Dead Island Trailer

Posted Monday, February 21, 2011, 12:18 PM

I need to write this down, so I can clarify my thoughts on this. It's something that is annoying me a lot, and yet I am almost a lone voice in the wilderness and I feel somewhat displaced by that fact.

A new trailer for a video game was released a few days ago. It's a zombie killing slaughter type game, one of many in a widening genre, called Dead Island. From what I can tell, it's no more unique than any other of its kind, but for those people who like that sort of thing I'm sure it will be fun to play. Or not. Who knows?

The trailer, however, has gotten a huge reaction of positivity. People look at it as though it was the greatest work of art that has crossed their field of view in months, and they are all talking about it like it was the video game equivalent of the Mona Lisa.

What bothers me is that they have all failed to realise that it is a badly made piece of shit.

It starts out close on what appears to be a dead girl of about 8 years old, and reverses, in slow motion, for us to see how she ended up that way. Intercut with this at random intervals are quick shots of earlier in the sequence of events, this time in regular speed, and in forward motion.

Ideas like this are not uncommon to see in various media. Teaser trailers, commercials, montages, etc, in TV, and for movies. It can be intriguing, it can have a great emotional impact, and it can inform the story and its stylistic approach in a very simple yet powerful way.

The problem is the makers of this trailer don't seem to have understood at all how and why this works.

1) The main story is in reverse. This should be to tell the viewer that the end is the important part, and now we need to know how we got to that point, and the final shot in the sequence should fill in the last piece for it to fall into place.

2) The forward motion parts that are intercut should be juxtaposed with the reverse sequence to inform us at each moment of the cut. i.e. when we see a moment in the reverse sequence, the forward sequence gives more detail on that moment, either its origin, or what it means in a wider context.

3) The music should match what we are seeing. It should impact us emotionally, as well as augment the visuals.

4) It should be an accurate representation of the game it is promoting.

5) It should have high quality rendering, modelling, effects, and animation.

Well, here's what it actually has:

1) It's in reverse because they thought it would look cool. It tells us nothing to know this girl is dead at the beginning of the trailer. We do not gain any more information on how she died, or why she died. As it turns out, she was already bitten long before the entire sequence we see. No matter what was ever going to happen in the sequence, she inevitably was going to be dead anyway.

Plus, the conclusion at the end of the trailer is meaningless. It's just the point where the forward and reverse shots meet, there is no significance to that moment whatsoever.

2) None of the forward shots relate to the reverse shots at all. They cut together completely randomly, with no additional information being doled out. All of the relevant storytelling occurs only in the reverse sequence. The constant cuts to the forward motion violence are just childish "Boo!" scares, but aren't actually of any more scary imagery than what we see in the reverse sequence. You could almost have left out the forward sequence entirely and just played the whole clip in reverse, for all the difference it makes.

3) The music doesn't match the cuts, doesn't build the right atmosphere, and is deliberately manipulative without augmenting the visuals.

4) It has nothing to do with the game. Neither this sequence, nor these characters, appear in the game at all.

5) The modelling looks like they were ripped out of Poser 4. The animation is average at best, mostly motion-capture poorly applied to the character rigs. The rendering is ordinary, tolerable if this was the in-game engine, but it's pre-rendered. The cloth dynamics are non-existent and make the character models look like Barbie dolls.

This whole trailer has been made using only well-worn tropes and by-the-numbers tricks, without any understanding of the art involved; copied from others without realising why or how they made it work; a jumble of mismatched concepts that in a competent artist's hands would have merit and impact, but instead all we get is a shallow imitation assembled by a talentless hack.

I wouldn't mind so much if it had been dismissed by everyone else, just as I did, just as so many things are deservedly ridiculed or forgotten. But instead they are all lapping it up and praising it as one of the best things they've ever seen!

It's even being immediately signed up for a movie adaptation, all apparently based on this one teaser trailer that I insist is made up entirely of "fail"!

I am upset. Upset at all those who cannot see how bad it is. Upset that I can see something so clearly, and yet nobody agrees.

It's like I am lost, trapped, tossed amongst a sea of, well... brain-dead zombies.

2 Reasoned Responses:

TS Hendrik said...

If it's any consolation, I thought it sucked. You posed some thoughts that hadn't occurred to me, but there were several points I was thinking myself.

Though I did the think the girl kind of looked like a bad bastardized version of Andy from Toy Story, which is amusing.

Anonymous said...

I've seen more artistic trailers, more interesting and funny but I've yet to see one that hits me in the Daddy-emotion zone as hard. Thats what they were aiming at and seemed to hit. It certainly doesn't make me want to play the game but it did intrigue me. Yeah the kid does look the one from Toy Story.

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