Donnie Darko, Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring, and The Whale Rider

In this essay I will be comparing the various effects which the film-makers used in the making of the trailer and decide which is the most effective.

The different films that I will be analysing are “Donnie Darko”, “Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring”, and “the Whale Rider”. Each of these films are of a varying genre to the other so I will not be able to analyse them as a whole but rather as separate factors of the trailer which makes it effective. I will be commenting on lighting and colour, sound, use of different camera angles, movement and editing of the actual trailer.

The most effective trailer will be the one which uses the camera techniques to establish a certain mood which is relevant to the genre or scene; it will be the trailer which influences the audience the most by playing on their emotions and feeling via the different methods to inspire the viewer to want to watch the film. Donnie Darko, directed by Richard Kelly and released in 2002, is about a troubled teenager who is plagued by visions of a large bunny rabbit who manipulates him to do a series of crimes following a bizarre accident, and is a sci-fi, mystery, and thriller.The Lord of the Rings, directed by Peter Jackson and released in 2001 also, is about a young hobbit named Frodo who has been entrusted with an ancient ring which propels him into an epic journey to the cracks of doom in order to destroy it and its evil properties before it falls into the wrong hands and is a fantasy, action adventure. The whale rider, directed by Niki Caro and released in 2002, is about a young girl who is determined, and fights to fulfil her destiny that her grandfather refuses to recognise and is a drama, family movie.Firstly, the use of lighting and colour in all of the trailers is very efficient in implementing the genre in various different ways. The lighting in Donnie Darko is very bright at first, and very well lit, mostly natural light but some artificial light as well; this emphasises the fact that he was a normal child at first before the accident and before the nightmares started.

After the scarier scenes are showed the lighting becomes much darker and more shadows are prominent. Also, only half the face is illuminated in some scenes which causes the viewer to imagine that all is not right.On the other hand, the lighting in The Whale Rider begins murky and underwater, full of shadows and darkness, this is reflected in the story as we find out that the main character is being stopped from fulfilling her destiny and completing a prophesy.

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This is contrasted in the Lord of the rings where the lighting is so much brighter and in your face; when Frodo is introduced in the trailer, the specific lighting being bright and natural reflects Frodo’s personality, him being very cute and homely, an all-good character.Furthermore, the lighting alters dramatically when the eviler characters are introduced, bringing in more shadows and darker areas in the scene. This establishes the fantasy genre well as it differentiates between the two extremes of personalities, Frodo being the conventional “goodie” and Sauron (the villain) being the conventional “baddie” followed around by his evil henchmen who are also surrounded in a shroud of black and shadowy illumination, always featured in pitch dark night time.The use of sound, in all of the trailers is very varied and projects different messages to the audience. In Donnie Darko there is extracts of dialogue which match up to the scene and therefore is an example of diegetic sound. Also, in some instances there is a scene showing but the dialogue is from another scene which then counts as non-diegetic sound. This technique is very effective as the audience can hear the dialogue in which a character is making a remark about the main actor and then they can visually observe the actor proving the statement to be right.

In my opinion this makes the use of sound very effective in this film and although there is no background music, I think that the silence when no one is speaking is more effective than music could ever be as this heightens the tense atmosphere and exaggerates the audience’s fear. On the other hand, there is background non diegetic music in the trailer for The Whale Rider’ and I think that the effect caused by this is remarkable.There is a low pitched drumming which remains very quiet and you can only very faintly hear it but it gets louder as the trailer reaches the end and the climax. This outlines the pace of the movie as when the sound is gentle, the story is just beginning and you hear the main character narrating her life; as it gets more complicated and you begin to hear extracts from the scene you hear the drumming also get louder and louder until it finally stops and you reach the pinnacle of the movie.The main character narrating her own story is very effective as you see an insight into her own personality and feelings, when the dialogue begins you experience scenes of the movie and then the abrupt halt of the drumming symbolises the zenith of the plot and urges the audience to watch the movie.

In the Lord of the Rings the non diegetic sound sounds almost magical and serene, this reinforces the fantasy genre well and it sets the scene so that the audience automatically knows that the characters featured in the scene are the heroes; in contrast, when the villains are featured the music alters to a more dark and sinister beat.This distinction between the two tunes allows the viewer to experience the mood change but although this is effective it is also a very elementary trick, still, it is complimented by the changing light commented on earlier and so for this reason the sound difference is much more effective. The sound in The Lord of the Rings is much different to that in Donnie Darko as Lord of the Rings’ emphasis is mainly enforced with the backing music whereas Donnie Darko’s trailer relies solely on dialogue and sound effects to make an impact.In my opinion, it makes more of an impression than Lord of the rings, as the sound and image is so beautifully combined to create the best possible outcome. As a consequence of this I think that both Whale Rider and Donnie Darko have made use of the sound in the best possible way, to reinforce the genre and to create a climatic atmosphere and build tension in both trailers; I think that both trailers have used the sound to compliment the image and that both of them have implemented sound effectively.The camera angles in Donnie Darko are extremely efficient, the close ups and extreme close ups are used to show emotion on the faces of the characters that wouldn’t usually register; also they are used to convey reactions and highlight the more important characters.

