Hollywood should be ashamed. One of the best Super Bowl's in the 44 year history of the game and Tinseltown could barely muster an interesting set of ads. Granted, at $2.6 million of 30 seconds, the studios needed to be picky, by there is a certain senselessness to pimping something that's debuting in five days (The Wolfman) or ten (Shutter Island), especially when there's been endless months of previews for both. Indeed, aside from snippets for a few new scenes and a head-scratching lack of narrative clarity, most of the 2010 movie trailers were terrible. Going over them one by one (including a couple we swore we saw at some point during the proceedings), it's clear that, unless you dig spectacle or superficiality, there's wasn't much mystery or allure present.
Not Part of the Game Per Se
As usual, a few films snuck in under the hefty seven figure cap, and one made what has to be the most unusual appearance ever for a Super Bowl preview (we still aren't sure if we actually saw it). Let's begin with:
(Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell - directed by Breck Eisner)
Remaking George Romero has worked before (Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead). Referencing him hasn't (the direct to DVD Day of the Dead…yeech!). The problem with The Crazies is its narrative similarity to the director's original Night of the Living Dead. The clip, a mish mash of rapidly edited action and terror, offers the singular scene that's been running in most of the TV spots (nutty guy with baseball bat entering a baseball game infield). Doesn't inspire much confidence, and when you read that it's helmed by the guy who made Sahara, all hope really fades.
The Back-Up Plan
(Jennifer Lopez, Alex O'Loughlin - directed by Alan Poul)
Again, we are confident we spotted Ms. J-Lo kvetching about child birth during this horrifically unfunny take on pregnancy. Disney must have dropped this one in unexpectedly, taking the place of a promised look at Toy Story 3. Since it originally looked like some New Age advertisement for a feminine hygiene product (or worse, one of those terrible Bud Light riffs), many may have missed the "Coming Soon" reference. The voice over confirmed "This Film is Not Yet Rated". Based on the trailer, it deserves an "F".
(Don Cheadle, Ethan Hawke - directed by Antoine Fuqua)
Probably still smarting over being replaced by Ridley Scott for American Gangster, Training Day's Antoine Fuqua is returning to law and disorder street grit for his latest. Not all that impressive, but then again, expectations are sure to stay low (especially judging by his recent string of semi-stinkers).
The Last Airbender
(Jackson Rathbone, Dev Patel - directed by M Night Shyamalan)
It is just us, or does it look like M. Night Shyamalan is trying WAY too hard here. The American made, anime-styled series is apparently very successful, and the proposed PG rating is sure to get the adolescent audience coming back again and again. But the real question is, does this movie have a reach beyond the babies. Can adults, and more importantly, young women, find something here to appreciate and accept? Guess we have to wait until July to find out.
(Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett - directed by Ridley Scott)
Here's a good idea - take the opening to Kevin Costner's adaptation of the fabled Sherwood Forest rogue (remember: the character is returning from something like…the Crusades???), ignore the rest of the legend that everyone knows, and then go backward. Or perhaps plotpoint sideways? Whatever the case, turn Ridley Scott and his overcranked action scenes loose on the battle heavy narrative and get a beefy Russell Crowe to step up to the crossbow. Impressed yet? Many on the web were wowed by this earthy, energetic trailer. For us, the notion of a medieval Gladiator just doesn't sit well.
(Benicio del Toro, Anthony Hopkins - directed Joe Johnston)
Oh goodie - more CG transformation footage. More images of Anthony Hopkins smirking by candlelight. More shots of Hugo Weaving wondering how he got himself into this mess. There is a fine line between homage and hackdom, and so far, this adaptation of the Universal scare standby keeps walking precariously along it. On the plus side, we only have five more days to suffer through all the fake finger stretching and fang bearing. And while we appreciate the R rating, we would have preferred to see original director Mark Romanek's name on the credits, not Jurassic Park III's Joe Johnston.
(Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo - directed by Martin Scorcese)
Enough already!!! Just show us the damn movie! The American auteur's Hitchcockian take on Dennis Lehane's novel was supposed to hit theaters back in October! Instead, it got bumped to this less than impressive mid-Winter release date. Still, Scorcese's images are hypnotic and one senses that, if he can pull this off, he might have another Cape Fear style mainstream hit on his hands. Still, enough with the horror insane asylum meets Kenneth Anger collages…please?
Alice in Wonderland
(Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter - directed by Tim Burton)
Still trading on Johnny Depp's demented Mad Hatter and gal pal Bonham Carter's helium balloon head, Burton's take on the Lewis Carroll's classic remains beautiful, if baffling. There is still little of the re-imagined "War in Wonderland" narrative on display, and the screen time seems purposefully balanced between the stars and some startling F/X. With less than a month before release, here's hoping Disney gives up a few more details. Right now, all we have are pretty, if puzzling, pictures.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
(Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton - directed by Mike Newell)
By their very nature, video game adaptations are tricky. You have to balance of the needs of cinema with the wants of console title fanatics everywhere. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer has faced a lot of heat for casting Caucasian Tobey Magui…oops, sorry, Jake Gyllenhaal as the famed Middle Eastern hero Dastan. All questionable ethnicity aside, this one reminds us, oddly enough, of National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets, except without Nicolas Cage's bad hairpiece. Perhaps a less hectic ad will win us over.
According to early reports, Iron Man 2 and Despicable Me were supposed to make an appearance as well (along with the previously lamented lack of Toy Story 3). Maybe at $2.6 million a pop (or in the case of a trailer, several times that amount), these titles didn't feel the need to make a Super Sunday splash.