|"Not the White House! Those bastards!"
I vividly remember, sometime in late 1995, I saw a teaser trailer for a movie I'd never heard of. All it involved was a giant alien spacecraft blowing up the White House, but it was mind-bogglingly awesome in every way. Lo and behold, the movie wasn't going to come out until the following summer, which was an unusually long wait time in those days. As the months ticked by, anticipation for the film soared among general audiences (including me, of course), and when July 1996 rolled around, it was one of the biggest movie events I can remember from that century.
The success of Independence Day was largely attributed to its marketing campaign, and so it wasn't long before every big summer movie needed to start releasing trailers the winter before its release. Now, twenty years later, with another enormous movie event about to take place, every major movie of 2016 is practically obligated to have a trailer released in time to battle for a covetted spot in front of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In the last two weeks or so, about a dozen big trailers dropped on a (mostly) unsuspecting Internet, and almost all of them have been directed at geeks such as myself, the current holders of box office mojo. As such, I feel obligated to at least comment on all these trailers.
Captain America: Civil War
This is the movie I've been looking forward to the most, ever since it was first announced. Yes, I want it even more than Star Wars. It's safe to say my expectations have been through the roof, too, as the Civil War arc from the comics is easily my favorite comic book story of all time and the one I am most versed in. Having said that, I've always known it wouldn't be true to the comic story (nor should it be), and that it would be more like a sequel to Captain America: The Winter Soldier. This is not a bad thing at all, though, since The Winter Soldier is clearly one of the best MCU films to date.
The pros: Oh man, everything. We get a feel for what is driving the narrative (it looks like Bucky is being framed for an explosion at the UN, which is timed to perfectly coincide with the release of the "Sokovia Accords," a legal framework for controlling superheroes, and this naturally leads to a disagreement between Captain America and Iron Man); we see Black Panther (did his father die in that UN explosion?), and he looks incredible; we get the return of William Hurt as General Ross; the action looks great; we see Cap and Bucky beating down Iron Man (and honestly, if there's one guy in the MCU who needs a good beating, it's Tony); and we get a good sense of the two sides of the "war." It all looks fantastic, and it leaves enough out to keep us surprised when the movie is finally released.
The cons: A lot of people love the exchange where Cap tells Tony he's sorry, but Bucky was his friend, to which Tony sadly opines, "So was I." But I think that's dumb. When have Captain America and Tony Stark really been friends? We've seen them together just twice--in the two Avengers movies--and both times, they trade jabs and bicker angrily with one another because they're never able to see eye-to-eye. In Age of Ultron, they almost come to blows. If that's what Tony thinks friendship is all about, it's no wonder he's got that black eye. (Really, though, this is a minor quibble, and just an example of me reaching for anything I can to put here in the "cons" column, because that trailer is the greatest thing I've ever seen in my entire life).
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
DC wasn't going to let Marvel steal the spotlight, and it almost seems like the BvS trailer was released in retaliation. I'm definitely excited for this one--as I really like Man of Steel and think it's smart to use the destruction of Metropolis as a launching point for conflict in this story--but I have a lot less faith in DC than I do Marvel when it comes to filmmaking. I'm deeply concerned that DC is trying to do too much at once, as a movie that pits Batman against Superman needs nothing else to be exciting. I mean, how long have geeks dreamed of seeing this fight on the silver screen? Yeah, sure, it's good to lead into a Justice League movie and sow the seeds for other properties like Wonder Woman and Aquaman--because Marvel has an enormous headstart--but once you start treating your story like a preface to other films, you wind up with a disaster of a film along the lines of The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
The pros: Affleck's Batman looks great, and the verbal sparring between Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent is epic. I can't help but get a little giddy thinking about these guys finally going at it, and I feel like their disagreement is a logical and compelling one, that neither argument is ultimately without merit. Of course Batman is an out-of-control vigilante who is ultimately only making things worse--anyone familiar with Batman knows this--and of course it's wise to worry about absolute power going unchecked immediately after it helped destroy a major city, no doubt killing tens of thousands of people. Also, we're finally getting a superhero battle that doesn't involve a clear hero fighting a clear villain who fights with the same powers.
The cons: Why the heck is Doomsday in this movie? Doomsday is a huge villain in the DC universe--the powerful baddie that's been around for millions of years and manages to "kill" Superman--and putting him in this flick, practically as an afterthought, feels distressingly similar to how Venom was thrown into Spider-Man 3. Plus, they're dramatically changing his backstory by tying him to Zod and stealing pieces of Brainiac's backstory. That seems unwise. Putting all that aside, he doesn't look that great, either, though I have a tough time imagining how you put a realistic-looking Doomsday on the screen. Also, why do we need to have Lex Luthor pulling the strings? That makes it feel less like these two people having a legitimate disagreement that leads to the fight and more like these two superheroes are being played the fool, which subverts the whole premise and diminishes both heroes' intelligence. On top of that, I am really worried about Jessie Eisenberg's performance, based on this trailer. He's acting like Jim Carrey's Riddler, and that's awful. Sure, Gene Hackman and Kevin Spacey are both awesome as they ham it up with the role, but here, an over-the-top performance feels out of step and discordant. Also, the "jokes" don't work, the music in the trailer is obnoxiously repetitive, and hey, why do we need to see the movie now that they've put the entire thing into a trailer?
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
I feel obligated to include this here, because the movie will no doubt make a lot of money and because, as a kid, I loved the TMNT movies (even the third one). Having said that, it's safe to add that I didn't like the last movie. I thought it started out okay, but quickly devolved into Michael Bay-style insanity and asinine plot beats, all highlighted by Megan Fox's utter inability to act and CGI that isn't even trying. There's also the obvious we-quickly-changed-the-identity-of-Shredder-in-post-because-the-Internet-knows-better-than-us pandering, the wild mismatch between Tony Shaloub's voice and Splinter's appearance, the obnoxious jokes that aren't even funny, the lack of any character development, and so much more. In other words, I have very little interest in seeing that movie followed up, and I won't see this sequel unless it gets surprisingly good reviews that tell me it is at least 3,478% better than the first one.
The pros: Okay, I'll grant that the kid in me got excited by certain things here. For one, it basically looks like a remake of Secret of the Ooze, unquestionably the greatest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie that will ever exist. For another thing, it's actually using Be-Bop and Rocksteady instead of swapping them out for whatever the hell those things were in the earlier flick (I know, they were "BABIES!"). Even more than that, if I'm reading the details right, it looks like they're setting the stage for Krang. Those tetris-looking things falling from a portal in the sky look a whole heck of a lot like pieces of the Technodrome coming in from Dimension X, and man, this is what my adolescent self always imagined TMNT 4 would be.
The cons: Oh look, Megan Fox. Oh look, more bad CGI. (No really, look at Be-Bop and Rocksteady. I haven't seen CGI characters that awful since The Mummy Returns.) Oh look, Will Arnett delivering bad jokes. Oh look, Casey Jones is Oliver Queen for some reason. Oh look, more horrendously awful dialogue. God, some things should just stay in the past and never be brought back. I'm not going to say Michael Bay productions have ruined my childhood or anything, but it sure is hard for me to say I'm a fan of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when most people will now associate the property with these abominations of celluloid.
-e. magill 12/16/2015