How Editing May Have Hurt the 'Ghostbusters' U.S. Trailer


Can editing a handful of frames here and there take a comedy movie trailer that left you stone-faced and suddenly have you thinking it rocks? Tony Zhou aims to demonstrate how slight variations in technique can have a big effect in a clear, concise, and illuminating piece at Medium. To make his point, he contrasts the U.S. and U.K. trailers for Paul Feig’s upcoming Ghostbusters.

Related: Second ‘Ghostbusters’ Trailer Has Fresh Banter, More Slimer, and a Really Angry Marshmallow Man

Zhou takes an in-depth look at the first joke presented in both the American and British trailers for the summer comedy. Using side-by-side analysis of how each was edited, Zhou contends that the American version significantly undercuts the punchline, which he says is delivered more effectively by its British counterpart. Why? He says it’s all in the set-up: The U.S. version uses less coherent imagery to establish what’s at stake, throws off the timing by prolonging certain shots by a few frames, and ineffectively handles the group shot that introduces the Ghostbusters.

Watch the U.S. version:

And then the U.K. version:

Zhou isn’t interested in arguing that online anger over Feig’s film is all about a minor difference in trailer-editing methods. Still, he makes a strong case for a more nuts-and-bolts explanation of disappointment in Ghostbusters’ second theatrical trailer, and for the vital role that editing — and, even more so, basic joke construction — plays in landing a movie gag. He also points out that trailer choices are frequently not aesthetic, but are heavily affected by marketing department directives too.

Related: Why ‘Ghostbusters’ Has the Most-Hated Trailer on YouTube

Zhou concludes with a couple of key points: “Comedy editing is an art" and the verdict on Ghostbusters ultimately will come down to “the simplest metric we have: Is it funny?”

As both a timely contribution to the ongoing Ghostbusters dialogue, and a valuable piece of movie-comedy criticism, Zhou’s post is a must-read.

Watch the ‘Ghostbusters’ cast visit ‘Ellen’: