There’s a delicate art to creating a trailer. Films already tread an uneasy line between art and commodity, so it’s no surprise that their advertisements occupy even more nebulous terrain. A trailer that is an absolute work of art could be a complete disaster if it fails to sell the movie. On the other hand, an utterly trashy, lazy trailer (cough Adam Sandler unconvincing cough) can be a tremendous success if it leads to more butts in seats.
In this context, the trailers for David Fincher’s films are curious artifacts. While most trailers seek to convey the essence of a movie in as literal and plain terms as possible, the trailers for The Social Network and Gone Girl lean closer to music videos. You “get” what each movie may be about, but you’d be hard pressed to tell your buddy the actual story of each film.
Of the two, The Social Network‘s trailer is the least representative of the actual film. It smothers Sorkin’s snappy, funny dialogue in an eerie choir based cover of Radiohead’s Creep. The song sucks the comedy out of the trailer but adds an interesting emotional undercurrent to the film. It’s right in the fucking titles: Creep and The Social Network. The trailer ends up working like a statement of intent; that is this is how the filmmakers see Zuckerberg and Facebook, and this is how the origin story of Facebook relates to the age of social media.
Gone Girl‘s trailer bears some superficial resemblance to The Social Network trailer: they’re both largely music driven, they both feature a choral (at least in part) arrangement of a fairly popular song and they both rely on the song to provide added context to the footage.
The difference is that the cover of She in the trailer plays in bitter contrast to the scenes of martial strife and the search for the missing wife. In that sense, it feels like the trailer is trying more to convey the general tone of the movie, rather than suggest theses or contentions made by the filmmakers. The effect is achieved quite successfully – the trailer is a hauntingly ironic, nasty piece of work that feels like it’s selling a movie in the same vein.