San Diego Comic Con isn’t what it used to be. Not as many studios actually bother going anymore. The film industry’s switch to year-round blockbuster scheduling has forever altered the old marketing rules thus disrupting SDCC’s prior exclusive grip on launch windows. The proliferation of other notable conventions around the country as well as Disney’s push into prioritizing its own conventions has robbed SDCC of some of its power.
All true. In fact, all of that has been true for several years now. But just because Marvel Studios bowed out this year doesn’t automatically mean SDCC is now just some insignificant event. Thousands of people still go. Millions of dollars of marketing money are still spent. And the studios still unleash an onslaught of new trailers. Here are some of the biggest ones this year:
During the New 52 era of DC Comics, Geoff Johns wrote an Aquaman story arc called Throne of Atlantis in which Arthur Curry discovers his heritage and returns to his Atlantean birth home to challenge his half brother for the throne and prevent him from launching a war on the surface-dwellers. It was adapted into a fairly solid 2015 animated movie, and now here it is again in live-action, minus the part about Curry not actually knowing who he is. No, Jason Momoa’s version is fully aware of his heritage – he’s just rejecting/running away from it.
It’s certainly a workable storyline to play with, but it does mean just totally owning the inherent absurdity of the Aquaman universe and staging setpieces featuring warriors on the back of sea animals riding into climactic battle. That’s apparently exactly what James Wan has done, delivering what looks to be a check-your-brain-at-the-door absurd thrill ride. Given Wan’s horror background, I was maybe expecting something a little different, but at least his work here is more tonally consistent than Joss Whedon and Zack Snyder’s on Justice League.
Momoa, on the other hand, is exactly the dudemeister version of Aquaman we saw in Justice League, trading out “My man!” for various “This is so badass!” and “This is awesome!” exultations.
If MoviePass is still around in December, I’ll have no problem using it for Aquaman on its release date, 12/21. If not, the early reviews are going to need to be fairly convincing. I’ve just never been an Aquaman fan.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 2
The first Fantastic Beasts movie is decidedly unfastic. Worse yet, at the end one of the best characters in the whole thing disappears and turns into Johnny Depp. Oy vey. Now, here’s a full movie with Depp front and center as Grindelwald, a kind of Voldemort-precursor preaching about bringing magic out of the shadows. Jude Law is also around as younger Dumbledore, giving J.K. Rowling a chance to finally explore the “Dumbledore fell in love with Grindelwald before seeing him for who he really is” storyline she teased over a decade ago. Whether or not that will actually happen has been the subject of much debate and controversy.
Truthfully, though, we’ve already seen Depp and Law’s act in the first Fantastic 2 trailer. Granted, this new one finally gives Depp some dialogue, but it also reveals Ezra Miller’s character is back. To me, his magic-repression arc and all of its larger metaphorical implications was the single most successful part of the first film. I’m most intrigued to see what they’re doing with him in the sequel, especially since he sure seemed pretty darn dead last time we saw him. Plus, all of Newt Scamander’s friends – played by Dan Fogler, Katherine Waterston, and Alison Sudol – appear to be back. Newt, I could take or leave, but his friends are worth revisiting.
Fantastic Beasts 2 is due out November 16th.
M. Night Shyamalan always meant for there to be an Unbreakable trilogy, but mediocre box office, shifting industry trends, and truly humbling downturns in his career forced him to wait nearly two decades to make it happen. Split, the 2016 horror standout starring James McAvoy as a disturbed man with multiple personalities and Anya Taylor-Joy as one of his kidnap victims, finally got the ball rolling in its literally last-minute reveal of Bruce Willis’ Unbreakable character. Now that both the hero and villains of this little universe have had origin story movies it’s time for a team-up, which looks as if it will see Samuel L. Jackson’s super genius Mr. Glass pitting Willis and McAvoy against each other.
It sure looks promising. The slow burn of Unbreakable is long behind us, as is the horror of Split. Instead, Glass appears to be leaning even harder into pure superhero movie territory, albeit for far less money than a DC or Marvel title. The trailer promises plenty of action, probably a twist related to Sarah Polley’s true identity (her character seems off, right?), and also goes out of its way to catch everyone up on the basic facts of both Unbreakable and Split. I can’t wait to see this.
Glass is due January 18th, 2019.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters
Since Hollywood is loathe to ever truly move on from underperforming franchises, we’ve become accustomed to the tone resetting, course correcting sequel. That’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters, which appears to be trading out all of the ponderousness and delayed gratification of 2014’s Godzilla for something which leans much, much harder into front-and-center monster movie shenanigans, adding Rodan, Mothra and King Ghidorah to the mix. With Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, and Millie Bobby Brown in as the new lead characters (replacing Elisabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and people like Thomas Middleditch and O’Shea Jackson Jr. newly added in supporting roles, this has the feel of a soft reboot, the type of thing a bunch of Stranger Things fans will watch and only afterward realize what they just watched is actually a sequel to something.
Personally, I’ve always had a soft spot for Godzilla movies (not so much the Matthew Broderick one, of course). Michael Dougherty wrote and directed this one, and I love his horror comedies Krampus and Trick R’ Treat. Also, there’s something particular resonant but also stupid-fun about a trailer which begins with Vera Farmiga blaming humanity for destroying the Earth only to then have her argue our salvation lies in tracking down gigantic, prehistoric monsters. Get on that, EPA.
Godzilla 2 is due May 31st, 2019. King Kong Vs. Godzilla will arrive a year later. So far, the commonality between the two franchises is the presence of the Monarch organization, which is where Farmiga’s character appears to work. It is, however, entirely possible if not altogether guaranteed King Kong will show up in Godzilla 2, probably in a post-credits tease.
This, as far as I know, isn’t actually a SDCC trailer, but instead something Paramount put out over the past week. Either way, this is my first time seeing it. Don’t let the J.J. Abrams of it all distract you. As with the Cloverfield movies, Abrams neither wrote nor directed Overlord. Instead, he produced it through Bad Robot, which has a deal with Paramount it hasn’t really been living up to since Abrams keeps getting sidetracked by Star Wars. So, it’s nice to see Bad Robot giving Paramount something to put out. Jim Giannopoulos hasn’t sold it to Netflix yet, meaning it should at least be better than The Cloverfield Paradox. I can certainly get behind a WWII-zombie mash-up movie. And, yes, if you were wondering that is Agents of Shield’s Ian De Caestecker as one of the royally screwed GIs.
Overlord is due November 9th, 2018.
Big as a superhero movie? What a perfect recipe. Director David Sandberg is making a huge leap here from his prior life making DIY short films and then 2016’s micro-budget horror flick Lights Out, but he seems to be working with a good script (credited to Henry Gayden) which knows how to finally bring comedy to the DC universe. The actual Shazam suit, worn by Zachary Levi as the Big-ified Billy Batson, still has an odd, artificial look, sporting the type of fake muscles which went out of style after Batman & Robin (or maybe my eyes just won’t let me believe Levi bulked up so much he puts Henry Cavill to shame). However, in the context of this trailer it all kind of works.
Shazam! looks like it will fit perfectly into the new breed of more comedic superhero movies looking to both take the piss out of and ultimately re-affirm what has quickly become an omnipresent genre. I see promising shades of Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Tick, and maybe even Deadpool in there. Mostly, though, I see exactly the kind of movie DC needs right now. Too bad Aquaman gets to go first.
Shazam! is due April 5th, 2019.
What do you think of the trailers? Which films are you most excited about? Least excited? Let me know in the comments.