With the release of the new Grand Theft Auto V trailer yesterday the lovely people at Rockstar have thrown us another bone as we eagerly await its release in September. Luckily for us, the trailer has plenty of content to analyze, as it breaks down into three separate trailers which (for the most part) give us some detail of the stories we can expect from the game’s three protagonists. This is the closest look we’ve had at Michael, Franklin, and Trevor so far, and so far things look to be incredibly interesting. Check out the latest trailer below and stay tuned for some analysis after the break.
It is old news now that we’ll get to seamlessly swap between the protagonists at nearly any time during the game. However, something that no-doubt brought on the worries of fans would be the integrity of the story for each of these characters. Rockstar, and especially GTA, has become renown for creating characters who you could just as likely find in a Scorsese film. The trailers mostly gave us a good idea of the individual stories which will be experienced by the protagonists. Rockstar further cemented this promise of individual story arcs by going to great care in choosing the songs for each character’s trailer. Each song has to deal with authenticity and identity in some way or another while also matching the story presentation of each character.
Michael’s plot line obviously dabbles heavily in a very successful criminal’s midlife crisis. It reminded me a lot of Tony Soprano – Michael is a gangster who is straddling a fence between two very different worlds. Clearly his home life is a wreck, and he seems to be somewhat distressed about this, but he isn’t quite ready to toss the criminal life away. The adrenaline keeps him going and, as his therapist said, he’s probably “addicted to chaos.” Rockstar chose Queen’s “Radio Ga Ga” for Michael’s trailer, which is about the decline of radio and the rise of television. Not only is Michael probably about the right age to witness the rise of MTV and the slow fall of radio programming, but this song also speaks to his own character. He’s a middle-aged criminal who isn’t ready to settle down – he’s had some great capers and has been incredibly financially successful, but he’s yet to feel as if he has left a legacy. Freddie Mercury fittingly belts “you had the time – you had the power/you’ve yet to have your finest hour” as Michael’s trailer shows some incredibly intense action scenes. Michael’s affluence through the criminal enterprise hasn’t afforded him a sense of self-satisfaction, but his family life isn’t exactly doing the trick either. This makes for a perfect tie in for Michael to be almost like a mentor to the next trailer’s main character, Franklin, an LA gangbanger who is trying to get out of hood life.
Franklin’s trailer starts out with a huge question of identity and tension: his loyalties to his gang are being questioned, and he’s being accused of not representing the hood life in which he was raised. He doesn’t seem too bothered that his approach to the crime life might be flying in the face of what his gang’s established modus operandi – this makes him a completely different character from GTA: San Andreas’ Carl “CJ” Johnson, who tried at every turn to prove his loyalty to the Grove Street Families but was often ridiculed. When accused of sounding like a snitch he retorts, possibly to himself, that he sounds more like he’s just trying to “get some paper and not get killed.” This tension between Franklin’s apparently unconventional means of success in face of his identity with his crew is likely going to make a pretty explosive plot point, one which Michael will no doubt lead him through. Rockstar’s song choice here is, perhaps, the shining moment of the three trailers. Jay Rock’s “Hood Gone Love It” works incredibly well with Franklin’s story arch. Not only is Jay Rock based out of an LA blood gang, but he also became mainstream success through releasing incredibly raw, underground mixtapes of his raps on the internet. The song “Hood Gone Love It” is about Jay Rock’s mainstream success, and how he still considers himself to be just as much part of the hood even though he’s hit it big with some major record deals. The song is also a somewhat eerie tale of delusional grandeur: Jay Rock is young, fresh, completely going against his underground roots by signing to a major label, and still thinks that the hood is going to always back him up. Franklin is in a similar position – he’s clearly benefiting from his gang’s connections while also exploiting and turning against them in favor of his own personal gain. I’m incredibly excited to see how this powder keg of a plot arc is going to turn out, and how Michael will influence Franklin’s decisions in the matter.
And then there’s Trevor. This is probably the only disappointing aspect of the latest trailer Rockstar released. You get excellent plot breadcrumbs with both Franklin and Michael, but with Trevor you just experience wild and crazy antics. You watch Trevor micturate on someone’s rug, howl at the moon, drive a car, be rude to people, etc. I think this means one of two things: either Trevor will actually have an incredibly great story which Rockstar wants to keep a tight leash on for now, or Trevor is simply there because – hey – there always is a Trevor. Though it is a bit disappointing, I’m leaning a bit more towards the latter. I see Trevor almost as a clever self-referential move on Rockstar’s part. In older iterations of GTA, we’ve had protagonists who were nothing more than semi-mute agents of chaos. Some fans have criticized Rockstar for deviating from zany characters who are driven only by the urge to blow stuff up to characters like Niko Bellic, who has an incredibly well-realized personality with a lot of tragic story arcs. I think Rockstar is attempting to simultaneously placate and mock these fans with the introduction of Trevor, while also giving an in-character scapegoat who players can light the town on fire with. Rockstar chose Waylon Jennings’ “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way” for Trevor’s trailer. The song can serve as a reference point for Rockstar looking back on itself and its characters – Trevor is, in many ways, the “same old tune” as the amoral psychopaths who we’ve controlled in early GTA games, but he will also deviate from this model. Namely, though his character may not be incredibly deep or compelling, he will definitely affect the narrative arcs of both Michael and Franklin, which is something we’ve never seen before. The previous GTA characters who were portraits of chaos who we used to “drive over old ladies for bonus points” almost always acted in service of the mission-givers, and had very little independent direction. Trevor is the opposite – he is a wildly independent spirit, and it makes me wonder how well he’ll end up playing with the other protagonists.
Regardless of how the plot arcs turn out – and whether or not I’ve gained accurate impressions from the series of trailers – Rockstar has done an excellent job at creating hype with this latest series of trailers. GTA V is looking to be an incredible next installment for the series, and will be a memorable earmark in storytelling presentation in video games.