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Trailers of the Week: The Hunger Games, The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man, and More

The Hunger Games — Trailer no. 2 (March 23)
Silver: I’m going to start by stating the obvious — books and movies are not the same thing. Just speaking to the form, a written narrative is a much more enveloping and demanding (in a good way) medium since the majority of the experience is left to the reader’s imagination. This is not saying that movies are an inferior medium; they just employ different and more overt tools to tell stories and extract responses. Therefore, certain scenarios that work on the page, do not, and cannot, translate to the screen.

This is just one of the many reasons why I rarely compare a film to the book it was based on. I try and force myself to view them as different interpretations of the same story that can be equally enjoyed. Not like how The Magnificent Seven was a reinterpretation of The Seven Samurai, but more like how a fable can be tweaked and appropriated, depending on who’s telling it. There will inevitably be slight differences, but in the best of cases, they’re both great — Jurassic Park, Harry Potter 3-8, and Jaws (“Smile, you son of a bitch,” is a much better ending than the shark dying of indigestion). The times I find myself taking issue is when filmmakers get so filled with hubris that they disregard the strength of what’s on the page for their own ideas (yeah, I’m talking to you, Steven Spielberg and The Lost World).

But as a fan of The Hunger Games book series (yes, I’m a fan, and no, I have not read any of the Twilight books or seen any of the films), for its upcoming cinematic interpretation I can’t help but disregard everything above because for me … not you … me, what made the books so unique is the biased, naive, and skewed first-person explanation of the unfolding events by the main character Katniss Everdeen. So unless I missed the credit that Morgan Freeman would be voicing Katniss’ inner monologue, it’s hard for me to assume this film is going to be anything more than a potentially vapid, surface-level money grab.

More than this, if a simplistic retelling is what Gary Ross’ film is going to be, then why in two officially released trailers have we seen little to no action from the actual Hunger Games (trailer no. 1 is here)? And the little footage we have seen has basically been recycled shot-for-shot from the first trailer to the second. Should we sound the alarm? Not yet, but let’s all keep our fingers close to the button.

Browne: My first real Harry Potter experience was seeing HP7P2 in theaters (I went to no. 3, but fell asleep). Having never read the books, I spent most of the movie waiting for Harry and Hermione to make out, while sitting at the edge of my seat taking in the incredible story and the breathtaking sounds and visuals. Not reading the books made this one of the greatest movie experiences of my life.

One of the six reasons that reading books is silly is that you can go watch a movie adaptation of a book with a blissful ignorance that doesn’t make you jaded and cynical. I’m sure this movie isn’t the best representation of the book, but I didn’t read the book, and therefore this movie looks phenomenal. I didn’t even know what the Hunger Games was about until watching the trailer, but now that I do, I’m obsessed.

Take This Waltz (June 29)
Silver: Based on this emo indie-rock-laden trailer I’m assuming that the primary focus of Take This Waltz is on a love triangle between Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, and some generic-looking handsome guy. Other than some broad dialogue about how life is confusing and a surplus of shots of actors doing “actory” things, this trailer is rather empty. Oh, Sarah Silverman’s also in the film, in what appears to be the “best friend” role. (Her appearance here must mean Judy Greer was unavailable, right?)

I have to believe that this is not the official trailer, and we’ll receive something a little less “Film Festival Sale Reel-y” soon. Because of this, and the fact that Take This Waltz is written and directed by Sarah Polley — the actor turned part-time writer/director whose rookie effort was the excellent Away From Her — I am willing to give this film the benefit of the doubt.

Browne: I, on the other hand, am not. Love triangles, by definition, are exciting, but Take This Waltz has found a way to make the concept comically uninteresting. I leave the trailer wanting none of them to fall in love. With anyone. Ever. Also, it’s weird to see Michelle Williams back in long-haired-boy mode. I’m not knocking her for un-Marilyning herself, but it is a little startling this soon.

