Trailer Watch

A look at an assortment of recent trailers with some musing about whether or not we should give a monkey’s, including The Bourne Legacy, The Avengers, and The Amazing Spider-Man.

You’ll find YouTube embeds below, and links to Apple Trailers if you want to download better quality versions.

The Bourne Legacy – Trailer 1

Paul Greengrass dropped out of the fourth Bourne film, and Matt Damon followed out of loyalty. Instead, we have a Bourne film about a Bourne who isn’t Bourne. This Bourne is Jeremy Renner, and the film is sold with the supposedly enticing tagline, “there was never just one.” Unfortunately, it smacks more of desperation.

Legacy has several pluses. The cast is strong, with Edward Norton and Rachel Weisz joining. Renner is a smart replacement for Damon: an accomplished actor with a different energy to his predecessor. Several of the supporting cast from the previous films return, including Albert Finney, David Strathairn, and Joan Allen. And Tony Gilroy, who contributed to all three Bourne scripts, now writes and directs.

But the truth remains that the project began with the desire to make another Bourne film regardless rather than a strong idea for a new Bourne film. That the project continued without Damon shows that the brand is what matters.

I look forward to being proven wrong, and with this pedigree it’s far more likely to succeed than some other franchise reanimations. And parts of this trailer are highly effective, particularly that opening. But I suspect that audiences may groan at being sold a Bourne film that is not about Jason Bourne.

Let’s say Bourne one more time: Bourne.

The Amazing Spider-Man – Trailer 2

The trailers for this and Bourne came out within days of each other, but coincidentally they are both a radical reshaping of a fourth film that initially had the existing creative team involved. Sam Raimi, Tobey Maguire, and Kirsten Dunst were in discussions about and developing a fourth Spidey film, but when Raimi refuses to kowtow to the studio’s demands after being assured creative freedom following their interference in the wretched Spider-Man 3, he and the studio parted ways and decided to reboot the franchise.

So we have a new Spider-Man film series launching ten years after the last one did. Sony are hoping you won’t care.

Fortunately, unlike The Bourne Legacy the title character does still appear. He’s just recast as Andrew Garfield and the previous films never happened.

Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer) directs, and what’s encouraging about this project is that he’s already fixed some of the shortcomings of the Raimi films. Garfield looks and feels a lot more like Peter Parker than Tobey Maguire. The villain won’t be wearing a Power Rangers costume. And, most crucially, Spidey cracks wise in this film. A hallmark of the character is his sense of humour, which was entirely absent from Raimi’s films. Oh, and the webshooters are mechanical this time, but you probably don’t care.

More concerning is that Peter Parker is less of a picked-on dork and more of an emo loner. Can Webb sufficiently differentiate his action sequences and visual style from Raimi’s while still making his film look like a Spider-Man flick rather than a Nolan Bat-film? And with the casting of Peter’s missing parents, will the script play havoc with the lore? This is problematic not out of loyalty to the comics, but as with many superheroes, there’s a simplicity to Spider-Man’s origin that continues to resonate. If you mess with it too much, you get midichlorians.

The trailer itself is pretty snazzy and fun, although a bit generic in places. The talented Andrew Garfield is what excites me most about this film, as is the prospect of seeing the real Spider-Man on screen for the first time. Oh, and Martin Sheen is the perfect Uncle Ben – who wouldn’t want President Bartlett as their uncle?

Battleship – Superbowl Spot

I can’t get over how closely the alien spacecraft in this film look and sound like Michael Bay’s Transformers. Precious little attention seems to have been paid to a distinctive ship design. Audiences may hurl popcorn if the finished sequences resemble Bay’s mechanical explosion orgies as closely as they seem to here.

Even leaving aside the absurdity of a film so tangentially based on a board game purely for brand recognition purposes, this looks like a thoroughly dull exercise in pedestrian 21st century action filmmaking and relentless CGI. I love both Berg and star Taylor Kitsch thanks to Friday Night Lights, but the talent they both displayed there does not seem evident here. Plus, Rihanna–an unproven singer-turned-actor–is the female lead….

I’m quite comfortable writing this off unless some really surprisingly rave reviews pop up.

The Avengers – Superbowl Spot

Please be good please be good please be good.

I should be tired of superhero films by now, I really should. But I’m immensely excited for The Avengers. The reasons are numerous:

1) Joss Whedon finally gets to play in a bigger sandbox. I’m not a Whedon idolator but strongly believe his naysayers sell him way short. Serenity is an exceptionally well-crafted debut feature, and he was an inspired choice to handle the dysfunctional Avengers family given that recurring trope in his work.

2) As we get closer to the film, many seem to have started taking for granted the rare thrill of seeing lead actors from a host of intelligent blockbusters co-existing in the same movie and bouncing off of each other. Marvel Studios get a lot of flack for being cheap and overly controlling, but they had the moxie from the start of their big movie-making plan to team up the heroes from their individual films in one big epic, before they even knew some of them would succeed alone.

And who can not be excited at the prospect of Robert Downey Jr. sarcastically ribbing his more serious colleagues.

3) Finally, a big superhero alien invasion film. Some scope at last!

Of course, there are several potential negatives too:

1) Has Whedon been given the resources to achieve that scope? Much of the action beats we’ve seen are in New York. Is the alien (or whatever they are) invasion going to be curiously local? Will the build-up to the Avengers be let down by Marvel’s penny-pinching?

2) Are the actors going to give their all now that they’re not the sole leads? There’s been concern brewing that Downey has become such an influential force in these films that he may not be as committed to The Avengers as he is to the Iron Man solo movies. This time he has a new and largely untested director who’s new to Marvel movies, and he has a reputation for wanting a lot of input and flexibility on set. He has publically admitted that he was skeptical about the whole project, and the truth is that he was contractually obligated to make this movie. But then he also admitted that it went better than he could have hoped. Hopefully that isn’t just spin.

3) Marvel sadly lost Edward Norton as Bruce Banner/The Hulk, most likely due to their penny-pinching. Granted, Norton may have charged a premium because of how valuable he was to maintaining continuity between the films, but Marvel should have paid that.

Even though The Incredible Hulk wasn’t the success they hoped for, by letting Norton go (he was in talks with Whedon and excited) Marvel sabotaged part of the plan they had spent so long bringing to fruition. Mark Ruffalo is a superb replacement, no question (I’m still surprised he said yes), but Downey and Norton trading barbs on screen would have been joyous. What a shame.

Oh yeah, the new trailer…

That was pretty damn good! Some terrific money shots there now that more effects have been completed. Holy crap Iron Man fighting alien fighter thingies! Hulk leaping across buildings and getting pummelled by spacecraft that explode when they hit him! They’re all standing on a rooftop teaming up and stuff!!

Wow, did I just say all that? I’m not typically a fanboy who squees at any comic book fight scene. But there’s something so audacious and gleeful about these shots that I can’t help but be excited.

Hopefully we get a full new trailer soon, and hopefully I get to April 25 (1 week before the US, yay-uh!) without discovering who the alien invaders are and any more of the plot. I want Whedon to surprise me.

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