This is a special week for Trailer Takes, as we dive deep into the recently released trailers for arguably the two most widely anticipated films of 2017. We’re ready. Are you?
Star Wars: The Last Jedi – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0CbN8sfihY
Eman: Let’s get one thing out of the way: Rian Johnson and company shot the shit out of this movie. There are some stellar stills to be wrought from this trailer, especially the early Kylo Ren sequences against the stark red background. That being said, this trailer as a whole, does not excite me as much as the previous teaser trailer did for The Last Jedi. This new one is fun but it shows it all and is trying to manipulate us in the same way most trailers do these days. I would have been more happy with only a quarter of those shots edited a little more artistically to communicate a vibe and a feel more than trying to give things away. The trailers for The Force Awakens, especially, were much more effective and evocative to me (not to mention, endlessly rewatchable), but that could also just be that it was the first Star Wars film in a while.
The Last Jedi is the middle part of a trilogy, which, in the case of Star Wars, means two things. First, it’ll probably end on an ominous or out-and-out downbeat note. We can’t be sure of that just yet, but the narrative structure of planned-out trilogies sort of calls for it. Second: like Empire Strikes Back and Attack of the Clones, the cast will likely be split up and sent into all manner of team-ups and showdowns. We’ve got the training between Rey and Luke. We’ve got Finn finally duking it out with Captain Phasma. And we’ve got some particular sequences that seem strung together in such a way just for the trailers’ sake. Kylo Ren flying through to potentially blow up the ship that has Leia in it is edited in such a way that we would come to fear that he would actually do such a thing. Either that, or it’s framed in a way that shows a force connection between the two causing him to stop at the last second. Either way, it’s a dead (matricide puns aside) giveaway that probably would turn out better in the film unspoiled. Sidenote: I think we’re seeing a bit of a space cowboy vibe (Cowboy Bebop anyone?) bleed into this space opera. I dig it. It seems to be giving the ships character with how they move versus just standard flying through space. Kylo Ren’s flying actually seems akin to that of his grandpa’s (Anakin loved spinning), which is a cool touch. But I digress. The other scene that seems potentially created entirely in the trailer room is quite obviously the ending of the trailer, which would indicate Kylo Ren either saves Rey from Snoke, or delivers her to him. Or something. I don’t know. Somebody’s going to have a change of heart (real or feigned) somewhere along the line, and I’d rather have not had any inkling of that prior to seeing the movie.
All that being said, it does feel nice to potentially have a Star Wars film that will make some organic dramatic decisions of magnitudes we haven’t seen since Empire. Not that this needs to be Empire beat for beat (nor should it!), but I like seeing the characters confront some very dark inner workings of themselves, especially in a saga about the dichotomy of light and dark paths. As I said in the Trailer Takes for the first teaser trailer, I was really digging the whole jedi-have-to-end thing. It seems to cover the vagaries and subtleties of life far more comprehensibly than the Jedi/Sith duality. What’s new and interesting here is that Luke, who once proudly proclaimed himself unafraid to a skeptical Yoda, is willing to admit that Rey’s power scares him. Luke has changed, Rey is changing, and neither seems to know how the series’ new protagonist will turn out. Luke’s crisis of confidence is the absolute most interesting thing to me in this movie. Hopefully it brings with it a reevaluation of the light/dark dogma. It’s a departure from the good/evil binary of the originals, but these are new Star Wars for a new age. We like some grey. And like I said last time, I really hope something here gives Luke the chance to say: “Man, I’m sick and tired of all these star wars…”
Graham: I think I have to disagree a bit with Eman here. The most natural thing to do with this trailer is to compare with The Force Awakens’ trailer, and much like The Last Jedi’s teaser, there’s no image from this trailer that really grabs me the way that so many moments from The Force Awakens’ final trailer did. There, we had the gorgeous opening shots of Rey inside the star destroyer, sweeping shots of the First Order, the Millennium Falcon going into lightspeed, X-wings charging across a lake as the Force theme swelled in the background, and, of course, the epic shot of Finn activating his lightsaber and backing away from Kylo Ren as their sabers are about to meet to cap the trailer off. It’s one of the best trailers ever, in my opinion, absolutely pitch perfect. The Last Jedi’s trailer certainly has its moments, but so much of the cinematography looks bland. There are too many really boring shots of space to be memorable, and the moments of Rey twirling the lightsaber look weirdly low-budget. The only real moment that stuck with me after the trailer was over was that great shot of Finn fighting against Captain Phasma. Other than that, it looks a little too generic. This trailer also uses deceptive editing to the point of annoyance. I can think of at least three moments where two shots that probably aren’t consecutive moments in the movie are juxtaposed for the sake of stirring up fan speculation. Specifically, the ending, where it’s painfully clear that the scene of Rey asking for guidance and Kylo extending his hand are two different scenes pasted together. If you’re really into trailer analysis, look at Rey’s outfit and Kylo’s scar to see that the two moments don’t work out chronologically when compared with earlier scenes in the trailer. If you’re a normal human being, see that in the background, Rey is shrouded in darkness, while Kylo has sparks and flames behind him, indicating that they’re not in the same location. I digress. Chewie’s face also looks weirdly like CGI, and the Porgs are definitely a wait-and-see type of element.
