As I'm sure you have already repeatedly noticed, this weekend boasted a cascade of brand new teasers for majorly anticipated upcoming films. From Wonder Woman to Doctor Strange, and even all the way to Justice League, studios used this year's Comic-Con in San Diego, as they have for years now, to introduce fans to their productions in order to drive up interest and create buzz. Along with extravagant cosplaying, these teasers have actually become what people most associate with the event.
And this one time, way back in 2006, one studio did a better job of this than anyone else ever when they released an, at the time, relatively unknown film adaptation of a relatively unknown graphic novel called 300 for the first time.
Where Were You When You First Saw The Greatest Trailer Ever Produced?
It was a cool autumn evening in the seaside city of Santa Cruz, Ca. I had just begun my senior year at the college located there (Banana Slug shout out), and was on that particular night headed out to our local cineplex with a good friend to see the latest buzz-worthy film. That film just so happened to later become the year's Academy Award Winner for Best Picture and Best Director; it was the great Martin Scorsese's Boston crime epic The Departed.
I did not leave the theater thinking about that film, however. No, I was instead almost solely preoccupied with the one minute & forty-five seconds I spent before it being introduced to another film, which would be released the following year.
(In the name of all things bad ass, does that clip still amp me right the hell up.)
Now, in order to commemorate the ten year anniversary of this pulsating pile of awesome properly, I think you'll agree that the standard trailer breakdown would be quite insufficient, not to mention a wee bit tardy. So instead, here's an approximate rendition (and possibly ever so slight dramatization) of what happened to me that one night back in 2006, told in the fashion of a running diary. Enjoy.
A Trailer Seemingly Like Any Other (0:00 - 0:06)
Green preview screen, fade to black... nothing remarkable here, I guess. (And yet these six seconds, upon my multitude of repeated viewings, would come to fill me with more anticipatory tingles than dozens of entire movies combined.)
The Gathering Storm (0:07 - 0:23)
The opening sixteen seconds of the teaser start humbly enough, solely featuring what amounted to three practically still images. Does that sound boring to you? It would me. And yet, when those three almost still images include...
THIS as your opener...
A wolf showdown...
And this eye-catching dude sitting on the most incredible chair of all-time...
..."boring" is not the word that comes to mind. Especially when they're coupled with the slow, steady build of Just Like You Imagined from Nine Inch Nails. (By the way, did I track this song down on the internet immediately when I got home, and then listen to it over and over again for months, despite never really being much of a NIN fan before of after? You bet your ass I did.)
Greetings Moviegoers (0:24 - 0:29)
"Spartans! Tonight we dine in hell!"
That line is what's known in the business as, I believe, a "tone set."
Update: We're almost a third of the way into the trailer, we have only a handful of mostly still images and this one line, and I am already completely captivated. Bear in mind, I'd never heard of this movie being in production — or even the graphic novel it was based on, for that matter — at this precise moment; the only thing I recognize so far is the word "Spartans." But still, the music and pictures are now wrapping around me by the second like a boa constrictor.
The Rumblings Begin Rumbling Harder (0:30 - 0:43)
And this is when the squeeze starts; now I'm starting to get a sense of the story here. There's what's almost certainly a bad guy who says "Be afraid: Sparta will burn to the ground," and then our presumed hero draws his sword on the now bewildered villain, looking all intense as he formulates his response to this threat. The bad guy calls his action both "blasphemy" and "madness." The music is building; something is coming. I have no idea what.
(P.S. Every single shot to this point has been absolutely freaking gorgeous, by the way. That helps.)
Welcome to Sparta Boys & Girls (0:44 - 0:48)
HO. LY. S--T.
"Wait... what is even happening here?! WHAT IS THIS?! Are you freaking kidding me?! Is this real?! How do I watch this?! When can it happen?! PLEASE TELL ME NOW!"
Total Ownership (0:49 - 0:58)
I am now 110% in — in on a level usually reserved for your own beloved baseball team being in the World Series or something. And remember, this has all happened instantaneously, and out of nothing.
So these next ten seconds play out with me on the edge of my seat, hanging on every note, shot, and word. And again, it's all awesome; it's all gorgeous.
The Trailer's Thesis (0:59 - 1:11)
This twelve second stretch is, without a doubt, the climax of the tease. If you were to distill everything about this trailer (and 300 as a whole, for that matter) into one moment, this would be that moment. It's so perfectly executed, perfectly built up to, and perfectly edited that I had pretty much rolled over like an old dog getting his belly rubbed by the the time it was finished. Say it with me now:
"The thousand nations of the Persian Empire descend upon you! Our arrows will blot out the sun."
And then, just so I knew they weren't lying:
Pouring It On (1:12 - 1:25)
Have you ever been totally outnumbered in a snowball fight? Being pelted by so many projectiles coming in from so many different angles can make you feel both physically overwhelmed and psychologically disoriented. And that's exactly what these thirteen seconds did to me as well, only in a totally wonderful, breathtaking fashion. Experiencing it for the first time left me confused, lost, and reeling... but in, like, the coolest way imaginable.
A charging rhino? OK.
Special Lady Time with Lena Headey? Yes please.
Flying Spear Guy works!
OH FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, CAN SOMEONE PLEASE JUST TELL ME WHAT THIS IS?
The Title (1:26 - 1:28)
FINALLY. THANK YOU.
Denouement (1:29 - 1:35)
"Before this battle is over, the world will know that few stood against many."
If those previous thirteen seconds were a breathtakingly wonderful barrage of dope snowballs, then this was like a stake made of pure excitement being driven into my chest, finishing me off. I am now a puddle of joyful anticipation.
The Credits (1:36 - 1:39)
Whew... well, I think I'll take these last few seconds of trailer credits to emotionally recover, further soak myself in this heretofore impossibly divine promotional marinade, and get myself mentally prepared to actually watch the mov—NO WAIT, WHEN WILL THIS HAPPEN?! I NEED TO KNOW RIGHT NOW.
The Date (1:40 - 1:45)
OH THANK GOD.
"There is absolutely nothing else I'm doing that day."
Me Again, 2006
My Then Future (1:46 - 03.08.07, 11:59:59 pm, Pacific Time)
MORE. AGAIN. NOW. FOREVER.