Sunday, March 9, 2008

Trailer Tracking: The Best and Worst in Recent Movie Trailers

When the lights go down and that green "The Following Preview Has Been Approved" title card hits the big screen, movie fans everywhere are transported to that beautiful alternate reality of the coming attraction. It’s the magical realm where every horror movie is scary, every comedy is a non-stop barrage of one-liners, and every action movie is two minutes and 22 seconds of pure adrenaline. Sure, a lot of films blow their entire creative wad in these precious previews, but constructing a kick-ass movie trailer is a true art form and one that deserves to be celebrated (and, of course, criticized). Welcome to the latest Deadbolt recurring feature, Trailer Tracking.

We're trailer devotees at The Deadbolt and we thought we’d take a look at some recent coming attractions and rundown what we’re excited about, what under whelmed us, and what we’re planning to avoid - based on these little tightly-edited care packages of carefully-choreographed cinema. Turn off your cell phone, chomp down some popcorn, and let’s look at the real reasons why we love going to the movies.

Most Consistently Awesome Trailer: Iron Man

Who would’ve thought that the men behind Swingers and Chaplin would know exactly how to tap our inner Marvel zombies? Sam Raimi lost us with the embarrassingly cheesy Spider-Man 3, Brett Ratner lost us with, well, everything, and the less said about Ghost Rider, the better. But somehow, Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr. have taken one of Marvel’s least accessible superheroes - a self-indulgent genius gearhead - and turned him into one of the most anticipated movie protagonists this side of Indy Jones. When the first Iron Man teaser debuted at last year’s San Diego Comic-Con, it was the hands-down talk of the convention and quickly became a bootlegged internet sensation. And with each successive release of new Iron Man footage, comic fans and, more importantly, people who have absolutely no familiarity with the adventures of Tony Stark have gotten more excited for the film’s May 2nd release.

The first long-form official trailer debuted on February 28th and, in a word, it was awesome. The trailer succeeds on three different levels. First, it completely sells the concept and origin of Iron Man to a wide audience in two minutes. Second, it totally assuages the anxieties of comics nerds who were afraid that we wouldn’t get enough man-in-suit action. It looks like we’re going to get tons of Iron Man action moments that nicely blend in real FX with CGI, making sure that we won’t feel like we’re watching a cartoon the whole time. (Tony’s first test flight - and the resulting destruction - and the bad-ass "walking away as the tank blows up" moments were some of our favorite bits.) Third, the trailer sells the average moviegoer on the film’s humor, characters, and charisma. Soccer moms around the globe will (hopefully) watch that trailer, fall in love with Robert Downey Jr., and tell their husbands, "Ooh, I’ll go see that with you."

Most Talked-About Bootleg: X-Files 2: "Fight the Bad Taste the Last Two Seasons Left in Your Mouth"

As February ended, web-freaks everywhere were treated to a quick glimpse of an upcoming movie that would’ve made us scream like teenaged Beatles fans... if this was 1997. The filmmakers behind X-Files 2, a sequel that we’re uber-conflicted about, held a panel at the WonderCon convention in San Francisco and, of course, the early trailer they showed the con-crowd made it onto the internet in about ten minutes. Don’t get us wrong - we love Duchovny and Anderson, but X-Files the TV series had possibly the most ignominious, half-assed ending of any show in the history of the medium. The final episode should’ve been called "Squandering the Past Seven Years in 44 Minutes Time." It was that bad. So, please excuse us if we’re not foaming at the mouth for a long-overdue, monster-of-the-week mea culpa from Chris Carter.

But what did we think of the trailer itself? It was so-so. We would’ve loved it if Mulder and Scully had a cool Indiana Jones-esque reveal, but they were just sort of edited into the footage willy-nilly, getting about as much screen-time as their co-star Amanda Peet. (Bad call, Chris Carter.) Actually, the trailer seemed to go out of its way to not reference the TV show very much, which might be the best decision from a marketing perspective, but we’ll admit that it wounded our closeted "I Made This" fan-love. And we truly enjoyed the fact that we got to hear Scully scream "Mulder!" (a show staple) and the opening - a wild-eyed Billy Connolly leads a scared-looking FBI team through a frozen wasteland - was, admittedly, pretty intriguing.

