Thursday, November 20, 2008

Trailer Watch - Thoughts on the recent spate of genre previews

I don't usually do a 'let's rundown all the new trailers', but there were several released just in the last week that are worth discussing. If you want to hear my thoughts on Star Trek, go here. Otherwise...

Watchmen - March 6th, 2009.

I may be in the minority, but I far prefer the first trailer released back in July. The visuals are pretty similar, but the dialogue snippets seem to suggest an on-the-nose adaptation, where a complicated and 'messy' narrative is condensed into simplistic terms (someone wants to destroy the world, so said 'someone' starts killing off heroes so they can't stop them). While it's not Jackie Earle Haley's fault that Rorschach's voice sounds quite a bit like Christan Bale's McGruff The Crime Bat voice, but both of them are uber-cheesy. And Those who have seen bits of the finished film claim it's pretty faithful in content and tone to the original, so this may be a case of a trailer that makes a smart film look stupid (the 1997 sci-fi fable Gattaca was far smarter and more moving than the action-based trailer suggested).

Besides, the visuals in the original graphic novel were pretty matter of fact. The story was pretty radical in its day, so the artwork was more low key as a balance. The comic book panels weren't stylized or overly razzle-dazzly. If anything, the original story was a sober deconstruction of the pop-and sizzle/gee-whiz superhero stories of that era, a 'real-world' look at super heroics. Ironically, this slow-motion filled preview actually dilutes the seriousness of the material. In a world that has already given us The Dark Knight and Unbreakable, the pop-candy colors and splashy and stylized palette almost makes our beloved Watchmen seem campy. We can only hope that Zack Snyder has not tried to jazz up a story that at its core was a sad, mournful human tragedy.

Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince - July 17th, 2009

It seems like the second domestic trailer goes out of its way to counter balance the super-creepy Omen-ish teaser from July. This one is filled with lighter moments, bits of high adventure, and much more footage of our young heroes (I adore that 'but I am the chosen one' bit with Harry and Hermione). The climactic moments in the preview are presented as rousing and epic, rather than... well, no spoilers for those lucky enough to go in blind (as I've said before, the sixth book contains the most inspired plot twist of the whole series). One final note - I love the new, hard-charging percussion-heavy variation on the Harry Potter theme that plays at the trailer's end.

Valkyrie - December 26th, 2008

Another solid trailer, emphasizing the ensemble cast and the dark thriller aspects of the film, rather than selling it purely as a Tom Cruise star vehicle. Although why the trailer labels Bryan Singer as the director of Superman Returns rather than X-Men, I can't say (X-Men was far more liked and is much more of a team picture). Of course, the weirdest part of the trailer is the climactic action montage, which actually uses the 'all twists revealed' music from the climax of each Saw film. It's certainly appropriate music for rising tension, but it may produce a giggle or two from those who recognize it.

The Day The Earth Stood Still December 12th, 2008

This trailer scores points in an unexpected fashion. The climax of the trailer seemingly displays pretty much every action beat the film seems to offer. Of course, close observers will note that most of the allegedly 'wowser' moments are just different angles on the giant glowing orb object. Thus, but inadvertently showing its hand, this new trailer offers hope that the sci-fi remake won't be action-packed, but rather character and plot driven in a manner similar to the original. I'd all but guarantee that the few destruction set pieces on display are from one or two montages in the film. I did like the copious footage of Jon Hamm in the opening moments of the trailer, seemingly from the opening moments of the film. This suggests either that he's not in the film that much but Fox wanted to highlight the rising star (just as the trailer for Catch Me If You Can made it seem like Jennifer Garner had a co-starring role), or that he dies at the conclusion of the first act.

Speaking of Fox, when the heck are we going to see a real (non-Comic Con) trailer for X-Men Origins: Wolverine? Unless they're saving it for The Day The Earth Stood Still, I'm not sure what they're waiting for.

Scott Mendelson

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