It has been a very big week for trailers, as two-minute peeks inside the biggest productions of the next year landed on YouTube over the last ten days: MAD MAX: FURY ROAD. JURASSIC WORLD. TERMINATOR: GENISYS. TOMORROWLAND. There is a lot riding on each one of these trailers, as they are all Summer Tentpoles, expected to prop up their backers’ bottom line for the next calendar year.
But they were all just appetizers for the three trailers that set the entire Internet ablaze:
STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS
BATMAN v SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE
HILLARY CLINTON: GETTING STARTED
These three productions have three things in common: they all have huge budgets, they are all sequels, and they are all expected to bring in a billion dollars. So which one made the biggest splash?
Let’s have a look at all three and evaluate each one on the following criteria: wow factor (spectacle, scope, effects, story potential); faithfulness to source material (these are all sequels or adaptations to well-known intellectual properties); and effectiveness (do I want to see more?).
STAR WARS: If you had told me in 2005, after the dreadful prequel trilogy, that I would one day be legitimately excited, much less completely amped, for another Star Wars movie I would have said you were crazy. But this trailer is jam-packed with cool stuff, the special effects look great, the movie seems to have an enormous scope and range of settings, and shows things we’ve never seen before in Star Wars, like the crashed Star Destroyer. Best of all, the whole thing is capped off by something I don’t think anyone ever expected to see again: Han Solo and Chewbacca in the Millennium Falcon. A tear actually came to my eye. Wows don’t get much wowier than this. 9/10
BATMAN/SUPERMAN: For a movie with a $200 million budget, you’d think they could have bought a few lights. It’s hard to be wowed when you can’t see anything. Between the somber score, the dead-serious narration, and Ben Affleck scowling at his cowl, I don’t see any potential at all for fun in this thing. The special effects seem all fine and good, but it’s weird that they couldn’t make the Superman statue look like Superman. Eh. 2/10
HILLARY: Wow! Hillary Clinton still wants to be president? Does she not remember that there is not a single person — living, dead, or imaginary — that the right wing hates more? Or does she just not care? Even with all this Benghazi/Private email/Russian uranium stuff going on, to say nothing of the mountain of supposed scandals from when she was First Lady, she still thinks she can unite the country and get something done? Wow. As for the trailer itself, I don’t love the title, it’s got an awful lot of buildup for not a lot of payoff, and the special effects are a bit wanting, as the filmmakers have still not figured out how to make Mrs. Clinton convincingly lifelike. And when you’re going back to material this familiar, you really need to do something to shake it up, and there are no surprises here at all, other than the fact that this fabulously wealthy grandmother wants to spend the next 18 months taking unceasing abuse from 50% of the voting population, for the privilege of presiding over a Congress that will obstruct her even more than it has Obama, if such a thing is even possible. And she has no serious opposition? Seriously? Wow. WOW. 10/10
FAITHFULNESS TO SOURCE MATERIAL
STAR WARS: Even though George Lucas made them, the prequels never really felt like Star Wars, for a variety of reasons. Everything was CGI, which both looked weird and led to terrible performances; the story was complicated and hard to follow, involving trade tariffs and electoral scheming, as opposed to the “Find the Princess/Blow up the Death Star/Become a Jedi/Evade the Empire/Save Han Solo/Blow up another Death Star” arc of the original trilogy. This looks like it gets back to basics, in a good way, and word is that director JJ Abrams mandated as much practical effects (as opposed to CGI) as possible; he also gives his version of the universe the grimy, worn-in feel that so set the original trilogy apart from all the antiseptic visions of a spacefaring future that came before it. If the prequel trilogy brutally raped my childhood, THE FORCE AWAKENS trailer just dimmed the lights, put on some Barry White, and broke out the Liquid Silk. 8/10
BATMAN/SUPERMAN: Technically, this movie appears to be a loose adaptation of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, which is a great comic book, but it’s also a sequel to MAN OF STEEL, which means that Superman is the main character, not Batman. In TDKR, the characters are old friends (or at least old coworkers — they address each other as “Clark” and “Bruce”) brought into conflict because Superman has become an employee of the U.S. government, which regards Batman’s vigilantism as unacceptable and orders Superman to bring him in. This was a genius logical extension of the respective characters’ longstanding methods and philosophies, it made perfect sense, and it was really cool. This trailer seems to suggest that Superman is the one the people don’t trust, leading Batman to try to bring him in. But didn’t Superman just save the world? Is Batman now somehow more trustworthy than Superman in the eyes of the public? That doesn’t make sense at all. Batman is wearing the same armor as in the comic, though, so I guess that’s something. 4/10
HILLARY: Mrs. Clinton is dutifully hitting all the beats you expect from the Clinton franchise here — family, diversity, a thriving middle class — and is even indulges in a little fan-service retcon by including a gay couple getting married. But after almost 25 years, franchise fatigue is really starting to set in here. I hope to god they’re not going to give us another origin story. 6/10
STAR WARS: It’s embarrassing how excited this trailer made me. Hearing Luke’s voice; Chewbacca’s growl at the end; to quote my friend Schaffer the Darklord, I thought I was going to die from goosebumps. There is no chance that I don’t go see this movie with (or without) my kid within two days of its release. If I could pay $200 to watch it a week early, I would probably do that. 10/10
BATMAN/SUPERMAN: This trailer didn’t make me happy. It didn’t make me sad. It didn’t make me angry. It didn’t make me anything. I have never felt so little. What am I supposed to imagine is going to happen here that I need to see? I hated the last Batman movie and didn’t like the last Superman movie much more, and this one seems to be doubling down on the whole dark tortured thing. At this point the only way I’ll probably see it is if my kid makes me. 2/10
HILLARY: Whoops, strike that. This one made me feel even less. It says a lot more about the weird disarray of the Democratic Party that Hillary Clinton is the presumptive nominee than it says about Clinton herself. And it says even more about the Republican clown car of nominees that I would even consider voting for her. She tells us what she wants to be — “the champion for everyday Americans” — but she doesn’t tell us what she wants to do. And therein lies the problem. 1/10
In the end these things are all going to probably exceed the most optimistic projections of their worldwide grosses, but for my money the best trailer of the last two years is right here: