Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Trailer Rhetoric in The Edge of Darkness

The Edge of Darkness, a gripping film starring Mel Gibson, uses a multi-genre oriented approach in its trailer. Although I’ve not seen the film, the trailer entertains my interest by sucking me into three separate genres using many attempts at iconography, repetition, equations and hyperbole. Whether or not the actual film meets these different genres is not involved in the discussion. What’s of interest is how the trailer makes these genre statements and why they chose to define the movie through the rhetoric of genre.

In the first 30 seconds of the trailer, we may assume that this is a drama. We see a father reminiscing his years of rearing his daughter and then she returns from her grown up life for a visit. We suspect that this film will be about the relationship between the parent and child. The music and imagery reflect the iconography of a complex/endearing drama specifically about relationships. As Lisa Kernan stated in Trailer Rhetoric, we see an assertion of “an equation … between the spectator’s experience and the characters’ experiences.”

The headlines appear, “Some memories never fade” and “Some feelings never change” further defining the film with generalization—using emotion as a major feature of a drama. However, in a few one-second shots, the trailer quickly modifies its rhetoric towards a detective genre. The father, played by Mel Gibson is suddenly thrown into a crime investigation for the shooting of his daughter. Again, icons of the classic detective genre are shown with a close-up shot of an officer’s gun holster and a crowd of police cars surrounding the home of the crime scene.

However, as the trailer proceeds, the film offsets itself from the classic detective genre and into the likes of a riveting thriller as is noted also by the title of the film, Edge of Darkness. Headlines “Some secrets … take us to the edge” appears and we are whisked away into continuous shots of conspiracy conversations, dark alley scenes, and violent, close calls with death. The headlines change color to red, apart from the earlier drama-oriented blue headlines. We also see flashed images of the daughter with an eerie likeness to the trailers of horror films such as The Forgotten, and The Others. Frequent uses of a blacked screen utilize repetition and emphasize darkness in its physical and psychological manifestations.

The trailer clearly makes a stab using rhetoric to categorize the film into the three genres: drama, detective mystery, and horror. Perhaps the producers were trying to market the film to three separate and segmented audiences. But this generalization into genres allows for a deeper analysis. Historically, these genres have been widely used and perpetuated by Hollywood and millions of movie-goers. While the technology and style of movie trailers has become more sophisticated, we can still connect dots of genre rhetoric.

Conversely, in its very effort to invoke three different genres, the film differentiates itself from any one of those genres. Although the thriller aspect of the film is most ingrained in our minds, we are jarred by the quick transition from one genre to the next. Although the trailer connected the “genre-dots” it still did not take the genre stand—and in doing so, hoped to stand out and differentiate itself.

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