All in all - it was underwhelming. It’s hard to pretend that The X-Files didn’t end on a monumental low note, but we need more of an intriguing premise and the show’s old wacky aesthetic to make us excited for the return of Fox and Dana.

Trailer We Want to See More Of: The Pineapple Express

(Sony removed this trailer from YouTube, we'll put it back once it returns)

Okay, we’ll admit it. We’re definitely Judd Apatow fans, but if we see one more trailer that says "From the guys who brought you Superbad," we’re going to punch McLovin in the face ourselves. Not that we’ve disliked any of the recent Apatow-verse movies, but come on, they have like 19 movies in production at the moment. We need to know what distinguishes Forgetting Sarah Marshall from all the other "schlubby guy has problems with his much hotter girlfriend" movies.

That said, after watching the red-band trailer for The Pineapple Express that debuted back in February 15, we’re totally sold on yet another Seth Rogen vehicle. It’s definitely got the Apatow flavor - Seth Rogen, James Franco, lots of weed - but there’s a whole Pulp Fiction/Beverly Hills Cop vibe that we’re really, really digging. The story involves two hapless stoners going on the run from a drug lord after witnessing an execution-style murder and, with that description in mind, you’re probably either thinking of something way too serious or way too stupid. The thing is... the trailer does an amazing job of blending the serious and the stupid into something wholly new and very appealing. (The sequence with Franco’s bloody foot sticking out of the police car windshield is perhaps the best example of this.) Mixing Apatow’s comic sensibilities with some action and bloodshed has a lot of potential, so here’s hoping, to quote Franco, that the final product ends up smelling "like God’s vagina" (which is a good thing).

Most Worrisome Trailer: The Love Guru

Oh, Mike Myers. Mike, Mike, Mike. We’ve all laughed at Wayne and Austin, and there are a lot of closeted So I Married An Axe Murderer fans out there too. But there’s this little thing called "the law of diminishing returns" that you really, really need to look into. We’re not going to say that we didn’t laugh at all when viewing the just-released trailer for your new comedic franchise-in-the-making, The Love Guru, but we will say that our laughs felt very familiar - almost like we were laughing at jokes we’d laughed at before... several times before.

It's just yet another fish-out-of-water with a heart of gold. It looks like yet another catch-phrase-spouting oddball who becomes strangely attractive to one of the hottest actresses available and makes short jokes about Verne Troyer. We’re not saying that the Guru is Austin Powers exactly, but come on - the whole "You are a midget" sequence in the preview is just a rehash of the Fred Savage "Moley, moley, moley" scene in Goldmember. We like Myers, we like his cast (Romany Malco is a great addition), and we like high-concept comedies. But when all the trailer does is remind us of other movies, it's not the best sign. Let’s all hope that the Guru finds his own voice and leaves the "Yeah Baby's at home.

Trailer That Should Quit While It’s Ahead: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Don’t get your fedoras in a bunch. You’ll find no Indiana Jones-haters here. Granted, we had some issues with The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull trailer - the "isn’t Indy the greatest hero EVER" montage in the beginning was a really awful decision - but we were bowled over by how good Harrison Ford looked, and hearing the John Williams score did, we’ll admit, arouse us slightly. In short, we liked the trailer.

But then we read the March 3rd AP News story titled "New Indiana Jones Trailer a Smash Hit" and it got us a little worried. Much like the preview’s flawed opening, the tone of the article is downright worshipful - "this trailer is the best thing ever and everyone in the world is excited to see Dr. Jones’ return." There are quotes from exhibitors praising the movie for cutting across all demographics, Paramount touts that over 200 million people have already watched the trailer, and, sadly, the whole thing comes off as a little conceited. In an era where probably 100 million people have watched the viral clip of that fat kid twirling his lightsaber, bragging about how many folks have watched your web video seems like a pretty empty victory.

Most people really, really liked the trailer, but almost no one we talked to LOVED it. Fans are cautiously optimistic about Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and the key word there is "cautiously." The first preview wasn’t a home-run, but it was a solid double. Keep moving in the right direction, Lucas and Spielberg, but don’t rest on your laurels yet.

-- Tom Burns

Original here

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