I think I’m harping too much on the negatives, so let me take a moment to appreciate the positives of the trailer. I love the take on Luke as a morally-ambiguous character whose role isn’t 100% clear. Mark Hamill looks like he’s really embracing the darker side of the character, which is very promising. I absolutely adore the moment when Kylo Ren is shown with his helmet on, then destroying it, mostly because of the way his theme swells in the background. The shot of Snoke extending his hand and torturing Rey gives me the sense that the series is serious about going darker, even if it’s not 100% clear that those two moments are connected (again, there’s a ton of deceiving editing). The fights on the salt planet look incredible, and it does seem like this movie is going to give us a ton of really epic action scenes, which I am completely on board for. Overall, this trailer didn’t do anything to make me less excited about the movie (I already bought my advance tickets for opening night), but I will say that while I sat and rewatched the trailer for The Force Awakens over and over again, I don’t feel the same need to revisit this trailer repeatedly. I can only hope that Rian Johnson is taking the film in a direction that isn’t a beat-for-beat retread of The Empire Strikes Back à la The Force Awakens and A New Hope. I have faith in his ability, which leaves me extremely optimistic about this film, and I chalk up most of my issues with the trailer to the fact that I don’t have the same unbridled excitement for The Last Jedi as I did for The Force Awakens.
Justice League – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9-DM9uBtVI
Eman: I probably love Man of Steel a lot more than most people. One of the main reasons for that love is Zimmer’s score, consisting of a beautifully resonant aura of hope and triumph. Hearing that musical motif at the front of this trailer grabbed me by the throat (seriously, I choked with emotion!), and Cavill, in this super brief moment, emits more Superman vibes than ever before! I’m also glad they tiptoed the line of his reveal relatively well. At this point, we know he’ll return, but I like that they showed him off without showing in what context he’ll return and instead opting for some kind of dream sequence. I tip my hat to that opener: effective, emotional, and efficient. As a kid who grew up exclusively reading tons of Superman comics in the library for hours at a time when my mom was studying for college, this moment was a beautiful piece of Superman escapism for me (just please show us the mustache—we know the footage exists, Warner Brothers, so release it or we riot!).
Anyway, I wasn’t a huge fan of the previous trailer for Justice League, but this one blew me away! Even without that opening sequence, I think this was as phenomenal a Justice League trailer we could ever get, considering the trajectory of the DCEU, as it was equal parts fun and portent. My god, “Heroes” was the perfect song for this kind of thing, and I might even prefer this iteration to the David Bowie version! I always say that what sets the DC Universe apart from the Marvel Universe is this sense of epic heroism. Sure, we can connect with Marvel heroes super well because they’re grounded and flawed. That’s amazing, actually, and I’m glad Marvel found its identity in that way. On the other side of the coin, is the elevation of DC heroes; they are above us. Responsible for us. This trailer portrays that aspect perfectly, and this realization makes me appreciate both the DCEU and the MCU all the more for it. Speaking of which, it’s well known at this point that Joss Whedon (director of The Avengers) picked up the directing of this movie once Zack Snyder had to leave the project for family reasons. Keeping faithful to the imagery and epic quality of Snyder’s previous establishments in this franchise, I think Whedon has done a good job of injecting some fun and color into an already impressive spectacle.
