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Today we are cancelling the apocalypse!


Attack of the Sci-Fi Trailers

The last week has seen a deluge of trailers for some of next year’s big bucks blockbusters, predominately science fiction-related and three of which representing something of a risk as they’re original material. So how do they stack up against each other?

Oblivion
UK Release Date: 12 April 2013
US Release Date: 19 April 2013


 Tom Cruise looks to further cement his career comeback (albeit based on one big hit) by attaching himself to this Joseph Koskinski film. Kosinski’s debut was TRON: Legacy, which earned both brickbats and plaudits but most agreed that it featured some stunning visuals. Oblivion will likely continue that at very least but, as with TRON, the script for this may be of questionable merit. Kosinski came up with the idea, an eight-page treatment that was turned into an illustrated novella (the release delayed until the film comes out), but there’s little sense of a meaty premise to this trailer.

Tom’s (as others have noted, Wall-E-like) a maintenance worker on a deserted future Earth who comes across Morgan Freeman. And Olga Kurylenko tells him he’s not who he thinks he is. And there are some monsters/mutants. And Tom may be in the future but don't worry he’s relatable because he likes the Superbowl and shoots hoops. And there are lots of BWAAAAA BWAAAAA sounds, so you know this is big and dramatic like every post-Inception trailer. Sometimes Morgan Freeman can be a real lift to a story, sometimes he makes Chain Reaction; I’m not getting a hugely positive vibe from him here. Nice eye goggles, though. And very nice design work generally. Tom’s getting ordered to stand down. Twice. Andrea Riseborough features quite a bit, which is a good sign, but no glimpse of Nikolaj Coster-Waldau or Melisa Leo (unless I missed them).

This looks like it wants to be intelligent sci-fi, which is to be celebrated. But in this trailer it hasn’t translated into a must-see factor. “Earth is a memory worth fighting for” is a wishy-washy tagline. Hopefully the next spot will have more of a grip on the story, or make the mystery more compelling.

Business: By the time this is out, Jack Reacher will or won’t have become a big hit. Oblivion has about five months to work out its marketing (provide it isn’t a stinker, in which case nothing will save it), but right now I’d be surprised if it does much more than $120m US/$300m worldwide.

***/5

After Earth
 UK/US Release Date: 7 June 2013


Oh look, another deserted Earth movie (this time quarantined), from Cruise’s buddy Will Smith. But is it really a Will Smith movie, or is it a Jaden Smith vehicle, the young nepote claiming a summer blockbuster by stealth under daddy’s star power? It’s been suggested that Will won’t see out the film, so that may well be the case. Along for the ride is M Night Shyamalan, who didn’t originate the screenplay but has a co-writer’s credit (Stephen Gaghan’s presence at least suggests it may have a bit of nuance). With this and The Last Airbender, the director has eased off on self-originated projects; probably because they have received increasingly mixed receptions.

So all the animals on the planet have evolved to kill humans (this seems peculiar, if there are no humans present). More importantly, we learn that fear is not real; it is a product of thoughts we create. Fear is a choice. Very rousing, Will. Are these those deadly engrams we must seek to eliminate? Whether or not Smith is espousing a doctrine, it has that whiff.

As trailers go, it’s better put together than Oblivion. Yet I have no interest in seeing a Jaden Smith movie, and I didn’t bother checking out Shyamalan’s last picture. What it does with the significance of the revelation that this is Earth is more questionable; it appears to be all about Jaden’s quest for survival (the imdb synopsis tells us he is trying to recover a rescue beacon, and that Will’s playing General Cypher Raige; I kid you not).

Business: Will this do well for Will? I can’t see it making much more than $100m US/$300m worldwide, unless there’s some added ingredient that makes it a discussion piece (the Shyamalan factor, basically)

***/5

Pacific Rim
UK/US Release Date: 12 July 2013


More BWAAAA BWAAAA. Big robots. Big monsters. Duking it out. It’s like Transformers meets Cloverfield. Or something. Fanboys have been getting all over-excited by this because it's Guillermo Del Toro directing. And I can understand that; he has a rock solid track record (even Mimic is okay), he’s an unashamed geek and presumably this premise is tickling an itch for many. And it features Idris Elba (although that didn’t stop Prometheus getting a drubbing).

But I’m not sold on this, or excited. Enlisting actors rather than stars (Charlie Hunman, Elba) can add credibility to your project (see Ridley Scott’s 2012 film)  it won’t save it if you can’t tell people why they need to see the film. Alien life came from a beneath the sea, a portal between dimensions? Lovecraft lives on. The premise is so cheesy that the self-importance of the trailer makes the whole thing look no fun at all. The robot designs aren’t all that, and the control suits’ virtual movement doesn’t come across very well. Worst of all is the dialogue, which is all-round terrible (“Let’s go fishing”, “Today we are cancelling the apocalypse!”)

This could be one of those movies that the internet goes wild for but the general public can’t see the attraction (Scott Pilgrim vs The World).

Business: I’m iffy at the moment, I can’t see this getting Transformers numbers, or being the hit Del Toro really needs to get In the Mountains of Madness off the ground. It may do decent business in the rest of the world, but at the moment I reckon $70m US/$250m worldwide.

**/5

Star Trek into Darkness
UK/US Release Date: 17 May 2013



Who Benedict Cumberbatch is playing is all everyone (everyone who gives a shit, anyway) can talk about. That, and how J J Abrams should quit already with being such a perpetual tease. Except Sherlock is playing John Harrison, a footnote in Trek lore. Is he actually someone else? An agent for Khan?

More voice overs, ominous BWAAAAs and proclamations (“I have returned – to have my vengeance”) and exciting glimpses of things you want to see more of; the Enterprise underwater, an alien planet with flora of a peculiar reddish hue, a provocative shot that echoes Kirk/Spock in Wrath of Khan (hands meeting against a glass wall). And de rigueur mass destruction.

Nothing terribly original, but effectively brief nevertheless.

Business: It will likely build on the success of the 2009 film, that only made $128m in the rest of the world (peanuts compared to the expectation for most films to now do the majority of their business outside the US).  It will probably end up with something not too far off the original’s $250m US tally, but what’s the ceiling on the series abroad? $250m US/$450m worldwide.

***1/2/5

Man of Steel
UK/US Release Date: 14 June 2013


I really liked the first Malick-esque teaser; this comes across as a little more generic, and all together more portentous than the Reeves era (but with Christopher Nolan producing, it’s little surprise that Clark has been dirtied up – why, he’s even sporting an unruly mass of whiskers!), particularly with the heavenly choir accompaniment. And glimpses of Zod and Lois (not sure about Crowe’s armour as Jor-El, but Costner seems like perfect casting). There’s not much plot here, but it neatly re-positions the question of how Supes would work in today’s era but I assuming that he would be rejected.

Business: For such a definably homegrown superhero, the films have historically done about 50/50 US and rest of the world. So far this is being sold with finesse and care, and expectation (and the desire) for a rebirth for the hero to take away the bad taste of Superman Returns is high. $300m US/$600m worldwide.

****/5

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