Quiet down, everyone! Professor Spielberg wants us to get serious. War Horse began life as a children’s book and was then transformed into a highly successful play that drew raves more for its brilliant puppetry than its compelling drama. And now Steven Spielberg has put on his “mature” beard and adapted it for the screen with all traces of children’s entertainment and, sadly, puppetry, removed. It’s not hard to see why the material drew the master’s eye as it’s pure box-office — and Oscar — bait: the classic story of a boy who loves a horse (but not, you know, in that way, loses horse to World War I, and then embarks on an epic quest to reunite with said horse.
But let’s be honest here: this trailer is ridiculous! Set to the pompous strum-und-drag of John Williams’ score, it ticks off a series of self-important boxes: A beautiful boy! A beautiful girl! A beautiful horse! Noble struggle. Much running down country roads. Soldiers! Suffering! Sunsets! Sure, the cast is jam-packed with the best RADA graduates who weren’t already contracted to class up Harry Potter (Emily Watson, Benedict Cumberbatch, David Thewlis, Tom Hiddleston) and the cinematography (by Spielberg mainstay Januscz Kaminski) bleeds tepid tastefulness. But the overall effect is like being hugged to death by a history book, the sort of schmaltzy uplift that is one redonkulous tagline (“You Will Believe a Horse Can Win the Great War!” Or: “In a Time of Trouble, One Brave Soul Said: Neigh!”) away from running in front of Tropic Thunder 2.