A few days ago I joined the throngs of the internet in my lukewarm reaction to the new Ghostbusters trailer. Then today I watched a Fan Cut version (by filmmaker Bevan Bell) that makes me actually want to see the reboot:

Here’s the studio version which as of this writing has 58% thumbs down:

So what did the fan trailer do right right? Well if you’re cynical about the actual film, you might say they just showed A LOT less of the film: the fan cut trailer weighing in at less than half of the studio version. But let’s take a neutral approach to the film and study the trailer itself as a mini film and marketing piece.

There are two other big differences between the fan and the studio version: First – the fan trailer doesn’t treat the audience like a bunch of idiots. We have ALL seen the original Ghostbusters. We don’t need text to remind us – and we certainly don’t need to reminded that it was 30 years ago (where does the time go?). In the first few seconds the studio trailer already puts our thoughts immediately toward the original. You just can’t live in Bill Murray’s shadow. It’s all going to be downhill from there. On top of the visuals we also get this haunting piano version of the theme song – even further tugging on our nostalgia strings.

Ghostbusters Graffiti

What the fan trailer does differently is start with a “monster mash” creepy but corny type sound track – and we get only a flash of the Ghostbusters headquarters – a flash of the Ghostbusters graffiti. We’re not idiots – we know what those are without a text scroll to tell us. What the fan trailer gets right is to just give us a glimpse – enough to recognize the symbolism but not enough time to linger and recall the original. The Ecto-1 and Slimer get similar treatment – it’s in the film all but 10 frames or so – it’s enough to spark recognition but not comparison to the original.

In other words: the studio trailer says, “Hey, you remember that film you loved that came out 30 years ago? We’re going to completely redo it!”

Whereas the fan trailer says, “Hey check this film about Ghostbusters, it’s a new crew but you might recognize some things”

It’s a slight difference but it’s enough.

The second advantage the fan trailer has is it has a consistent tone. After the introduction, Ray Parker’s Jr’s iconic song runs throughout keeping things moving and light hearted. The studio trailer is constantly switching tones: from nostalgic, to dark, to funny, to exposition, to funny, back to exposition, back to funny and nostalgic, to epic action special effects, to funny, to epic again with more exposition, to funny, to epic, to scary, to action film, to funny and then cut to logo. Each of those transitions is pounded into our skulls with abrupt musical cues – it’s just way too over produced.

Now some on the YouTube comment section point out that the film itself is still awful – that is something we do not know and won’t know until the film gets released. But just as a good trailer can make a terrible movie look good – a bad trailer can make a good movie look horrible. Hopefully Sony’s trailer falls in the latter camp because I’m still rooting for all those involved. Those overwrought jokes in the studio trailer may actually work well in the context of the film once we get to know the characters better. After all comedy is all about timing and recutting jokes for a trailer throws everything off.

But in this case of studio vs fan trailer it’s really amazing how less is infinitely more.

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