The Best Movie Trailers of 2011!

A movie trailer can make or break a film. It is a preview that generally speaking gives the viewer some insight into what the movie is about, who is starring in it, and what can be expected from the experience.

In coming up with this list, I considered the following criteria:

- How did I feel while viewing the Trailer? Was my blood pumping or were my eyeballs bleeding.
- The Premise or Hook. Have I seen this before or is this original, and if not, is there a good twist.
- The Story and Plot. How successful is the story, who am I rooting for, and how much is revealed: too little or too much.
- The Style. The visual and aural appeal of the film, whether through cinematography, production design, innovative sound design, musical theme, etc.

NOTE: We came up with this list before the barrage of trailers that hit the Net over the last week of 2011.

#1 - Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (Theatrical Trailer)

The latest in the series, it’s a known fact that the premise is not new, and is much the same as it was before. How then do we define success? Establish the lead, Tom Cruise, as still being in top shape, able to command the screen, and willing to do even crazier stunts. Check. Add a cast that’s more than capable of holding their own, memorable in their own right. Check. Lure everyone in with large sets, huge action pieces, fast cars, sexy women in revealing clothes, and explosions that rock you. Check. Add that distinctive and oh so stuck in your brain once you’ve heard it Theme Song and mix in a bombastic, high octane, visual feast, throw in a little story, a pinch of plot, and hit go. The trailer effectively renews your faith in Cruise, the franchise and promises an exciting movie experience. That’s what trailers are meant to do and this one does it with style, and class.

#2 - Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (Theatrical Trailer)

Another nicely executed trailer that assures you that all is as it should be, and you’re in for the same ride as before. The great Robert Downey Jr. The lovable Jude Law. Great chemistry once again. The characters and world are well established, nothing seems amiss. Great texture to the sets and costumes, wonderful cinematography, the slow motion is sexy, the sets are large, the action is fluid, the explosions are loud, the plot suggests something is afoot but, does not let us in on what the story is really going to be about and that’s the main flaw. A bit of style over substance.

#3 - Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Theatrical Trailer)

Thinking Apes. An intelligently positioned premise which also makes use of our collective fascination with the concept of intelligence and the idea that we want to be in control, much like God. The story is revealed carefully, clearly, the plot is suggested though never given away, the characters are believable, the CGI is impressive and for me, works perfectly. The ideas and questions posed in the trailer are all plausible, the moments showcased are visceral, and it’s this mixture of emotion and intellect which makes you trust that this movie has something for everyone. It truly makes you forget that the apes aren’t really there.

#4 - Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (Theatrical Trailer)

Another ensemble cast, marvelously orchestrated against the backdrop of clandestine machinations which make you think of what else could be going on in the world today. This trailer is sexy, intelligent, intriguing, and compelling. It is filled with character, story and plot, yet at no point in time do you know what is really going on. You wonder, you question but, it never matters because you know the answers will come, eventually, if you pay attention. The score is distinctive and moves at a leisurely pace, all the while leaving you uneasy. You are sucked right in from the moment it starts and never lets you go, even after the screen has gone dark.

#5 - X-Men: First Class (Theatrical Trailer)

A well-crafted trailer that illustrates an intelligent approach to the source material that erases your doubts and convinces you that there is something worthwhile here that can stand on its own. It’s a different world and what we see of it sells us on the idealism that exists through the story. The Ensemble cast works, each character is well framed and their powers revealed with nice touches of CGI, plot points are used but sparingly, after all the film does have some negativity to work against. However, what really sells this trailer is the intensity and chemistry between McAvoy and Fassbender which truly matches any expectations you could have.

#6 - Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Theatrical Trailer)

This trailer works on so many levels. It plays on our fascination with space travel and the moon, seamlessly integrates archival footage to sell the idea that something’s afoot on the dark side of the moon, the government as usual is involved, and then slowly gives us the punch line: yes Virginia Transformers got there before we did! This trailer was clear, good cinematography, nicely paced, good balance between suspense and story, revealed just enough to get our jets burning, and showed enough good CGI to fan the all spark back to life.

#7 - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (Theatrical Trailer)

As a trailer for the last in a long series of films, there’s nothing unexpected within this trailer, each character is well established and plot points shown, impressive set pieces and seamless well utilized CGI, the story and theme are well-known and each location seems to be familiar, even the new ones, as the world is well established. However, there are great moments chosen for the trailer, excellent framing, moments which show how much the story has grown, along with its cast, and everything finally feels grown up, adult, and this is as it should be. Nothing however is given away, there is no winking at the audience, and there is a pervading sense of finality that runs throughout; appropriate because this is the end.

#8 - Drive (Red Band Trailer)

There’s a lot going on here below the surface and that’s the flaw of this trailer: it may be too good at portraying the more attractive elements of the story. Its slick, dark tones, muted colors, powerful imagery, filled with atmosphere, introduces you to a compelling lead, an anti-hero, and sexual tension with the damsel in distress, who by the way has a kid. These overpower the dark crime thriller hiding underneath all of this, the raw emotions unleashed throughout the arc of the story and plot, and the pulpy nature of the story. An excellent trailer but, does not position the film properly and this usually leads to disappointment and a failure to meet audience expectations.

#9 - Hanna (Theatrical Trailer)

This trailer acts like a character study of our heroine, Hanna, a young assassin, with chilling, spectacular cinematography, alternately stark and deep colors, and a matching score that works to amp up your adrenaline as it builds your interest and convinces you that this little slip of a girl, is a stone cold, highly trained killer. It’s full of atmosphere, matches her with the environment, reveals her changing emotional state, and yet reveals nothing about the story or plot that would give anything away. Which is part of its problem: what should the audience expect, as the lone child assassin is mostly unplumbed territory.

