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2019 was an amazing year at the movies. We had the culmination of both 11 years of Marvel films and 40 years of Star Wars movies in the same 12 month period. As a movie fan who writes about that very subject, it was a very exciting time. For a year following Avengers: Infinity War and two years following Star Wars: The Last Jedi, we had all kind of theories, questions and rumors to discuss. There was never not something to talk or write about.
As part of the never ending cycle of movie conversation, we have the movie trailer. Second only to the release of the movie itself, the release of a movie's trailer is a major event in the life cycle of cinema. It's our first look at characters in motion, and we get out first hints of the plot. The trailer is designed to make us want to see a movie, and it usually succeeds in getting us pumped for whatever is to come.
However, beyond what we see in a movie trailer, one of the major ways that a trailer gets us excited for a film comes from what we hear. Music has a particular ability to reach us emotionally in a way few other elements of media do, so it's no surprise that most movie trailers contain some great music. But I noticed a disturbing trend among some great movie trailers in 2019 that really began to bother me as time went on. Movie trailers need to stop using music that never actually appears in the movie or on the soundtrack.
A movie trailer is a promise. It's an agreement between a film and its potential audience that what you are being presented with is a small taste of the larger whole. There are always going to be twists and turns along the way of course, but in the end, the movie trailer is a presentation of a sample of the final product, and this should include the music.
There are some exceptions to this rule. Quite frequently movie trailers will use popular music that it expects the audience will know. We already have an emotional connection to a piece of music, and the movie wants to use that connection to make us feel the same way about said movie. It's used to tell us what the movie is in a quick and simple way. In some cases, the song in question might or might not actually be featured in the movie. Most of us probably aren't too bothered if it isn't.
However, I'm talking about something else. I'm talking about new music that is presented in a trailer as part of the score that ends up not actually included within the final compilation of music. Thus, in addition to not being in the movie itself, it is never featured on the film's official soundtrack, so you can never actually listen to that song from the trailer that you liked so much.
About a year ago, we got our first trailer for last summer's Spider-Man: Far From Home. If you check out the latter half of the trailer, you'll hear what I thought was a very cool version of the theme to the classic Spider-Man animated series from the 1960s.
As somebody who had his first introduction to the Wall-Crawler through reruns of the old cartoon, I love the classic theme as much as anybody. We heard a fully orchestrated version of the tune over the Marvel logo in the previous Spider-Man movie, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and so the idea that we might get a bigger, better and, more important, longer version in the new movie was a cool idea.
And yet, it was not to be. While the music was featured in trailers, it wasn't part of the movie itself, and the trailer music was not included on the soundtrack either.
If this had been an isolated incident, that would be one thing, but that's really not the case. A month after our first look at Spider-Man: Far From Home, we got our first look at Frozen II, and it happened again. While what we saw in the trailer ended up being what we got, what we heard was not. Listen to the back half of this trailer for a piece of music that is familiar, but also new.
The name of the song is "Vuelie." It was used in the original Frozen as both the introduction and ending song, and the song does appear again in Frozen II. However, it's never heard quite like this. The piece from the trailer has the tempo kicked up a bit, clearly trying to make the song sound a bit more epic. It succeeds. For fans, "Vuelie" says Frozen to its audience as much as "Let it Go." Considering that the original song was part of the original score, the idea of hearing a modified version in the new movie seemed far from unlikely. Unfortunately, while the version we got in the new movie was beautiful, it wasn't the same.
The issue isn't limited to pieces of a theoretical score. While, as I mentioned previously, well-known pop music can be used without necessarily making you feel like the song should be part of the movie, when you hear a brand new song, or at least a new version of a song, in a trailer, you might still expect that song to be in a movie somewhere.
When the first trailer for Malefiecent: Mistress of Evil arrived in May, it contained a eerily beautiful cover of a classic rock song. It certainly set the mood for the trailer just right, and it made me want to hear the rest of the song.
Hearing a cover of Donovan's classic "Season the Witch" in the middle of a Disney fantasy movie almost certainly would not have fit. While the tone of the song certainly works, it would likely have taken you out of the movie itself. Still, there was always hope it could have appeared on the soundtrack in other ways.
It could have played over the end credits, which is a frequent way that radio-friendly music makes its way into movies where it might not otherwise fit. We got Lana Del Ray's cover of Sleeping Beauty's "Once Upon a Dream" that way in the original Maleficent, so there was precedence.
We did get a song over the credits of Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, but it wasn't this song. Instead, we got Bebe Rexha's "You Can't Stop the Girl," which isn't a bad tune, but not the one I was looking for.
In an interesting coincidence, Lana Del Ray actually covered "Season of the Witch" over the end credits of a different movie in 2019, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.
Music and movies are artistic creations designed to create an emotional reaction. This music all did that for me. What's more, music is a much easier way to feel that emotional reaction again in the future. The opening of every Star Wars movie sends me to a galaxy far, far, away, whether I'm watching the movie or not. I can listen to "Portals" from Avengers: Endgame and visualize all those heroes coming together before the climactic battle, and it makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up every time.
The music in trailers doesn't need to appear in every movie. Certainly, some music will lend itself better to a compressed trailer than to a full sequence in a movie, but it would be nice if this music was released publicly in some way. It could be put on soundtracks and/or simply dropped on streaming services and YouTube as part of a movie's promotional plan. It would be another way to keep people thinking about that upcoming movie.
These weren't the first trailers to ever tease us with music we never got, but I can at least dream it will be the last. Here's to hoping that we see this fad fade away in 2020. Keep making the catchy music for trailers, just let us all actually listen to it, is what I'm saying.