Cinematic Convolutions: Trailer Analysis

Recently in AP Literature applied the SOAPSTone method of analysis to analyze advertisement and see how what techniques they use to garner attention for their product.

Well, I thought, what a perfect idea for a blog post! And its mighty convenient that the biggest trailer of the year just came out:

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

So what could be better than to analyze the year’s biggest teaser using SOAPStone?

Foreword: I just want to say that I love Star Wars, and am I very big fan of the first three films, as in the originals. However, I am of the personal belief that the prequels, the newest ones, are the perhaps the worst things to ever happen ever. If it comes to it, I’ll make a blog post on why I think that, but just to be clear I’m very skeptical of this movie, and I’m begging J.J Abrams to not make the same mistakes as Lucas.

But first, what is SOAPStone?

SOAPStone stands for Subject, Occasion, Audience, Purpose, Speaker, and Tone. It acts as a guide for the aspects of a work in analysis as these are the general and overarching concepts that define a work. I’ll go more in depth as I reach each individual one, so let’s begin!

(If you haven’t seen the trailer, I’m placing it as the headline media of the post.)

Subject: First, the definition: the subject is merely what the art or piece is about. Here obviously this trailer is for the newest Star Wars movie dubbed The Force Awakens. Not much analysis needed here.

Occasion: Now this is an interesting area, as the occasion is the societal context of the time of the piece, and usually SOAPStone is used to analyze older books, which would allow for an in-depth study of how the contemporary context affected the media. But with this trailer, the current societal context is today, as in the modern age. Its been 37 years since the first move “A New Hope” and its been 9 years since the last movie of Star Wars “Revenge of the Sith.” I feel like this time gap allows for the success of this movie, as no matter if the film is good or not, it will make incredibly profit. Unlike the novelty of Marvel movies like the Avengers that are pumped out with regularity, we haven’t seen much from the Star Wars franchise that isn’t an animated movie or show. For the public, they’ve viewed Star Wars as an already finished franchise movie wise, and by seeing the trailer with this time gap, the trailer is able to tap into nostalgic value by showing classic images like the Millennium Falcon to grab all the old viewers of the original trilogies, which was also a big reason for financial success for the newer prequels, despite the fact they were horrible movies. The fact that so much time has passed and the fact that its Star Wars means that this movie has already made money, no matter if it is actually a good movie or not, its already going to make hundreds of millions of dollars. And that’s another aspect of today’s society, our cultural perception of Star Wars. Star Wars is a household name, even to the general public, that’s how huge the success was, and that household affect will bring us to the next topic: Audience.

Audience: The Audience is the intended group or demographic that the media is aiming to cater to or be for. Once again, this is an interesting split from the normal use of SOAPStone as usually writers write with a certain type of reader or person in mind, but trailers are usually aimed at everyone. But this particular trailer is another break from the norm, as its trying to do two things: bring back the old fan base, and create a new one. The use of the classic images like the Millennium Falcon, X-Wings, and Stormtroopers is to provide a sense of nostalgia for the older fan base who grew up with the older movies. Obviously, this demographic is already intrigued in the concept, but by pandering to them with these images, they “seal the deal” in locking in their movie ticket sales. The other thing they’re trying to do is to create a new fan base by making the movie trailer vague and broad enough to appeal to the general audience who might not be as into Star Wars lore as the old fan base. In this trailer there are no specifics, the images are all general,  with no exact reference to something within Star Wars lore or history in order to not turn off more casual fans who might not know the reference. I feel like this was the mistake that X-Men: Days of Future Past made in their movie, it literally starts off at the end of the last one, and as a casual fan, I had no idea what was going on. Obviously, in this trailer, we don’t know what’s going, but that’s the intended effect, bring us to the Purpose.

Purpose: We’ve already discussed the purpose of trailers in a previous blog post that you can find by clicking here. The purpose of this trailer is once again split into two concepts: generating buzz and creating intrigue. Like I said in the Audience sections, we don’t know what’s going on in this trailer. If you can remove yourself from the hype, its literally just random scenes pieced together by a voice over. But unlike X-Men, that’s the intended effect, the trailer wants to be vague and mysterious so that people talk about it, and they sure have. The other purpose of this trailer is to create intrigue by differentiating itself from the culturally perceived idea of “Star Wars.” In all of our heads, we have the image of what we believe Star Wars to be, and we’d all have similar ideas: The Lightsaber, the Droids, Luke, Han, and Leigha, future technology, Stormtroopers, etc. But in this trailer, and the movie, they’ve made changes to these cultural assumptions: changing the lightsaber look, and the droids, an African American Stormtrooper, the new space pod, which in our heads we go, “huh….that’s different….I’M INTERESTED!”  We now wish to see this new direction of “Star Wars” and have the cultural assumptions in our heads changed. But this new direction has a voice, and just like its purpose, its vague and mysterious.

Speaker: Once again we find ourselves at a split between the uses of SOAPStone in different media. Within books, the speaker is the persona or voice the author takes in telling the story. In this trailer, there is a literal voice narrating the trailer, and we’ll focus on it for this section. This speaker is heavily tied to the purpose as they are both vague and mysterious in order to create intrigue. But the raspy and deep nature of the voice gives it a foreboding and ominous characteristic, which also applies to its words. This harbinger-esque feel fits in very nicely with the title, “The Force Awakens” as a foreboding event. The full transcript is : “There’s been an awakening….have you felt it? The Dark Side…..and the light.” Let’s get deeper into the words of the speaker. “…have you felt it?” This is the most interesting part of the transcript to me, as it implies that the speaker is speaking to someone, this might be a verbatim clip pulled from the film itself. Or this might literally be the speaker talking to the audience, asking them if they’ve “felt” the cultural impact of the movie trailer on society, but this idea is suspect at best.

Tone: Tone is the author’s attitude towards the subject or the audience. Well within this trailer there is a very ominous and mysterious atmosphere created by using a very neutral tone to the Audience. Even the literal speaker uses no adjectives that could give away his side of the Dark or Light side. The trailer makes especially sure to stay neutral in all its aspects to create that mysterious effect.

Cinematic: This is just my “other” section of analysis. I noted that many characters are leaving the left or right of the screen, which is a nice visual split, while only two scenes involve something moving into the background, the light saber sith, and the Millennium Falcon, which is interesting to note, since these two scenes happen consecutively, and while the speaker narrates, “The Dark Side…and the light.” kind of juxtaposing the Sith against the Millennium Falcon which makes sense since the Sith are the bad guys (The Dark Side) while the Millennium Falcon was the ship for the good guys (The Light) It was also kind of framed that after “there’s been an awakening…” its sort of like all these characters are either scrambling away or towards a potential threat, kind of implying that this “force awakening” is a huge deal in the galaxy for both the Dark Side and the Light, whoever they are. What’s also interesting is that for a “Star Wars” movie, there is very little actual space. This trailer kind of subverts expectation by having all of its scenes apparently on local, grounded areas, trying to give the audience a hint of what to expect.

Well, there it is! I hoped you enjoyed reading, unfortunately, if you’re looking forward to this movie, you might have to wait a while……


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