‘The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.’
Those choice words, from Robert Burns, stuck with me this week as I found myself staring at a half-completed feature about the new Ant-Man and Terminator Genisys trailers. Then along comes Thursday… and with it one of the best teaser trailers to ever ignite the internet. Naturally I sat for a while, waiting for the tears in my eyes to dry (it really was that good!), considering which film to throw aside for this rowdy upstart. I figured it would be best to hang fire until Friday, when I would be decidedly less emotional (did I happen to mention it was good?) and could mull things over a little better.
Oh, Friday… why?
I had just about decided which trailer would get the boot when two of the biggest known comic-book properties steam in and begin messing up the place. So that, as they say, was that! Goodbye Ant-Man and your humorous execution of small-scale epic action (that train scene did get a chuckle out of me- kudos to Marvel). Farewell Terminator Genisys and your intriguing yet completely spoilerific trailer (nope, don’t need to see that movie anymore). Time to stand aside because we’re in the big leagues now!
I’m talking, of course, about the new Star Wars and Batman v Superman trailers.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
It’s happening! It really isn’t a dream. Star Wars is back… and in a big way. In fact, the word ‘big’ pretty much sums up that opening tracking shot with the speeder crossing the arid landscape (of what we are now told isn’t Tatooine as we had all presumed but instead another desert planet named Jakku) where in the background lies a downed Star Destroyer. If there is one thing we have learned from the Star Trek (2009) reboot it’s that JJ Abrams knows how to handle scale. It brings back memories of the first film, with that never-ending (well it seems that way when you’re about 4 years old) pan along the gargantuan underbelly of the pursuing Destroyer. That sense of wondrous scale was sorely lacking from the prequels and already, in just a teaser trailer, I can sense the childlike awe come creeping back. Top it off with some good old Binary Sunset and I can feel the hairs on my arms raising.
The trailer cuts to black and gives us a moment for that awesome vista to settle in before hitting us with more familiar warmth; the voice of a certain Jedi Knight by the name of Skywalker. The quote from Mark Hamill concerning his family and the Force drops us right back inside Episode VI, accompanied by the dreaded mechanical breath of Vader and an image of his iconic (now melted) mask. More intriguing is the shot itself, a kind of voyeuristic look over the shoulder which begs the question: who has the mask? Could it be Kylo Ren, the rumoured relic hunter who has been collecting all manner of Sith memorabilia? Next we see Artoo and a cloaked figure with an artificial hand. I presumed initially that this was Luke but cannot help but wonder if that is, as Vader once suggested, ‘all too easy.’ And what about that background? You can just about discern some sort of rocky outcrop whilst some embers flit across the screen. Another burial or are we maybe making a second trip to the lava planet of Mustafar?
The questions keep on coming when a lightsaber, bearing an uncanny resemblance to the one Luke lost in Cloud City, is handed to an unseen female. Hamill says ‘my sister has it’ in reference to the Force which led me to think of Leia (oops, should have issued a spoiler alert there- my bad!) but perhaps this is actually Rey, the character portrayed by newcomer Daisy Ridley, who we can’t help but notice lacks a surname. Miss Skywalker? Miss Solo? Hamill signs off by saying ‘You have that power too’ and (after being reminded of how long we have to wait… Christmas!?!? Sigh…) we are bombarded with a flurry of fast cuts to electrify the eyes and send your head spinning.
X-Wings in flight and the euphoric cheer from a rebel pilot (or perhaps Resistance pilot if the rumours of changes from Empire/Rebellion to Order and Resistance are to be believed) Poe Dameron, another of the saga’s new torchbearers played by Ex-Machina star Oscar Isaac, pretty much sums up the feeling of elation propelled by this agonisingly brief trailer. We jump from explosions to a menacing Kylo Ren giving his best Force-Choke to the camera; from the new stormtroopers massing in front of a huge red banner (which bears a new emblem, much varied from that of the traditional Imperial insignia… and just who is that tiny figure standing atop the podium, I wonder) to a Tie-Fighter blasting a hangar into smithereens and the long-awaited Chrome-Trooper striding down a hallway (Game of Thrones’ Gwendoline Christie would be my bet here). The last member of this new trio comes in the form of an often breathless and skittish looking John Boyega (Attack the Block) as Finn, who looks as though his character is having a rough time of it all when he is helped to his feet, just seconds before the Millennium Falcon tears across our screens and swoops down through into the exhaust port of another ruined starship, a screeching Tie-Fighter hot in pursuit.
And then comes the money shot, the one that in any other film might be considered cheesy but in the Star Wars universe is (pun intended) right at home. Han Solo and Chewbacca; back on screen and most certainly welcome.
Cue the tears.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Comic-books were something that I had considered dabbling in over the years but never knew where to start. Heading into a store as a newbie is intimidating to say the least. Where on Earth do you begin? Which character do you start with? Which stories are stand-alones and which form an arc?
A friend of mine passed me one of his. ‘Start with this,’ he told me. ‘You don’t need to know much going in, just enjoy it, and if this doesn’t do it for you, then perhaps comics are not your thing!’ The book he passed me was The Dark Knight Returns, the very first graphic novel I ever read, and the rest was… well… history.