Bullhead (February 17)
Silver: Michael R. Roskam’s Bullhead is nominated for Best Foreign Film (from Belgium) at this year’s Oscars. Up until I saw this trailer I knew nothing of the film, or its writer/director. But now, after a mesmerizing 1:45, I am totally sold. The trailer is an ambiguous string of deliberately selected images. But unlike the Take This Waltz trailer, the vagueness here works to the trailer’s advantage because it also effectively establishes an attitude. The best compliment I can give Bullhead (without seeing it) is that the ominous tone and images contained in the trailer elicit memories and are worthy of comparisons to Danny Boyle’s films. Let’s site some specific examples, shall we?

  • An unconventionally framed character slowly comes into focus (:14): Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, The Beach, and Sunshine
  • Picturesque shots of nature, specifically skies and fields (:25): Trainspotting, The Beach, 28 Days Later, Millions, 127 Hours
  • Semi back-lit shady/über-male action (:32): Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, The Beach, and Sunshine
  • A grimy city and landscape with subtle, muted colors (:39): Shallow Grave and Trainspotting
  • A club soaked in blues, reds, and strobes (:52): Trainspotting and The Beach
  • A low-angle shot of a body being dragged (:57): Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, and A Life Less Ordinary
  • Silence, punctuated by moments of violence (1:00): 28 Days Later and 127 Hours
  • The camera spinning down a void between a spiral staircase (1:10): Shallow Grave
  • Characters sprinting through a field (1:19): 28 Days Later and Millions

As new films by a young auteur go, Bullhead appears to be one to keep an eye on.

Browne: Oh, and one last one:

  • Scene of walking through the club (1:08): Collateral, Save the Last Dance, Black Swan, Save the Last Dance 2.

The Avengers — Super Bowl Spot (May 4)

Silver: For a film I had great hesitations about, I have to give kudos to the Disney/Marvel marketing team. This is a great trailer. Each new look at The Avengers gets me more and more pumped for the film. Much more so than Thor, with its Warriors Three and Shakespeare-infested Asgard drama. I really felt that this film had the potential to stretch the audience’s willing suspension of disbelief to the point of snapping. It’s easy for an audience to buy into a film with one masked (and sometimes caped) vigilante when the surrounding supporting characters (minus the super villain) are normal. But this film had the potential to have audiences Etch-a-Sketching their heads after seeing a guy in a robot suit powered by a futuristic arc generator interact with a regally dressed, hammer-wielding Norse God who just got beat up by a giant green rage monster (to quote Tony Stark). But as the filmmakers of Thor proved, the best way to oppose the “ridiculousness factor” is to go all in on the “serious factor.” Make the stakes feel real, make the human connections between the characters appear genuine in the hopes that audiences will forget they’re watching a guy in a mask (with the letter “A” on it) battle evil with a red, white, and blue shield. And based on this trailer, this appears to be exactly what Joss Whedon has done. The music chosen for the trailer sets a menacing tone, which in turn helps heighten the “we need a hero” vibe. And that shot of all the Avengers assembling and standing back-to-back doesn’t seem cheesy at all. In fact, it gave me chills. My uncertainty about this film continues to subside, and now a joy-gasm is slowly building, just waiting to be released on May 4.

Browne: If the movie were simply that rotating shot of the six superheroes for two hours, I would stand in my chair, pour buttered popcorn on myself, and cheer for the entirety of the movie. It’s such an unbelievable shot, one that has me as excited for this film as any of the summer blockbusters. Also, Samuel Jackson is in it, continuing his streak of being seventh-billed actor in every profitable movie ever.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation — Super Bowl Spot (June 29)
Silver: After an unwatchable first installment, the producers of the G.I. Joe franchise (can we call it that?) did the right thing and went the way of the Fast and Furious films. They not only hired The Rock, but they also seem to have embraced their inner cheese. There ain’t nothing wrong with just being a fun and funny summer popcorn flick. The mountainside ninjas dangling from ropes while they sword fight (yeah … that’s right … awesome sauce) might just be worth the price of admission.

