects within the trailer, which ultimately implies the film to be of an action genre, such as: various shots of buildings exploding, fires, cars chasing each other, crashing, guns being fired etc which implies the film will include a lot of violence and therefore unsuitable for younger viewers. It also makes the film appear glamorous and to have a high budget.

Credits and intertitles…

 Strangely for a trailer, there aren’t a lot of titles within this one. It focuses more on camerawork/dialogue/music than the intertitles and credits which so regularly occur within trailers. I think to an extent it can be argued that the Joker’s dialogue (certainly at the beginning) replaces what would be titles- but the creator’s of the trailer clearly thought that his voice would be more tense and impactive on the viewer as he is a new and well loved character. At the beginning we have 3 titles/logos of production companies- not very important, but the ‘DC comics’ one is when discussing narrative. It implies to us, the audience, already before we watch the trailer that it is promoting a superhero film that used to feature in comic books- like Batman, Superman and Ironman for example. The only other title is the actual title of the film- which is, as always, placed at the very end of the trailer for impact and to keep us watching to the very end. The white on black makes the title of the film stand out- and also connotates a battle of Good Vs Evil. The iconic bat ‘sign’ also surrounds the title- something audiences can familiarise with the film and recognize easily, further attaching them to the films franchise.

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