Trailer Talk: Cloud Atlas

Does it need a 6 minute long trailer? The short answer is no. However, it’s brilliant marketing.

The reason I heard about Cloud Atlas was because the trailer is 6 minutes long (okay, technically 5:40). Unfortunately, this didn’t encourage me to watch it. I was worried that it would give too much away. Some movie trailers tell the whole story and movies can be ruined in only 2 minutes. How much damage could be done in 6?

It took someone who actually worked at Warner Bros., to reassure me that it doesn’t spoil anything. Hopefully, you will take my word for it, and check it out below if you haven’t already.

It’s incredible!! I want to see this movie. But this is Trailer Talk, so I’m making it more complex than that.


When the trailer starts, it doesn’t take me long to become confused. There are a lot of characters, and there is lot of off screen dialog. It is almost impossible to keep track of who is saying what. On my first viewing, it was very difficult to make heads or tails of anything.

All throughout the trailer, dialog seems a little too random. While there are lines that work even if you don’t understand the context…

“I’m just trying to understand why we keep making the same mistakes over and over.”

…there are others that don’t add anything:

“The problem you create is a political one.” (There is just no way I can justify this line being in the trailer. Why?!)


At the 2 minute mark, the music picks up, and things get better from here.

The track used is “Sonera” by Thomas Bergersen of Two Steps From Hell. (iTunes, CDBaby). It’s quite possible anything you put to this track will be amazing. That said, the choice really works here because it’s faster paced, and keeps your eyes glued to the screen. It was an invitation for me to stop trying to understand what was going on, and just enjoy the ride.

The back end track, “Outro” by M83 (iTunes, Amazon), is a brilliant choice, and the final 1.5 minutes is perfection. The wrap around shot of character Luisa Rey in her car as it’s crashing into the water is stunning, and matching it to the building music makes the impact and cut to the title cards the best moment in the trailer.

The meld of music and picture makes this trailer shine, and despite my confusion, left me with a good and strong impression.


Cloud Atlas appears to be about everything, and as it happens “everything is connected”. Based off the dialogue, I gleaned that maybe this film is about reincarnation with certain traits being passed to future generations. Still, for being twice the length of a normal trailer, this one did a terrible job of telling a clear story, or giving me a reason to care.

If you felt a little lost at the end like me, don’t worry! This is completely normal! In fact, the three directors prepared a commentary for the trailer to explain the movie’s origins. Check it out below:

Ironically this little video is extremely disjointed, but if you can follow the sentences, this one in particular stood out to me:

The core concept is “an idea of connectedness, and karma, each character inheriting the consequences of their lives.”

This is such a cool concept! Suddenly this movie is appealing on a deeper, character oriented level. The key word is CONSEQUENCES. What will the consequences be for the characters? There’s a threat from their past lives and actions. Consequences create higher stakes, which means I’m prepared to care about what happens.


The trailer came across to me as a mishmash of footage and dialog, but this mishmash became more enjoyable and beautiful to watch as the music and editing blossomed. What the trailer failed to do for me is clearly explain the simple core concept above.

But maybe you figured it out on your first viewing (in which case, well done). The trailer does come close to describing it: “We are bound to others, past and present. And by each crime, and every kindness, we birth our future.” Still, this line is buried in 6 minutes of music, images, and dialog. That’s a lot to take in.

If one sentence in the commentary can get me excited about the film, perhaps a shorter trailer focused on this singular, and thought-provoking idea, would be a more effective approach?

But what am I saying?! That last 1:30 was epic!

It is true that after analyzing this to death, it all makes sense to me now. However, it took a while for me to get there. How about you? What do you think of the extended trailer?

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I am a video editor currently working in Los Angeles.

One Response

  1. 6 minutes is a LOT. But, since the plot seems to be quite compelling and even intricate, the scenes revealed might be compensated by the storyline.

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