After a couple of years of coping to economic and creative woes, Hollywood has reinvested in the Super Bowl in a mighty, mighty way. The 2011 installment of the annual football fever dream saw a dramatic increase in both actual ads (14…and perhaps more) and numerous tie-ins (why else would the Fox TV cameras “accidentally” pick out certain celebrities, only to have the announcers name-check their latest upcoming release???). Along with promised promotions that either didn’t pan out (critics got a Drive Angry 3D ad in their inbox, but as far as any could tell, the spot didn’t make the “show”...did it?) or were there, pre-game, without warning (really, Limitless?), we got numerous peaks at the upcoming Summer Movie season. While star studded both in casting and in clout, the jury remains deadlocked on more than a few of these films. Still, Tinseltown tried to give us its best product pitch, and for the most part, they delivered.
So amongst the pretend Vaders and magic Doritos dust, numerous dull car commercials and occasional WTF moments (Joan Rivers for GoDaddy.com…huh?), we got 14 celluloid sneak peeks. While few ventured far from their already established pitch, a couple came with some substantive surprises. So, in no particular order, here are the 2011 offerings, beginning with one of the year’s most hotly anticipated:
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (Disney)
Unfortunately, the whole PoTC thing is starting to look like a drag act. Depp is clearly capitalizing on his international movie star mania to get the projects he wants greenlit. So who cares if this fourth (of many more, rumors reveal) looks as lame as a bad resort commercial. As long as it has bodices and buccaneers, potential audiences won’t/don’t care.
Just Go With It (Sony)
Winning the truth in advertising award for the film division, this Adam Sandler vehicle eschews all the other unfunny tomfoolery this limp raunch RomCom promises to focus on one thing -the ample attributes of Brooklyn Decker. Ocean slicked breasts have never been more overly featured in what is otherwise a forced bit of funny business. Well, at least they are giving the guys what they think want.
Battle: Los Angeles (Sony)
The long-form trailers for this interesting sci-fi action epic do a much better job of selling the premise. Without the additional info, one often gets the impression of a Skyline style insult. Advance word suggests something much bigger…and better. Of course, you’d never know by this ADD inspired ad.
Mars Needs Moms (Disney)
From the still slightly weird motion capture look of the CG to the John Candy meets Jack Black character Gribble, it’s hard to make heads or tales of this latest Disney effort. The TV ad (unlike the full trailer below) doesn’t go into much of the actual storyline, and the scenes chosen all appear overly dark and vague. As long as the fat guy is goofing around and acting silly, the House of Mouse must believe they’ve done their “Must See” marketing job.
Captain America: The First Avenger (Marvel)
Perhaps the most impressive thing about this otherwise typical comic book super hero hype is the moment when star Chris Evans has his 98 lb weakling physique scientifically transformed into a beefy hunk. It argues for some of the visual magic that previous teases have only hinted at. Like Thor, this needs to go over big with Messageboard membership, otherwise, the future of The Avengers is in peril.
Super 8 (Paramount)
Liked it - lens flares and all. While J. J. Abrams is clearly channeling his production pal S. Spielberg here, the overall vibe is the kind of outsized adventure that used to light up the annual Summer movie season. Instead of big muscles taking on brazen villains, we got stories with scope, charm, and a nice amount of visual awe. Abrams appears locked into said retro mode, and frankly, we can’t wait.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Paramount)
The first film was fine. The second was like a crack-addicted kid given free license in his own personal crazed candy store. Luckily, this latest installment is more Armageddon than Revenge of the Fallen (is that a good thing?). The sheer magnitude of the destruction the trailer hints at suggests something so big and over the top that it might just make up for the fact that (1) Part two really was awful and (2) Megan “Toe Thumb” Fox is nowhere to be found.
I Am Number Four (Dreamworks)
Disney division Touchstone is taking on the still sour desire to match Harry Potter, teen franchise for franchise. Oddly enough, after spending the last two months making the movie the main selling point, the new ad (unlike the trailer below) has switched focus, heavily pimping Disturbia director DJ Caruso. Maybe the studio was afraid of being too kid-ccentric. After all, the only way to achieve a boy wizard level of success is reach out across demographical lines.
Fast Five (Universal)
Vin Diesel grunts. The Rock grunts. Paul Walker looks for his paycheck. As cars collide and crash, explosions take the place of obvious exposition. This fourth sequel - read that again… FOURTH! - in the seemingly undead action movie series suggests more of the same: big engines, dull drivers, and enough CG chaos to keep top gear enthusiasts chomping at the bit. When the cleverest element if your title, however, there’s little hope for something solid…or watchable.
Cowboys and Aliens (Universal)
As with Thor (see below), this critic is still not sold. What about this title, other than its already established history, should have me excited. A Brit playing a Wild West antihero battling aliens? An aging action icon being tossed around by F/X? The otherwise limited views of the horse vs. hyperdrive battles? While director Jon Favreau has yet to fully fail, this latest spot still doesn’t do enough hard selling - especially for those of us who are still scratching our heads.
Kung Fu Panda 2 (Dreamworks)
The first film was one of the best non-Pixar efforts ever. The Shaw Brothers shout out were just part of the cartoon’s subversive fun. While the sequel seems soaked in more mundane, mainstream concerns, the fight scenes shown promise a relative return to form. Massive points off, though, for retrofitting a Queen classic into a lame ethnic pun (“We Will Wok You” indeed…).
As a major Thor nerd, the jury is still way, way out on this Kenneth Branagh adaptation. The latest ad looks good, though Valhalla has the feel of computer generated fakery, and star Chris Hemsworth has the pecs to pull the Norse God thing off, but where’s the beef…so to speak. Where’s the conflict or the reason to care? So far, it looks like an overtly glossy advertisement for some still unnamed product. Branagh will definitely take things seriously. For us Thor dorks, a little splash with our gravity would be nice as well.
Short, sweet, and kind of neat. Depp’s voice work definitely gets lost in the goofball look of the title character, but the self-deprecating approach to the ad (...“with explosions…explosions…and explosion!”) promises something more irreverent and tongue in cheek. With Gore Verbinski behind the CG lens, we’ll keep our fingers crossed.
Priest (Screen Gems)
Priest has promise - but then again, so did Legion and any other good vs. evil apocalyptic title from the last few years. The whole humans vs. vampires thing is so Daybreakers, but the visual artist turned director Scott Stewart is not a name to be banked on (look at the aforementioned avenging angel effort for a reason why). Geek nation is stoked for some reason. We reserve judgment for now.