Also, can someone please tell Jay-Z that he can say “NO” when someone asks to use one of his tracks in their trailer. The guy has more or less “scored” every action-movie trailer for the past three months.

Browne: I happen to like the Jay-Z trailer trend. I’m really banking on the new Bond movie to either have one of those Jay-Z/Linkin Park mash-ups or “Glory,” the song about his newborn daughter. I can’t imagine the franchise going in any other direction.

The Amazing Spider-Man (July 3)
Silver: Our colleague Amos Barshad had an excellent and thorough take on this trailer this week, and if haven’t read it please take the time to do so (after you read this of course).

But I’d like to add one sentiment. Regardless of if this film is good or not, I feel this reboot, revamp, reintroduction of Spidey was completely unnecessary, and genuinely think that Spider-Man 1, 2, and 3 director Sam Raimi got screwed. After Joel Schumacher’s Batman films scared studios away from big-budget superhero movies, it was Raimi’s first Spider-Man that revived the genre. And for my money, Spider-Man 2 is one of the best comic book films of all time (just behind Donner’s Superman, Nolan’s The Dark Knight, but just in front of Del Torro’s Blade II). Sure, Spider-Man 3 was almost unwatchable, but it seemed pretty clear that “the powers that be” had more to do with the final product than Raimi did (because after all, the look of the film does need to match the McDonald’s collectors cups). But the guy deserved a chance to redeem himself, not be removed from Spidey 4 while he was in the midst of developing it (which happened). I do prefer this new cast to the Tobey-Dunst pairing, but no matter how good this film winds up being, I’m probably always going to look at it as an unnecessary entry to the canon. Plus without Sam, we’re all going to be deprived of a Bruce Campbell cameo.

Browne: While I go back and forth about the casting of Andrew Garfield, they are geniuses for getting Emma Stone and Denis Leary. I’ll spend the majority of the movie drooling over Emma and hating Denis, both extremely enjoyable experiences. At the end of the day, however, Spider-Man is closer to Aquaman than Batman, and for that reason alone, it will never secure any real space in my heart.

The Bourne Legacy — Teaser (August 3)
Silver: If this teaser is any indication of what might be arriving on August 3, then I’m going to put aside my loyalty to Damon and Greengrass, and embrace all that is Gilroy and Renner. The disjointed images at the start are not only reminiscent of Hitchcock, but are also a nice visual representation of the Treadstone agents’ mind-sets. When the familiar Bourne theme music creeped in and the uncertainty of what this film is slipped away, I found myself getting giddy about this reboot and wanted to see more, more, more. The rest did not disappoint. There are glimpses of previous Bourne film vets in Joan Allen, David Strathairn, and Albert Finney (in all his evil Godfather of Treadstone glory). And got a quick look of Ed Norton in what appears to be the latest addition to the Bourne baddy/pursuer roster. Renner looks like he’s perfected his scowl and is ready to kick some ass. The set pieces look intense and varied, and the overall tone established feels consistent with the previous Bournes. With all this, I’m willing to forgive the soap-opera conceit that “there was never just one” or, as Norton says, “Jason Bourne was the tip of the iceberg.” This is an exceptional teaser trailer, and quickly placed The Bourne Legacy in my “eagerly anticipated” column for this summer’s crop of movies.

Browne: I have never been the type to say rude things about Matt Damon, but after this teaser, I have no problem with him getting replaced. I once thought that the franchise depended on him for survival. False. The story has proven to be significantly more important than the actor playing the role. While I’m pumped that they got Renner for the starring spot, I hope once they get to the seventh installment (The Bourne Hypertension), they bring back Matt and somehow have it be a Renner vs. Damon assassin-fest. That’s giving me the chills just thinking about it.