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The New 'Gravity' TV Spot Has a Better Score Than the Trailer

At the intersection of movie trailers and music, what does John Murphy’s 'Sunshine (Adagio in D Minor)' tell us about Alfonso Cuaron's highly anticipated space drifter?

There's always so much to unpack about a movie trailer: the stars, the plot, how much of the plot is being totally given away. But in many cases, the part of the trailer that sticks with you the longest is the music. Be it a pop song or a piece or orchestral score, it's the music that most often makes a trailer.

This Week's Trailer: Not any of the multiple official trailers for Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity, but rather the latest TV spot that you've probaby caught if you're not too busy fast-forwarding all ads.

This Week's Tune(s): "Sunshine (Adagio in D Minor)," one of the major movements in John Murphy's score for the 2007 Danny Boyle sci-fi drama Sunshine.

I'm going to eschew some of the usual categories that accompany Trailer Tunes to discuss this, because so much of how effective this piece of music is has to do with its history. Some of my favorite trailers are ones which approriate scores from other movies. (But one example: the trailer for Big Fish borrowing from Tim Burton's own Edward Scissorhands to lend an air of directorial cohesion to the clip.) The thematic connection between Gravity and Sunshine is obvious: outer space. The piece of music has an inherent drama to it, and a kind of echoey effect that suggests the vastness of the space in which the characters in the respective films are operating. Give the whole piece a listen:

That said, Sunshine was not a successful movie. Decent (but not great) reviews. A disaster at the box-office. The movie Danny Boyle had to "come back" from when he made Slumdog Millionaire. What's the advantage in Gravity evoking such a film?

Well, for one thing, so few people actually saw Sunshine to be able to make that connection. More, likely, saw the same piece of music re-appropriated in Kick-Ass, or in the Adjustment Bureau trailer. Or on The Walking Dead. This has been a very, very, very oft-appropriated piece of music, and while I would normally say that robs the trailer in question of signature value, here, I think the cumulative effect of all the different subliminal cues this music draws up in the minds of its audience makes the music that much more effective.

Overall Trailer Tune Effectiveness: Or maybe it's just a brilliant piece of scoring. Either way.


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