It's been way too long since I've done one of these posts. To tell you the truth, I've been largely avoiding trailers this season, because I don't want to spoil some of this winter's awards contenders for myself. I've actually been pretty successful at avoiding any previews for films like "Brooklyn," "Spotlight," and even "The Martian." However, the trailers for this year's bigger would-be blockbusters have been coming out fast and furious, and I haven't been able to resist taking a peek. Here's a quick rundown of some of the highlights.
Warcraft - I'm not sure what I was expecting from a Warcraft movie, but it wasn't this. I'm not too familiar with the fantasy game franchise this is based on, but the first trailer makes it look awfully B-movie, more "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters" than "Lord of the Rings." The orc characters in particular look like they belong in an animated film because of the designs. I don't know that I'm going to be able to take the story as seriously as I think I'm intended to. I've liked director Duncan Jones' previous work, so I'll definitely give this a chance, but my expectations aren't very high right now. Release date's not until June, however, so there's plenty of time left to polish those visuals.
Alice Through the Looking Glass - James Bobin of the recent Muppet films is taking over from Tim Burton, with most of the cast intact - I was actually a little relived to see Anne Hathaway and Helena Bonham Carter, and to hear Alan Rickman's voice over. The only other major addition will be Sacha Baron Cohen as Time. It looks like the sequel will be doubling down on the ornate art direction, which was the best part of "Alice in Wonderland," and on the prominent involvement of Johnny Depp, which I'm less thrilled about. Again, no big expectations here, but I do think this universe has some potential for better things, and I can't help hoping for some improvements on the last installment.
Hail, Caesar! - The Coen brothers are sitting out the Oscar race this year, with their latest comedy premiering in February. I choose to believe that this is purely due to Universal's lack of guts after a rough fall season rather than any weakness of the picture itself. I've always preferred the Coens' comedies to their dramas, and this one looks like a blast. A Golden Age Hollywood spoof with George Clooney playing another glorious idiot, and Josh Brolin, Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, and plenty of other familiar faces along for the ride? Count me in! After a string of glummer movies from Coens like "Inside Llewyn Davis" and "True Grit," I'm ready for some silliness again.
The Huntsman: Winter's War - This is the most confounding thing I've seen in a while. It's a "Snow White and the Huntsman" prequel/sequel starring Chris Hemsworth's character, desperately trying to finagle its story around the events of the previous film. I'm both aghast and kind of impressed at how much they're trying to capitalize off of the success of "Frozen." Clearly the biggest draw is the three excellent actresses who have somehow agreed to be in the cast, Charlize Theron, Emily Blunt, and Jessica Chastain. It's probably too early to say much, but every instinct I have is telling me this one is a stinker. The effects work looks gorgeous, though, so I'll probably end up giving it a watch at some point.
Captain America: Civil War - Captain America fighting Iron Man should be a lot of fun, but the trailer seems to indicate that the showdown isn't going to be all that serious, unlike the Batman v. Superman match happening a few weeks prior. The ideological split from the comics storyline has been replaced largely by Cap's efforts to keep Bucky away from the authorities who want to jail him for his crimes, so you can tell nobody's heart is really in the fight. I never found the Bucky character appealing at all, so I'm hardly feeling invested in the outcome either. At least with the Russo brothers directing again, we'll get some good action scenes.
The BFG - Exactly what a teaser should be, from the brevity to the brief glimpses of the title character to the decision not to explain what the BFG is just yet. I have to say it's a little strange seeing Steven Spielberg's name up there with Disney, but if that's what it takes these days to get a Roald Dahl book adapted to screen with any kind of faithfulness, I'll take it. I'm so relieved to find that Sophie hasn't been aged up, the score is old school, and the mood and tone are just right. This is currently my most anticipated summer film for 2016.
X-Men: Apocalypse - This is the last "X-men" film with the "First Class" crew, right? It's good to see some new faces like Sophie Turner and Kodi Smit-McPhee, but once again I'm happiest at the return of James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Jennifer Lawrence. The new movies are still mining their prequel status for marketing material, but otherwise seemed to have settled into their own groove, thankfully. This time out, lots of gloomy end times imagery promises a big team-up battle. I wish we could see more of Oscar Isaac, who seems totally lost under all the purple Apocalypse make-up, but it's early yet.
Independence Day: Resurgence - Kudos to whoever cut this trailer, because it's easily the most effective of all the ones on this list. It did something that none of the other managed - it got me to reverse my position on a film I'd already written off, in this case an "Independence Day" sequel without Will Smith. Now I'm actually looking forward to it. This still looks very stupid, in the usual Roland Emmerich fashion, but it looks like a different brand of stupid than what we saw the first time around. New weapons! New characters! Bigger scale conflict! Upgraded effects! And I admit it. I've missed Jeff Goldblum too.
Batman v. Superman - I'll say it again. I do not trust Zack Snyder not to screw this up. However, he does a great job with trailers and the Comic-Con preview released over the summer remains a very impressive piece of work. I like that the wide-scale destruction of "Man of Steel" that so many critics called out has become a major plot point in the follow-up. I like that the uncertainty of public opinion feels so true to life, and that there's a real sense of animosity between our brawlers. I like Jesse Eisenberg. Please note that I am linking to the older teaser and not the new one, because the spoilers are just too much.
Star Trek: Beyond - Oh, good grief. I like Justin Lin and I'm rooting for him to succeed, but this just looks embarrassing. Why on earth, after all the complaints from the fanbase about the "Star Trek" movies becoming to blockbustery, would you try to sell the newest movie as "Fast & Furious" in spaaaaaaaace? This is one of those times where I am hoping that all the big action scenes were shown in the trailer, and the actual movie is going to be much more sedate. I haven't forgotten about the misleading "Annapolis" trailer, Mr. Lin.
Finding Dory - There's not much to the teaser, but it's enough. I wasn't too excited about this sequel when it was first announced, but I've come around. I like the idea of a film built around Dory, who is such a unique character. Ellen DeGeneres's performance was really the highlight of "Finding Nemo," which is honestly not one of my favorite PIXAR films. Maybe I'm still feeling the afterglow from "Inside Out," but I really think that "Finding Dory" could be better than its predecessor.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - Okay, sure. I guess I'm up for another eight movies of this.