Now, whilst Christopher Nolan has dipped his toe somewhat into the realm of this astonishing and groundbreaking re-imagining of the Caped Crusader via the last film of his Batman trilogy he didn’t explore it to the extremes that I think we all hope that this new film is aiming for. The bar has been set high, not only because the Bat is coming off of a well-recieved series of films that helped relaunch a dying franchise (we’re looking at you, Joel Schumacher!) but also thanks to the fantastic animated two-part adaptation of The Dark Knight Returns (two films that should be seen by any self-professed Batman fan).
In March of 2016 (and here’s me thinking Star Wars was a bit of a wait!) two of the most iconic, influential and beloved characters of the DC Universe will battle it out for silver-screen supremacy, and though I have my reservations in respect of this film (I love Man of Steel (2013) but as a follow on from that movie I can certainly understand the trepidation some fans feel towards BvS- even the most ardent fan of Zack Snyder’s last film can surely agree that it was as flawed as it was wonderful) I know that whatever happens, the first time I see those guys sharing the same scene I’m going to want to punch the air frantically with joy. I wasn’t sure at first about discussing a leaked version of the trailer but thankfully Warner Brothers and DC decided it was best to forego the original April 20th release and let us see the whole thing with its intended final polish.
We start with a voice who asks us; ‘is it really surprising that the most powerful man in the world should be a figure of controversy?’ Right away we are off, with the clear intent of following up the events of Man of Steel with the most probable and logical aftermath that would follow as a result. Gone are the days of the Christopher Reeve incarnation where we look to the skies and gasp and call out ‘Good job Superman!’ No, in this modern and sometimes scary world, when an alien comes to our planet and inadvertently brings some of his angry god-like buddies along with him, our natural response is fear. And then when the whole group begin tearing buildings from the ground (the Man of Tomorrow included- oh, the shame) what else is mankind meant to do but rally against them? This idea and the whole concept of power and its effect seems to lay the groundwork for this spiritual sequel and the benchmark for the beginnings of the DC cinematic universe, and I for one welcome it. As voices layer on top of voices, we hear the unfolding opinions and cries of the people (‘They are not telling us the truth!’ ‘This is our planet!’ ‘Absolute power corrupts!’) and it is not difficult to see how this mirrors our own societies reactions towards the bodies and organisations that govern our real life. Where Nolan’s trilogy saw the return of a much darker and grittier tone, I believe this film will delve even further, bringing the escapism of the movies and the reality of daily life that much closer together. Could this be the wrong direction? Could it be, dare I say, too dark, too close to the knuckle? Or could it be the perfect symmetry between art and truth?
Either way, whatever you take away from this film (and let’s bear in mind this is only a trailer after all) it’s going to be an entertaining ride.
The camera zooms in slowly and spotlights ignite to reveal a statue, shrouded in shadow. The voice of Jesse Eisenberg, who will play Superman’s great nemesis Lex Luthor, speaks one of the standout lines of the teaser (of which there are a few!): ‘We know better now, don’t we? Devils don’t come from the Hell beneath us. They come from the sky.’ Say what you will about the controversial casting of Eisenberg (and yes I know we still haven’t seen how he fits the role as yet) but that line epitomises Lex perfectly and I can’t help but wonder if he is trying to convince someone to see Superman as he does (Bruce Wayne, perhaps?). We hear a baying crowd declare ‘GO HOME!’ before we finally get to see the statue lit up in its entirety: The hero, Superman, and across that famous ‘S’ icon are the words ‘FALSE GOD’, spray painted in blood red.
Bang! There’s your tone. Now, how to drive the point home? Enter Batfleck and the voice of Jeremy Irons as Alfred.
‘That’s how it starts. The fever. The rage. The feeling of powerlessness that turns good men… cruel.’ Spoken as only Mr. Irons could, with that edgy timbre to his words. Is he speaking to Bruce directly? Is this setting us up for the version of Batman we will see in March; a more twisted, more morally ambiguous Batman? I have had no reservations about the casting of Ben Affleck as the Bat. Sure, the guy has had some missteps (cough, Gigli (2003), cough) but he is without a doubt a talent to be reckoned with and has more than certified his position with hits like The Town (2010) and Argo (2012). There are even days when I don’t mind his rendition of Daredevil (2003) so much, a cinematic train wreck that almost derailed Affleck from comic-book movies forever. When you ultimately examine the exemplary work of Frank Miller in The Dark Knight Returns and see how his particular portrayal of a much gruffer and battle-hardened Batman operates within the context of the world Miller creates, and then pit that against Affleck’s acting chops I find it easy to reconcile the actor and the character as one. In other words, I have faith in our new Dark Knight.
A short montage shows us tantalising glimpses of the things to come; distant shots of Batman in a moonlit vandalised hallway (the scale of which points me towards Wayne Manor… surely not?), a jet or perhaps drone soaring above the docks, shredding a car to pieces with rapid gunfire, the rear of the Batmobile racing into action…
And then the moment we are all waiting for, the moment the whole film is predicated on. Batman, in his mechanical suit from the novel, stares up at Superman floating above him and throws out the greatest line of the trailer, subsequently providing the answer to a question a lot of people have been wondering. Is he going to have the same ragged, choked-up voice that Bale gave us? The answer is no. We can hear him perfectly when he says to the Man of Steel: ‘Tell me, do you bleed?’
Superman plummets to the ground. Pause for effect…
Batman: ‘YOU WILL!’
Take my money now, WB. Just take it!
— Batman v Superman (@BatmanvSuperman) April 17, 2015
In conclusion: It was a good week to be a film fan.