Written by: Big Ross, CC2K Staff Writer
It was the best of trailers, it was the worst of trailers…It was the trailer of belief, it was the trailer of incredulity. It was the trailer of Light, it was the trailer of Darkness. It was the trailer of hope, it was the trailer of despair.
Sorry Chuck, but it was just too perfect. On Thursday, April 16th 2015, we got not one but two trailers for highly anticipated upcoming movies: Star Wars The Force Awakens and Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice. This was not by design, as the latter was leaked online and wasn’t intended to be officially released until the following Monday, but rarely does the average fan adhere to a movie studio’s plan. Regardless, you could watch both on the same day, which I did. Multiple times. And I can’t help but compare them and my reaction to them. These trailers crystallized why I’m far more worried about BvS than SW.
First, if you happen to be hiding in a cave (that also happens to have a wifi hotspot) and haven’t yet watched either of these new trailers, BEHOLD!
Looks like WB decided that since the trailer already leaked, they would follow Disney’s suit when the Avengers Age of Ultron trailer leaked and just release an official HD version.
Let’s start with that Force Awakens trailer. While this second trailer, and the first one that came out last November, have ominous music, imagery, and voice-over narration, they’re also overflowing with excitement, light, action, and fun. I’ve watched both so many times; if someone could put them back to back and on an endless loop I could watch them for hours. And I can’t stop grinning as I do. Maybe it’s nostalgia. Maybe it’s the hope that this movie will make up for the failings of the prequels. But that sense of fun and adventure, which was at the heart of the original trilogy and somewhat lost in the prequels, suffuses these trailers. If the movie is half as good as what we’re seeing in them, we fans will have little to complain about. By contrast, that BvS trailer, how do I put this?
It’s like WB & DC have taken their approach to these characters and distilled that down to its essence in the form of this trailer. It is literally and figuratively Dark. It’s so gritty you could use it to remove paint from an old end table. It seems to present Superman as the villain, and Batman as a blood-thirsty psychopath. The promise of this movie, the thing everyone (or at least myself) is looking forward to – that Batman and Superman set aside whatever differences they have and team up at the end against the real threat – is not even an afterthought. This trailer celebrates the fight and promotes that fight as loudly as Don King ever did. It promises a brawl and a bloodbath. It has taken these two beloved superheroes and reduced them to a cockfight. Is this really what people, what fans of these characters, want to see?
I’ve thought about these two movies a lot over the last few months. Both have a tremendous amount riding on them, namely multi-movie franchises and billions of dollars at stake. And there is a question that I’ve asked myself on multiple occasions. I pose it now to you, though I’ll offer my own answer in a moment:
Considering Star Wars The Force Awakens and Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice, which movie are you more worried about, and which would you be more upset about being terrible?
For me, the first part of that question is easy to answer. I find that I am far more worried about Batman v Superman than Force Awakens. There are two main reasons for this, though I want to focus on only one of them in this article. (The other is that I fear BvS will suffer for trying to do too much in a single movie, e.g. the same problem that afflicted Spider-Man 3, X-Men: The Last Stand, Iron Man 2, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
The main concern I have about Batman v Superman in particular, and the entire direction WB & DC appear to be headed with their film franchises in general, is highlighted by this trailer. I’ll be the first to admit that it is largely a matter of opinion and taste, so I can only speak for myself. I’ll also admit that this is only the first trailer for the movie. I should reserve final judgment until I’ve seen the entire film. But this trailer is not inconsequential. It’s the first real glimpse of the movie. This is what WB & DC are offering fans to get them excited, to generate buzz and hype. For me, it’s having the opposite effect.
Let me put it this way, let’s consider the DC Cinematic Universe (DCCU). Batman Begins debuted in 2005. The misguided homage to the Donner films, Superman Returns followed in 2006. The Dark Knight followed in 2008. Green Lantern had a turn in 2011, followed by The Dark Knight Rises in 2012 and Man of Steel in 2013. Now, I know that WB & DC considered Man of Steel a hard reboot/starting point of the entire DCCU, and from that point forward all of their movies would co-exist in that universe. However, while Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy isn’t considered a part of the DCCU, it certainly has left its mark.