Affleck and Gadot have already proven themselves as titans of superhero performance in their respective roles, and I’m diggin’ their somewhat parental relationship to Ezra Miller’s Flash. Cyborg is still boring to me, as a whole, but his quick line here upon catching Aquaman is actually one I’ve repeatedly gone back to. There’s a complexity to him that I think could be remarkably elucidated if helmed carefully enough. And the record has already shown multiple times over that I am the world’s biggest fan of a dudebro Aquaman. His lines and delivery are golden moments of levity in an otherwise bleak battle for the survival of the human race. The overwhelming red on the scenes that seem to be in the climactic battle are much more enticing than the previous iterations of grey, fiery, metal backgrounds of nothingness. There’s a beauty to its destruction now, and it also insinuates that maybe Steppenwolf’s plan is to terraform Earth into a new Apokolips? Context for the visuals is always a plus, and if that’s the case, then kudos.
We know destruction is coming. It always does, in these big superhero team-ups. But in the Justice League, there’s always a core they hold onto: hope. The crest of Superman’s chest symbolizes hope, and I think there’s some course correction being done here for Batman and the other heroes to really latch onto that and relay that hope to the audience as well. I hope it works.
Graham: I’m a huge DCEU (are we still calling it that?) defender. I agree with Eman that Man of Steel is criminally underrated, and I’ll even defend Batman v. Superman as a flawed, but still epic work (I would rank The Ultimate Edition ahead of pretty much every MCU film). Wonder Woman needs no such defense, but I have to admit that while Man of Steel gets better with age, Suicide Squad somehow gets worse every time I watch it. That said, I love this trailer. The opening scene is gorgeous. I love the shot of Clark standing in the cornfield against the backdrop of the sunrise. Lois and Clark deserve so much more screen time that I almost hope they resurrect Superman early in the film so they can unite the two. I’m already on the record about how great Ben Affleck is as Batman (even if I do think that this will be his last appearance as Batman), and here, he’s pitch perfect. His narration is set perfectly over the events of the trailer, and the moment when he says, “The world needs Superman,” and we get a shot of Superman’s monument, and the David Bowie cover gets more powerful, gives me chills every single time I watch this trailer. This is the first trailer that really gave me a sense of the epic scale of this film. There are a number of great action beats, but the winner is definitely Wonder Woman versus Steppenwolf, with Aquaman/surfer dude riding on the Batmobile a close second. Warner Bros. is clearly selling this film based on the strength of its cast, and they all look like they’re nailing their parts. If Joss Whedon can nail the character interactions that he’s so good at writing while keeping Snyder’s visual style and sense of scale, this could surprise a lot of people.
Ok, I’m done drooling over the trailer. Now let’s talk about the things that worry me. First, there’s a ton of CGI. Like, too much. It’s pretty hard to tell exactly what’s happening during the Batmobile sequences, as it just looks like visual effects overload. The red tint is striking, but I worry it will numb the viewer when combined with the sheer amount of CGI involved in the setting and the explosions. Second, it is concerning that we still haven’t had a really good shot of Steppenwolf, the main villain, in any trailer. If you pause at the moment when Wonder Woman and he are fighting, you can make out his face, but we still haven’t seen a fully finished shot of his whole person, which is a little concerning. But for now, I’m going to chalk it up to the fact that Warner is really pushing the team-up aspect of the film. I also am not a huge fan of the dominance of Jason Momoa in every scene he’s in. Don’t get me wrong, I love him as Aquaman so far. But I’m worried he’ll play up the surfer-bro angle in every single scene, which will get tiresome quickly. But I will say that the underwater fight scenes look spectacular. Bring on Atlantis. Last, but not least, I was hoping to hear a bit of Danny Elfman’s score in this trailer. I love the David Bowie cover, but I am extremely interested to hear what Elfman has cooked up. It is encouraging that Hans Zimmer’s Man of Steel theme is used at the beginning, and I hope that Elfman brings back that and Wonder Woman’s theme. I trust that Elfman knows what he’s doing, and that he can shake off his past few forgettable outings to offer a score on the level of Spider-Man, or, dare I say it, Tim Burton’s Batman, which has a theme that is most likely the definitive Batman theme.
It’s difficult to overstate how excited I am for this movie. I desperately want it to be good, not just because I grew up reading these comics, but also because I love these characters and the world that Zack Snyder (yes, I’m going to credit him, because I’ll go to bat for him any day of the week) has built over the past three movies (Suicide Squad was a bad dream). I’m looking at Justice League as the culmination of the Zack Snyder trilogy, and I am interested to see what sort of touches Joss Whedon will add. There’s no doubt that this isn’t the original vision Snyder intended post-Batman v. Superman, and the production issues are concerning. However, I’m strangely optimistic that Justice League can pull this off. I trust Whedon to handle the characters and Snyder to handle the spectacle.
Image Credits: IMDb