Yesterday was nerd Christmas, with trailer after trailer and major announcement after major announcement flowing out of San Diego Comic-Con. Well, now it’s the morning after Christmas, and we’re left sorting through all of our new toys. In fact, there are so many of them that we need to just sort them into piles. So, below is a rundown of all the non-superhero film trailers. For a rundown of the superhero trailers, head here, and for a rundown of the big TV trailers head here.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Reaction: All of the CGI magic and spectacle of a Harry Potter movie without any of the compelling characters.
Remember that line. If Fantastic Beasts turns out to be a disappointment you’ll see many variations on that line in film reviews and on Twitter. Or maybe I’m simply inclined to believe so because this new trailer is, well, all of the CGI magic and spectacle of a Harry Potter movie without any of the compelling characters.
But that’s to be expected, right? We don’t know any of these characters yet. This whole thing is adapted from some obscure textbook J.K. Rowling wrote for charity. Other than the title and main character’s name, though, the plot comes not from that textbook but instead from an entirely new story Rowling concocted for the film. The first trailer introduced us to Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander and teased familiar magic imagery, hinting at a looming showdown between humans and wizards related to something Newt screws up. This new trailer furthers that narrative considerably, but it’s very telling that the last line is “I want to be a wizard.”
Don’t we all kind of wish that, or at least long for a return to the Harry Potter universe, even if it’s a prequel with a completely different cast of characters? That’s what WB is counting on, and with an original Rowling story and Harry Potter vet David Yates behind the camera they should be in steady hands. However, maybe I’ve just grown weary of Eddie Redmayne doing the precious-Eddie Redmayne performance but I don’t see great characters here. Not yet. I see fantastic spectacle, and a golden invitation back to Harry Potter land. Perhaps that’s all that should be expected at this point, and we’ll come to know the characters when we see the actual movie.
Release Date: 11/18/16
Reaction: Let’s see. It’s a WB movie with the word “Legend” in the title. It’s an ages-old property being revived even though no one was asking for it. They’ve handed the reigns to a somewhat well known director, and cast an actor of questionable talent but impressive abs in the lead role. And the whole thing has the stink of impending failure, somewhat because the release date has already been pushed back multiple times. Is this Legend of Tarzan or King Arthur: Legend of the Sword?
Wait. Hold on. Why am I piling on like that? I actually liked Tarzan, and the same goes for this King Arthur trailer, a movie which was not on my radar until now. As a director, Guy Ritchie sometimes struggles to get out of his own way, and the opening sequence of this trailer is a prime example of that. Seeing the go-pro camera on the head trick (or something similar to it) in what appears to be a big budget chase scene feels needlessly showy and incongruous, pulling you out of the story and making you think of countless sports, reality TV and YouTube videos which have used the same trick.
But, dangit, it’s something different. It’s a sign of a movie with an actual personality behind it, which continues on through the trailer’s first minute where Ritchie plays with perspective and derives jokes from clever editing. His style is not for everyone nor is it even of a consistent quality from film to film. However, Man from U.N.C.L.E. was him in top form, and Arthur could be as well.
Or not. The rest of the trailer more resembles your standard Hollywood attempt of reaching for that Game of Thrones magic, except in this case they also happen to have a bunch of actual Game of Thrones actors around. At least the female gaze will be satisfied with Charlie Hunnan’s repeated shirtlessness.
This one could go either way creatively, but on the financial side they at least kept the budget to a more reasonable $102 million. So, in order for this particular Legend to continue on with the many planned sequels its box office won’t have to be quite so legendary. Tarzan should be so lucky.
Release Date: 3/24/17
Kong: Skull Island
Reaction: A couple of quick jokes come to mind. Hey, it’s Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in a movie together! Also, look, it’s Mr. Taylor Swift’s (Hiddleston) latest adventure. Also, seriously, is there no one else they can cast in movies like this? Must Samuel L. Jackson be in everything, from Kingsman to Tarzan to Mrs. Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children to Skull Island?
With all of that out the way, after 10 Cloverfield Lane I have a re-appreciation for John Goodman, and until this trailer I had no idea he was in this movie. Just by virtue of his presence, Kong suddenly seems more promising, on top of the already intriguing duo of Larson and Hiddleston. At the very least, this ensemble is already more compelling that what these same producers had to work with on Godzilla, where you came for Bryan Cranston and got stuck with charisma-less Aaron Taylor-Johnston.
The plan, if you don’t already know, is to build up to King Kong vs. Godzilla. As such, Skull Island takes place in the same universe as 2014’s Godzilla movie, which was set in the present. Skull Island, on the other hand, is actually set in the 70s, an odd choice which is not actually all that obvious in the trailer. After Skull Island will be Godzilla 2, and then if everything works out we get Kong vs. Godzilla.
If the trailer is any indication, Skull Island appear to be taking some tips from Gareth Edward’s Godzilla, specifically the way it holds back on the title character to build up a sense of wonder and mystery. However, I am concerned. The director (Jordan Vogt-Roberts) has never made anything remotely like this before (just a stand-up documentary and an indie summer family comedy), and the script went through several re-writes forcing the production (and release date) to be delayed multiple times which led to actors like J.K. Simmons and Michael Keaton walking away from the project. Plus, there is an odd Congo meets King Kong vibe to this. However, I am rooting for them, if only because a just world is one in which Tom Hiddleston is a big movie star, not just the guy who plays Loki and dates Taylor Swift.
Release Date: 3/10/17
Reaction: This story has already been told in the amazing documentary, Citizenfour. What more can Oliver Stone bring to it? Oh, just shots of our intrepid hero gazing up at wall-sized screens to see The Man staring down at him threateningly, a spooky, subdued rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In” and the promise of a tragic love story. The first trailer was unintentionally funny and sleazy, and set off a million Twitter jokes about Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s weird Snowden voice. This new trailer promises a satisfying political thriller which just happens to speak to the concerns of our era in a hyper-specific way. However, Gordon-Levitt’s already been in one movie (The Walk) which felt unnecessary compared to a pre-existing documentary. Will history repeat itself, or will Snowden justify its own existence, regardless of how much it feel like Oliver Stone’s wet dream come true?
Release Date: 9/16/16
The Surprise Blair Witch Project Sequel
Reaction: Hey, the year 2000 – this is the Blair Witch sequel you were supposed to give us, not that super disappointing and far too conventional Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2. The problem, though, is that this isn’t 2000. It’s certainly not 1999, when the first Blair Witch came out. This is 2016, a time in which the found footage horror genre appears to be petering out. Simply slapping a franchise name onto it doesn’t change the fact that we’ve seen this type of movie so, so many times by now. However, Adam Wingard is the mastermind director behind all of this, and as You’re Next and The Guest illustrated his talents are varied and impressive. His Blair Witch could be exactly as terrifying as all the hyperbolic pull-quotes in the trailer indicate.
Release Date: 9/16/16