Nolan has been directly involved as an executive producer for Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. He has directly contributed to the story of each movie, and indirectly it is clear that WB & DC are emulating Nolan’s style and vision of these characters. They’ve become convinced that Nolan’s approach to portraying their superheroes almost guarantees box office success, as the Dark Knight Trilogy grossed almost $2.5 billion (that’s Billion with a B!) in box office revenue alone worldwide, while DC properties Nolan wasn’t involved with (Superman Returns & Green Lantern) are viewed as failures by most, certainly financially. Superman Returns didn’t even break even with domestic profits of $200 million (and a budget of $270 million); worldwide it didn’t even break $400 million dollars. Green Lantern did even worse. With a budget of $200 million it barely turned a profit with a worldwide box office gross of $220 million, which when you factor in the cost of marketing it almost certainly lost money. By contrast Batman Begins more than doubled its budget of $150 million with almost $400 million worldwide, and it was BY FAR the least profitable of Nolan’s movies.
What do all of these numbers mean? Probably nothing. But I like to think that they support my argument that executives at WB saw a correlation. Movies that Nolan is involved with make LOTS of money, while movies that he is not involved with fail. Furthermore, Superman Returns tried to emulate the aw-shucks-apple-pie Americana of the Richard Donner movies starring Christopher Reeve, and it failed. Green Lantern cast wise guy and funny man actor Ryan Reynolds in the lead, and that failed. So from here on out we worship at the Altar Of Nolan, hallowed by thy filmmaking style. Hence everything is dark and gritty and intense. There will be no light hearted moments, no outright jokes or attempts at humor. There will be no LOLs. There will be no Robin for there is no place for the Boy Wonder. Batman is alone and dark and brooding. Superman is a mysterious alien forever alienated. Aquaman will neither be blonde-haired nor clad in the bright orange scales so many are familiar with. No, he shall be the absolutely intimidating Khal Drogo covered in black and silver and tattoos.
All shall be dark and intense and depressing, forever and ever, in Nolan’s name. Amen.
I may be overstating things. I may be suffering from a bout of melodrama. I may be using hyperbole. Likely all of the above. But there’s one other trailer that I’d like you to watch. Please, indulge me. It’s the first full trailer for Ant Man, the other Marvel movie coming out this summer.
I’m going to be honest with you. I am not a fan of Ant Man. I don’t think there are all that many people who are, as the character in the comics is actually kind of a douche bag. I wasn’t all that excited when this movie was announced. I still wasn’t very excited when the first teaser trailer debuted online a few months back. I was almost certainly still going to see this movie, but it just wasn’t doing it for me. And then I watched that trailer above, and my interest skyrocketed. Not only was this something I’d never seen before (Ant Man’s superpower is the ability to shrink to the size of an ant), but it very quickly establishes the hero and villain and sets them at odds. And it perfectly follows that Marvel style of interlacing the action and special effects and drama with wit and genuinely funny moments. That scene at the end, the brief glimpse at the fight they’re having on the train set, there is absolutely no way in hell or on Earth that Nolan would allow such a scene into a movie in the DCCU. I guarantee it. If it ever happens, please, come find me and give me a hat and I will eat it in front of you.
That is my biggest problem with where DC & WB seem to be going with the DCCU. The utter lack of fun, of humor. I suppose that I should be happy that there is variety in the genre of superhero/comic book movies. I should be glad that DC & WB aren’t just aping Marvel’s style and following their formula, but giving us something different. I just wish “different” didn’t equal “dark”. If I could ask Christopher Nolan and the executives in charge one question, I’d have to quote a character from Nolan’s most well-known movie:
“Why so serious?”