The last week has been a pretty big one for much-hyped future movies. Last Thursday saw the release of the second Star Wars teaser (it was good), last Friday had the leak and then official release of the first Batman v Superman trailer (it was bad), and then Sunday saw the release of the second trailer for Fantastic Four (it was okay).
Everyone I know has been gabbing about the various trailers for the past few days, and I figured I’d just drop in a mini post to collect my thoughts on everything.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
To say that this is a good trailer is a bit of an understatement. It gives us our first look at the original cast with glimpses of Luke, Leia, Han and Chewbacca, and it highlights a lot of things that are different so many years after the Battle of Endor. The Empire appears to have morphed into a new entity (known as the First Order according to information released at Star Wars Celebration this past weekend), the Alliance is demonstrating new levels of military strength, and apparently Han and Chewie have been estranged from the Millennium Falcon for quite a while. Also, rumors are spreading that the shiny storm trooper highlighted in one of the shots is being played by Gwendoline Christie (the actress who plays Brienne of Tarth on Game of Thrones), which is really exciting because A) the actress is quite good, and B) it’s a female storm trooper!
Like most people, I think this trailer is phenomenal, and it honestly has me excited about Star Wars again; however, I keep thinking that all of this hype is extremely reminiscent of what was happening back in 1998 when The Phantom Menace was being hyped. That movie had a great trailer too, but what we got was just not very good. I’m worried about a repeat performance here, although there are a ton of mitigating factors that keep me from being totally pessimistic. The number one thing that gives me hope that Episode VII will not be a bad movie is the fact that Star Wars as a brand is now being managed by Disney. I have regular conversations with my students about Star Wars, and a recurring point of contention is whether the new movie will be any good, and it always hinges on the fact that Disney owns the brand now. On the one hand, Disney’s primary wheelhouse is its family movies, and Star Wars is not the same kind of movie; there’s some legitimate fear that Disney might insert overly cute characters as part of its marketing machine (this line of thought always seems to forget that George Lucas was far more guilty of that kind of pandering with the Ewoks and Jar Jar Binks). On the other hand Disney manages a lot of other types of entertainment besides family movies (never forget that Marvel is a subsidiary of Disney, so every good movie that Marvel put out had Disney management behind it somewhere), and they know what their doing when it comes to pleasing different demographics. I’m confident that Episode VII will be a competent, fun movie; it may not be the second coming of Empire Strikes Back, but it doesn’t need to be.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Let me begin by saying that I am generally a fan of Man of Steel (except for the ending; ugh.), so I’m predisposed to feel positively towards this movie as a continuation of that story. It seems like a good move to explore the tension surrounding Superman’s appearance on Earth and the question of what he intends to do with all of his power. Setting up Batman as the figurehead of the anti-Superman movement strikes me as really weird though, because Batman, as envisioned by Frank Miller (the movie is supposed to borrow heavily from Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, which is a great Batman story if you can ignore the fact that he’s a jerk and gets to revel in the fact that everyone else was wrong about everything), is the biggest fascist. Fighting fascism with fascism is not the most endearing plot hook (if Superman even is a fascist in this story; all we get from the teaser is that public perception of him is souring; there’s no hint that he’s actually doing anything besides trying to rescue people from disasters), and I really hope there’s more to the movie than this conflict between a guy with near limitless power and a guy with near limitless power (where’s the hope versus justice theme that Superman/Batman stories usually examine?).
Don’t even get me started on the fact that this will also be a launchpad for a bunch of Justice League spinoffs (here’s a hint, DC: if Wonder Woman is supposed to be a major player in this story, but you can’t show how she matters in the trailer, then you probably shouldn’t be hyping her as a major character because you obviously still haven’t figured out what she’s supposed to be doing).
I don’t have high hopes for Batman v Superman. I’ve been wrong before, but I’m doubtful this movie will be good. Unless it takes the tongue-in-cheek approach that this parody trailer suggests:
I am not a Fantastic Four fan. I skipped the original movies both because I was never into the comics and because it became apparent very shortly after they were released that they were bad movies. The trailers I’ve been seeing for this reboot strike me as having some potential. I don’t know if it will be a good movie (the trailer is very standard, hitting on all the major action movie trailer tropes that you’ve seen popping up in the last five or six years), but something about the tone seems to work for me. It’s probably the heavy emphasis on science exploration (the two trailers that have come out so far really seem to shout that this is a science adventure, which is what the Fantastic Four is supposed to be about). It also doesn’t hurt that they took a chance on casting and decided to make Johnny Storm black (I’m still fuming over Marvel’s announcement that they’re rebooting Peter Parker for Spider-Man again, so any attempt to introduce more people of color into superhero stories is okay with me).
Overall, I have no idea if this reboot will be any good, but I have very tentative hopes that it won’t be bad.