The Low angles were used to create the impression of importance for the audience, and generated a sense of powerlessness for the viewer, enticing a deep fear regarding the character who dominates the screen, ? in this case Donnie Darko.At the start there is a slight rolling of the camera as Donnie exits a vehicle to enter the school, this reflects the turning of events that will lead to his madness and highlights the abnormality inside him. Similarly, in The Whale Rider, there are many close ups of the main character to establish her importance, this is crucial as it underlines her significance in the movie and the magnitude of the part she plays. There are some over the shoulder shots which add more emphasis of her regretful attitude and the fact that she wishes that things could be different.

The high angles in some of the scenes makes the characters in it seem insignificant and smaller, it allows us to receive a general overview of that particular scene. We see that the young boys learning how to fight are not important, we get this message through the angles in the camera and the way that they are portrayed on the scene; they are smaller and look much more vulnerable than the main character and by this we see that her character is more important and that they are hurdles that will be overcome by her later in the film.There are moments of extreme close up where the mouth of the character is shown saying important words such as a name etc. This allows the viewer to understand that that particular name has meaning and significance. In contrast, the Lord Of The Ring’s trailer hasn’t got as many close ups and this is because there is more than one main character. The one extreme close up it has is that of the ring in the hand of Frodo; this insinuates that the ring is more important than the characters themselves and implements the fact that the story is based around the ring than the people carrying it.There are a lot of point of view shots and this is easily explained as there are so many different characters, the director is attempting to illustrate the characters views by adding this camera shot in; it shows what that specific character is seeing and then the audience is able to empathise. There are lots of close ups of the characters’ faces, these allow the audience to view the feeling locked in the actor’s face, they are able to feel the emotions which the actor is displaying and this is very efficient as there is a lot of passion in the film and this is all unlocked by the clever angles of the camera.

In some instances there are extreme long shots which display how defenceless and exposed the characters are when the audience are aware that they are trying to escape undercover. Also there is a mixture of high angles and low angles in the trailer to portray the different statuses of the characters and their importance in the film. The editing in Donnie Darko is relevant to the genre and really helps to reinforce the horror aspect of the story.There is an abundance of fading and jump-cuts and I think this reflects on the jumpy and paranoid personality of the main character. The jumpiness of the trailer implies that you cannot be sure what will come next and imitates the fast paced plot and the unforgiving atmosphere of the film. There is also a profusion of flashing images in the trailer which helps to shock the audience and keep them on their toes, not knowing what comes next and not sure what to expect; this, in turn, also allows to emphasize the fast paced storyline.

Furthermore, there are rapid scene changes which underline the pace and add a dramatic element to the trailer and the film itself. The jumping means that the audience have to concentrate more on the screen as they do not know when the next transition will take place and so they are riveted. There is an obscure factor to the trailer as some of the scenes are half cut off which leaves the viewer guessing what happened next, the story almost seems incomplete and you are left guessing the story in between the transitions.The editing in Whale Rider is much different, there is more dissolving of the image into another one, to create a fusion of images which add a dramatic effect to the trailer; there is also fading and wiping involved in the transition of the different scenes which implicates a feeling of change in the storyline and provides a marker in the plot and informs the audience of the alteration in the narrative. Still, the predominance of fading in the editing of the trailer implies that the story itself is gentle and calm and adds an element of peace to the genre.It relaxes the audience and mirrors the sea which is so principally placed in the scenes as the main subject.

The Whale Rider contains a mixture of jump cuts and fades, which enhances the sense of mystery and foreboding. During the middle of the trailer when boys are shown to be fighting it has been edited so that you are only focused one a boy for a short period of time and then it flashes to another and another, this is so that the audience do not loose interest in the picture as they would with just one boy shown.In contrast, the editing in the Lord of The Rings is much more jumpy, like Donnie Darko, rather than being calm and relaxed like The Whale Rider. There are lots of flashing and jump cuts which causes the audience to feel that the movie is fast paced and entertaining. The flashing transitions underline the theme of change and movement in the plot of the film and highlight the turning point of the storyline, of which there are many.There is a definite distinction between the start of the trailer and the end of it.

At the start there is more fading used which implements a storytelling feel and implies that these scenes occurred in the past, in contrast towards the end of the trailer there is a mix of different techniques of editing used in the between the scenes, shorter jumps add elements of action and adventure and by doing this the trailer contains elements of all the genres that it promises to contain.In retrospect, I conclude that, in my opinion the most effective trailer is The Whale Rider. At first I thought that The Lord of the Rings had the best trailer but then I realised that this was only because of the fact that they had the most special effects and because it was so apparent that they had thought about the mise-en-scene, the costumes were also very well thought out and the whole theme and the genre was conveyed by the lighting and the sound but in my opinion it was a bit too flamboyant and pretentious.Donnie Darko was well executed and had just the right amount of drama but I felt that the effect of the lighting and camera movement etc was just a bit too obvious and that it lacked a hidden meaning for the viewer to be intrigued by and explore. However, the techniques used in The Whale Rider were less ostentatious and the subtler they were, the more effective; such as the amazing choice of lighting with illuminated the fact that the film was based on a mystery and a legend.