Every Saturday, Check the Reel features Trailer Trash, a close look at previews, trailer, and sneak peeks for films not yet released. What does the rest of the year promise for theatres and Netflix accounts? Which are the masterpieces? Which are the flops? Serbian Filmmaker reaches into the future and tells you what to expect from Hollywood’s up and coming.
Iron Man carries a terrifying burden, even after Avengers shifted the weight of its success onto an ensemble cast and the nerd cult gathered around Joss Whedon. It set the wheels of the Marvel universe in motion, completing its transition onto film and assuring producers they could support a single chronology film series bringing together multiple worlds of heroes, villains, and side characters. Robert Downey Jr. left his indie corner for Iron Man and it made him a star, his charm sustaining even the sequel’s strained mimicry of the first. Tony Stark/Iron Man has overtaken Spider-Man as Marvel’s poster child. If Iron Man goes down, so might the whole enterprise. Iron Man 3′s job after Avengers raked billions: keep that from happening.
The stakes are higher now. Tony Stark has no time for wisecracks and come-ons; he’s a scarred man, as the trailer makes clear by referencing his near-sacrifice at the end of Avengers. There’s no rest from the new breed of evil that’s bearing down on Stark’s sanity and relationships. We see hints of another enemy in an Iron Man suit, who swoops down on Gwyneth Paltrow while in bed, and Ben Kingsley intones with cold, calculated misanthropy: “Heroes… There is no such thing,” just before blowing Tony Stark’s seaside getaway to kingdom come. This will be, if nothing else, more urgent than Iron Man 2, hopefully not too lugubrious but at least less jokey like its predecessor. We can focus on the characters as they set up the conflicts and overarching themes for the second wave of Marvel films.
I can’t analyze this trailer as a comic fan might, picking apart the references to Marvel lore outside the films. If you want that, see MovieBob. I can only say this promises with its glimpses of high tragedy a more intense experience on level with Cameron, McTiernan, and, well, Shane Black, the director who’s replaced Jon Favreau on Iron Man 3. It’ll set a new tone for the Avengers line-up, to be expanded upon as the Thor, Captain America, and Hulk sequels come along. We only have to see how productive that tone is, whether it sets a foundation for growth or decay.
They didn’t age with each installment so gracefully as the Indiana Jones and old Star Wars trilogy, but the first three Die Hard films held together on their joint appeal: John McClane is the reluctant hero who doesn’t kick ass because he’s programmed to; he just has shit-luck with being in the right place at the wrong time. He relies on wit, brawn, good luck and endurance to save his wife, top the odds and stop the terrorists from winning. That he’s played by Bruce Willis also doesn’t hurt. He’s a human being; bullets hurt him like anyone else; he still finds time to cuss and sneer. We love him for it.
So did Live Free and Die Hard. It loved McClane so much, his character became lost in the hero worship – more Iron Man than Officer Everyman*. He falls into dangerous situations with a steady supply of one-liners. The scratches and bruises on his face? Pah! Just for show. Nobody can beat McClane. He’s the walking embodiment of America: Fuck Yeah, in a movie that works mostly for its audacity and decent set-pieces.
* But more awesome.
Its success was a freak. To prove that, A Good Day to Die Hard amps up the worship, multiples the “jumping through glass” count, and removes all creative personnel who might have salvaged Live Free. It’s the very soul of Hollywood action, except there is no soul, just an empty, exploding husk.
There’s not a single action beat in this trailer we haven’t seen. Beethoven ironically set to explosions? Boring. Russian villains retroactively framed as commies? Yaaawn. Femme fatale stripping down in front of leering male protagonist? Completely inappropriate for Die Hard and a remnant of 80s chauvinist action. Like Expendables, that’s what A Good Day to Die Hard wants to be. It thinks we haven’t seen a badass Bruce Willis in years when there are three films (Expendables II, G.I. Joe II, Kane and Lynch) out or coming out providing audiences their Willis-action fix. I’d call it deluded, but seeing the “talent” on board (Max Payne-director John Moore, X-Men Origins writer Skip Woods) I suspect this film was assembled knowing full well what it looked like.
A Good Day to Die Hard doesn’t look good. It’s not even passable. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The Last Stand seems more promising, and when your series can’t even stack up against a Schwarzenegger plug, it’s time to put that beast to sleep.
Even after Cabin in the Woods seemed to kill off its titular horror subgenre, producers Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell are still hoping they have enough goodwill from fans to deliver genuine thrills by remaking the original cabin story, The Evil Dead. Its first red-band trailer (NOT for the faint of heart) shares one thing in common with the above-discussed Iron Man 3 teaser: neither features their series’ trademark brands of offbeat humor. Evil Dead II and the even more insane, slapsticky Army of Darkness defied convention to the point of inventing new ones; Raimi handled his camera like the spastic arm Campbell hacked off with a chainsaw, and while he uses those same effects to conjure whimsy in Oz: The Great and Powerful, first-time director Fede Alvarez tries to tap into the primeval, isolated fear from the first and less subversive Evil Dead.
Like its source, the remake takes a group of teenagers into a cabin for what they hope will be a quaint weekend away from civilization. Then they stumble upon the Necronomicon (a name leeched from Lovecraft lore, applied in Evil Dead II but unnamed here), a book bound in finger-like latches, with instructions specifically NOT to read, write, or hear the chants inscribed within. So one teen read its, writes it out, and then repeats it out loud just to be safe, his selective dyslexia bringing doom upon him, his friends, and everyone at the cabin.
How many conventions are subverted or played with remains to be seen. Diablo Cody (Juno, Jennifer’s Body) is writer, but there’s no indication of her script’s quality since the trailer limits dialogue to cursory bursts of exposition between split tongues, severed arms and a ripped jaw. Comments by Campbell suggest the girl who cuts her arm, played by Jane Levy, will substitute his character Ash, the protagonist of all the Evil Dead films and their sole survivor. In that way Cabin in the Woods has gratefully left its mark: no more sex-phobic serial killers and ditzy blondes skewered in the first five minutes; the women control the action, while the two men bear the brunt of stupidity for having caused the action; the playing field in horror has been leveled fair and square.
…except one sequence in the trailer sets a question mark to that utopic dream. Near the end we see a woman suspended by sentient tree vines that wrap around her thighs, crawling higher as she screams… For those unfamiliar with the original Evil Dead, that’s a direct translation of a scene aptly referred to as “tree rape.” Sam Raimi has expressed regret for filming it ever since and none of the other Evil Deads have featured a matching scene. Apparently it’s appealed enough to Cody or Alvarez for them to bring back with the benefit of better practical effects. Is it inherently misogynistic? No, though it’s always questionable. Does it need to happen? That can’t be decided until the remake comes out. It raises eyebrows if not hopes.