Thursday, December 22, 2011

One step forward, two steps backward: Trailers to ring in 2012

Even though we're still dealing with awards season craziness, it's never too soon to start looking past the acceptance speeches and trophies, and into what cinema holds in store for us in the new year. Over the past two weeks, three trailers have emerged for three very big potential blockbusters. One is a sequel, while the other two are prequels (more or less). And all three have one thing in common: insanely high expectations.

When your previous film develops rabid fanboys, becomes a massive box office success, and scores an actor an Oscar, all while being a super hero movie, the next installment is under scrutiny from day one. That's certainly been the case with Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises, the director's final contribution to Batman's cinematic legacy. Everything has been picked apart, and concerns have been raised regarding everything from casting to costume choices. With the release of the first full trailer, however, Nolan's latest is finally putting some (or at least, my) worries to rest. The trailer covers quite a lot thematically without spelling out the specific direction of the plot. It also gives us some nice looks at Tom Hardy as Bane, and Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle/Catwoman, who shakes off her rom-com personality to inject a surprising amount of menace. The actions scenes look intense, and the idea of Gotham actually falling into chaos (a fulfillment of the Arkham breakout in Batman Begins) looks like an interesting way to bring Nolan's trilogy full-circle. Oh, and the creepy chanting that plays over the last half of the footage? Perfection.

Trailer Grade: A-

Next we have Prometheus, Ridley Scott's long-gestating prequel-but-it-sort-of-isn't to Alien. Boasting a stellar ensemble, the film's entire look is fantastic, and I can't wait to see more footage. We need another well made, big budget sci-fi flick to counterbalance the likes of Transformers. That eerie, monolithic face statue, as well as that strange crescent structure are enough to get me hooked from a visual standpoint. Even more interesting will be to see the creation footage that Scott and crew were reportedly filming in Iceland. On a nerdier note, it will be interesting to see how the film plays off of its mythically based title. Given the film's tag line, it's probably meant to be a rather dark variation. Scott has been a bit of a slump that past few years, but here's hoping that a return to sci-fi will help him return to his best. Love that gradual reveal of the title too.

Trailer Grade: B+

Finally, we come to the most troubled of the three: Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The first of two films covering the novel (part two hits in 2013), the film has struggled to move ahead with production. Guillermo Del Toro was originally set to direct, before financial and legal issues delayed the start of shooting so much that he bailed. Jackson is back in the chair, which is reasurring that at least it will be the exact same vision as before. Let's just hope it doesn't end up feeling, stale, though. The footage is relatively simple, not showing anything epic, and focusing more on the characters and the lighter nature of the narrative. A lot of the footage still needs to be color-graded, but overall I'm very hopeful that the long-delayed return to Middle Earth will be worth it. The film is being shot on cutting-edge technology at the highest frame rate ever for a major motion picture. How this will affect the film, for better or for worse, remains to be seen, but at the very least it will help the film feel slightly different. Now if only we can get around to seeing some footage of Smaug...

Trailer Grade: B

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