#10 - The Hangover, Part II (Theatrical Trailer)

Friends and familiarity, an interesting premise and lots of on screen chemistry. There wasn’t anything too dramatic, or deep, just a rollicking good time and it was better with friends and a couple beers before or after the movie. So, why not have The Hangover Part II? Game on! Everything that made the first movie good is back for round two. The actors, the style, the wardrobe, the color palette, the cinematography and production design all capture that perfectly, and reassures you that there’s nothing to worry about, it’s the same friend you made the last time, and you won’t be fooled into seeing a terrible romance comedy. Of course, if you didn’t like the first film, you probably wouldn’t go see this one.

#11 - Snow White and the Huntsman (Teaser Trailer)

Fairy tales were originally used to scare wayward and disobedient children into well…obedience, and this trailer gives you the immediate impression that there’s more to this film than mere eye candy. It is envisioned as an epic tale, a dark and perilous journey, fraught with danger and barely any reward, much like the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. We’re shown well framed and exquisitely crafted images, dramatic moments filled with powerful and dark forces, all with their own style as the premise and some of the plot is revealed.

#12 - The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Teaser Trailer)

The self-proclaimed feel bad movie of the year certainly gives you chills as you watch it. The trailer takes you on a stylized journey through the major scenes of the film, putting you squarely inside of the story without reservation. Disoriented by the images hitting your eyeballs, and the great track by Trent Reznor, any questions you have soon give way to your realization that you don’t know what’s going on but, you want to find out. This I think was all deliberate but, rides on the coattails of the book and the previous film adaptation, so there’s not much that’s new, just another point of view.

#13 - Super 8 (Theatrical Trailer)

An excellent trailer, which aside from a little plot, and obligatory character introductions gave away nothing, absolutely nothing. This is its major strength and its Achilles heel. On the one hand, it builds suspense, positions the film successfully as a trip into adventure land with kids and all the magic that could bring while holding the secret of the creature and its motivations close to its chest. Too close perhaps if that secret isn’t worth holding, and instead screams MacGuffin because we’re still wondering what’s the story?

#14 - The Dark Knight Rises (Teaser Trailer)

A teaser in every possible way, this trailer had an almost impossible task: to satisfy the rapid expectations of the Batman franchise’s huge fan base. Yet, this teaser did just that, even with its flaws. A good example of less is more, the brief snatches of the film which leak through this teaser had you instantly guessing, wondering, and thinking about the story, the characters, the events, and the resolution. What more could you ask for? Possibly a bit more originality, as it mimicked Nolan’s Inception and well, the dialogue we heard was a bit corny and interestingly enough, garbled.

#15 - Battle: Los Angeles (Theatrical Trailer)

This trailer has many good elements: aliens, technology, soldiers, civilians, war and an uncertain outcome. Each element is well integrated and the overall feeling is one of an overpowering onslaught, with fire and destruction raining down upon hapless and frail humans. The feeling is one of a gritty reality: dirt, smoke, gun fire, explosions, struggle and death. My criticism is with regard to the main character, Aaron Eckhart: we hardly see him, and can’t make a strong connection. But, there is much to love, and therefore expectations run high. If a trailer is this good, will the movie hold up or will it suck?

#16 - Brave (Theatrical Trailer)

An Epic story which features an instantly memorable and endearing Princess who must save her Kingdom. Gorgeous and impeccable visuals, from the sweeping shot of the Castle, to the fiery Red of Princess Merida’s hair, everything about the look of the trailer is perfect. The voices are alive, and the accents are real. Where it falls a bit short is the story, exactly what is this all about?

#17 - Captain America: The First Avenger (Theatrical Trailer)

This trailer walks a fine line between Comic Book Caper and Historical Fiction, however the decision to introduce us to the story through the experiences of Steve Rogers, before he becomes a hero, allows us to be transformed with him and believe that one man can indeed make a difference. It reveals just enough of the other characters, but perhaps in an effort to show us that there are action pieces, I felt that the weaknesses in the film were exposed and what we saw were the best parts.

#18 - My Week With Marilyn (Theatrical Trailer)

An effective snapshot of the iconic figure that graces the film: Marilyn Munroe as portrayed by Michelle Williams. All the elements of glamour are present: slick production design, opulent wardrobe, glitzy accessories, romantic lighting and cinematography that captures but, never seeks to explain just what it was about Marilyn that captured the imagination of men and women everywhere. This may be a weakness as we really aren’t let in on what makes her so great.

#19 - Shame (Red Band Trailer)

An effective use of the red-band trailer: introducing the characters, setting up their interaction, and leading you along until you’re the one who’s doing all the dirty work where you’re at your best: in your mind. This trailer seduces you with its direct gaze at something everyone is fascinated by: sex and the remarkable thing is it does so with sophistication and respect for the imagination of the viewer. Where I think it falls short is on the story level; if you take away the sex and addiction what makes it compelling?

#20 - Red Tails (Theatrical Trailer)

This trailer pitches the story of the Tuskigee Airmen as a historical drama, featuring impressive visual effects and cinematography. The combat flight choreography is well executed and attempts to recreate the visceral experience of aerial warfare in an intimate manner. The main characters barely have enough screen time, and while the main point of the story is emphasized without giving away too much, I felt the theme could have been relaxed a bit in favor of more about the characters.

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