In This Month in Trailer Music, the team at Canada-based research project Trailaurality takes a look at the musical highlights of the past month’s film and TV trailer drops. Be sure to also check out the detailed breakdowns on their website!
Far and away the biggest release of April—financially speaking, almost ever—this recap trailer reminds us of the eleven years and twenty one films it took to bring us to the climactic showdown with Thanos. The score from Trailer Music Brigade incorporates the original themes for almost every character featured in the piece, from Brian Tyler’s Iron Man to Ludwig Göransson’s Black Panther. Note the shifts in orchestration as stoic brass of Alan Silvestri’s theme represents Captain America and the Wagnerian strings of Patrick Doyle’s theme back the introduction of Thor. A simple ascending scale as the films’ titles are presented lends a sense of overall narrative build, leading up to Endgame, which unleashes a reprise of Silvestri’s now-iconic franchise leitmotif.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
April can be a big month for trailers as campaigns for the holiday season begin in earnest just ahead of the blockbuster summer season; the appearance of Episode IX is a great case in point. Much like waiting for The Rise of Skywalker in the first place, the atmospherics of the first half of the trailer demand some patience that is rewarded by a flourishing rendition of Princess Leia’s theme. The unseen villain at the end illustrates how Emperor Palpatine’s cackle is so iconic – we need no hint beyond the sound itself, made all the more sinister in the pitch black darkness.
While of course Heath Ledger’s interpretation of the storied DC villain will also be legendary, it’s clear that Joaquin Phoenix is about to offer an incarnation of the Joker who can stand apart. In this oddly triumphant trailer, the soundtrack choice of Jimmy Durante’s version of “Smile” is especially interesting, considering the tune was originally composed by Charlie Chaplin for “Modern Times” – an ad for which appears in the world of the trailer at 1:34, likely no coincidence. While not featuring a custom score, the choice of music runs a bit deeper than most, owing not to the typical features of the music’s chart-topping popularity, the artist’s cachet, or the track’s familiarity as a trailer music staple, but rather, whether it fits the character and narrative.
Godzilla: King of Monsters
The trailer campaign for Godzilla attracted attention earlier for its ingenious use of Claude Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” to illustrate the sublime beauty of the franchise’s kaiju; here, the strategy continues, this time using the classic “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” – reinterpreted by Alloy Tracks. Note how at the 1:35 mark the melody is simplified to make way for the epic percussion.
Late Night promises to be a rollicking comedy with socially conscious themes. Starring Mindy Kaling, songs in this trailer such as Mandisa’s “What You’re Worth” (2017) and Janelle Monáe’s “Make Me Feel” (2018) lyrically underscore themes of intersectional dynamics and female empowerment, with Kaling’s character hired as a new writer for a flagging late night show hosted by an older, white woman (who is she?). Through stop/start timing in the soundtrack, the trailer achieves a balance of dramatic and funny moments.
Distributed by A24, The Farewell was a top pick at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. A range of pizzicato cello, to wordless choir, to strings breathing hymn-like major chords propel the narrative of a family coming to terms with their matriarch’s impending death. And a granddaughter’s coming to terms with the family’s decision – which, as we learn, is often the case in Asian families – not to inform grandma of her terminal illness. Elsewhere, the choice of The Apache Relay’s 2012 track “Power Hungry Animals” adds a lyric that clearly resonates with the narrative in “Souls cannot be fooled”—does grandma know? Does it matter whether she knows? Regardless, the combination of serious orchestral music and more casual indie fare frame the film well as a compelling slice of life story.
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Tarantino. While enough has already been said, the auteur director’s latest is everything it says on the (film) tin: a fantasy co-star casting of Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio lead a jaunt through mid to late 60s life in Tinsel Town, with songs by The Mamas and the Papas (“Straight Shooter,” 1966), Paul Revere & The Raiders (“Good Thing,” 1967), and Neil Diamond (“Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show,” 1969) marking the trailer for Tarantino’s 9th, heralded in the first tile card to fanfare on the level of a composer’s 9th symphony. And well orchestrated this trailer is, lovingly edited to match the rhythm and tempo of the music—not just by the camera shots, but everything from the dancers’ movements, to the various punches, and—yes—to the ultra-violence that is Tarantino’s trade. Every outing, Tarantino proves there is substance in style.
These are just a few of what we felt were the most interesting and / or attention-grabbing trailers released in the past month or so, especially in terms of their music and sound. Have a suggestion on what we should look at next time? Follow us @trailaurality and visit our weekly blog at trailaurality.com for even more analysis and discussion. See you next month!