Trailer Takes: Black Panther, The New Mutants, and Molly’s Game

October 18, 2017

Black Panther https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjDjIWPwcPU

Xavier: Damn, Marvel! Back at it again with yet another blockbuster film. The past few years have seen a number of sequels and reboots (I’m looking at you Spider-man), so for me Black Panther represents an influx of fresh excitement. If this trailer is any indication, viewers should look forward to diving headfirst into a new world of futuristic technologies and dynamic characters. Everything from casting, to set designs, to costumes, seem to have been incredibly well conceived and carried out. Due to its various action sequences—as well as a few philosophical questions targeted at our protagonist—the trailer hints that Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) will grapple with both an internal and an external conflict over the course of the story. While his inner conflict seems to take the form of a quest for self-discovery, his external conflict is presented through the story’s chaos-inducing political agitator (Michael B. Jordan). Layered behind the action and dialogue of the trailer, a voice repeats “the revolution will not be televised.” From this, viewers begin to understand that the stage has been set, and the stakes are high for all characters involved. A revolution is brewing and the audience has a front row seat. With its striking visuals, a powerhouse cast (Boseman, Jordan, Angela Bassett, Lupita Nyong’o), and Marvel affiliation, Black Panther has all the necessary ingredients to become a box office smash hit. Everyone knows to expect a high caliber of storytelling from Marvel by now, and nothing about this trailer suggests that fans should taper their expectations. Come next year, I’ll definitely make the effort to see this movie on the big screen.

Clare:  This trailer definitely served to highlight what I think will be the film’s strengths–an astonishingly diverse and well-developed cast of characters seems to be in the wings for this long-awaited extension of the MCU.  Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa already looks as perfect here as in Civil War, as he attempts to works through his conflicting identities as king and hero.  And if the actual film gives as much screentime to the women as this trailer promises, Marvel may end up addressing their gender and racial representation problems in the same movie.  However, the shots of CGI battles look worse than some of their other films (see the groundbreaking visuals of Doctor Strange, for instance), and Killmonger’s (Michael B. Jordan) outfit looks downright cheesy.  Nevertheless, the hints of Afrofuturism (see Killmonger’s tribal mask) and breathtaking outdoor visuals (including a shot of the savannah that seemed straight out of The Lion King) promise what looks to be beautifully-shot, well-acted, action-packed new superhero movie for fans who have become tired of the MCU’s white guy formula.

Mike: So let me just start by saying visually I am very impressed with this already. I think that this is the best attempt at world-building I have seen out of Marvel thus far. I was never stoked about Thor’s Asgard and Spider-Man’s New York was never that stunning, but this looks complete and stunningly unique. I am interested in the scale of this movie as well. Production-wise, the scale seems grand for an origin story, but admittedly knowing less about the Black Panther than other superheros involved in the franchise for years makes me excited about what is to come, especially considering the diversity of the cast that is often lacking in the MCU. My only complaint is that I don’t love Michael B. Jordan’s line deliveries from what I have seen. He seems a little to arch to be an interesting villain at this point, but I will reserve my opinions for the film.


The New Mutants https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bu9e410C__I&t=1s

Xavier: Given my name, I was excited to learn that this story would be taking place in the X-Men universe. I have special place in my heart for a certain professor and his school for gifted youngsters. Still, despite all existing biases, this trailer did little to win me over on its own merit. Simply put, a lot is going on here. The trailer heavily utilizes rapid cuts in its latter half to convey a sense of urgency and heightened stakes, but those cuts only create an atmosphere of busyness and confusion. The trailer’s greatest deficiency is that it tells rather than shows. Viewers are told that the primary characters are dangerous mutants, but no evidence of that is actually shown. Not a single character is shown to possess any uniquely mutant-like abilities. For a movie about mutants, this trailer has alarmingly few mutants. In order to distinguish itself from the typical horror films abounded with jump scares, breathless running, and bloodcurdling screams, this film will have to focus in on the mutant aspect of its characters. Viewers got no glimpses into that facet of the plot. Game of Thrones fans might be excited to see that Maisie Williams plays a prominent role in the film, but not even a sword-wielding Arya Stark could convince me to waste a few hours sitting through this one.

Clare: A fresh perspective on the superhero genre? Well, with comic book properties quickly becoming commonplace (seriously, we’re up to about five new genre entries each year), the studio heads at Fox-Marvel would be fools not to try and shake things up.  Sadly, despite the interesting premise–superheroes as horror monsters–The New Mutants doesn’t seem capable of living up to its potential.  Instead of an exploration of humanity’s fear of the unknown and unusual, the film seems content to rely on the worst tropes in horror.  Lazy jump scares and overwrought dialogue about in what appears to be an unusual misfire for the X-Men franchise. Even the addition of Game of Thrones’s charming Maisie Williams probably won’t be enough to salvage this film.

Mike: So I’m not a huge, scary remix of “Another Brick in the Wall” fan, just going to put that out there. This took me a few viewings to figure out, but I think we are looking at the first Marvel horror movie? That does sound interesting on the surface at least, but every moment seemed like a jump-scare trope. Panning over the graveyard, faces and hands pushing through the walls, and a fast cut to show that Masie Williams and the guy from Stranger Things are in it, are not novel concepts, and I think such an interesting genre crossover deserves something a little bit more nuanced. In general, it isn’t a good sign when someone need to say “It’s a haunted house” with a cut to a person taking off a random, disturbing mask.


Molly’s Game https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8K3GVgiOqhg

Xavier: I’m a sucker for a well-executed nonlinear timeline, and this film seems to be trying its hand at just that. Admittedly, the concept of an undercover criminal is hardly original to the world of cinema. However, this film will distinguish itself from many others of the same genre by finding the plot’s principal felon, Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), in hot water near the beginning rather than in the end. It seems as if the present storyline will be driven by Molly’s intermittent recollections of the past, while she and her lawyer (Idris Elba) use that information to escape her current legal predicament. All in all, the trailer succeeds at striking a healthy balance between revealing too much and revealing too little. Viewers are able to glean important plot points from the trailer, while still having room to speculate on how the nuances of those plot points will unfold. The casting department also seem to have outdone themselves, as Chastain feels natural and convincing in the role of a humanized criminal mastermind. It took a few watches, but my interest has been piqued. If this roughly two minute preview is any indication, Molly’s Game should be a real treat for audiences.

Clare: Quick cuts, rapid-fire dialogue, and Idris Elba and Jessica Chastain giving what looks like extraordinary performances? Yep, this must be an Aaron Sorkin film.  Sorkin has always been good at dealing with the more complicated aspects of humanity (see The Social Network or Moneyball), but his venture into the world of high-stakes poker seems like his most morally-gray movie so far.  Chastain’s Molly is an unusual heroine–she appears reckless, driven, and headstrong, in a way that is usually reserved for male antiheroes.  But Chastain’s nuanced acting (not to mention serious chemistry with Elba) should go a long way towards making her character appealing to audiences.  As for the rest, we shall see if Sorkin’s talent encompasses any field other than writing in his directorial debut. And we’ll see how many of his signature “walk-and-talk” scenes he manages to fit into the movie.  I’m no Molly, but I’m willing to bet on it.

Mike: I think this trailer follows a distinct model of someone preparing to pull off a hustle/heist. This is definitely a male-dominated genre if the film has a serious tone. However this trailer stands out because Jessica Chastain stands powerfully at the center of a space traditionally open for men, both as an actor and within the film itself. The casting is interesting here; I like Chastain in her role and Idris Elba is never a bad pick, but Brian d’Arcy James, Michael Cera, and Chris O’Dowd are more concerning. Comedic actors like them could undermine the serious tone driven by Chastain in this trailer.

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