Since the teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens premiered last night, I thought I might as well talk about it (like a million other bloggers around the world are doing/ have done already) and throw in a few other trailers for upcoming 2015 films.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Releases in December 2015: Do note that under Disney ownership and suitably distanced from the micro-management of ‘über-papa’ George Lucas, the new film has dropped the roman numeral episode numbers and adopted the current convention of series name followed by title of the current film. What other (and more meaningful) changes does the first teaser trailer reveal? Since J.J. Abrams is directing this movie, I expected lens flare. But no, at least not in the trailer! I thought it was a smart decision to use the trailer to show all the new faces rather than the beloved old ones (i.e. Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford). Instead, the first face we see is of British actor John Boyega in a stormtrooper outfit on a desert planet, looking a bit out of sorts. We then see young British TV actress Daisy Ridley zooming off on some sort of landspeeder. There’s a close-up shot of an X-Wing fighter pilot (this seems to be Oscar Isaac): this cuts to a thrilling shot of a trio of X-Wings flying low over water. Of course, they have to introduce the bad guy: someone in a cloak walks through a snow-covered forest and then activates a lightsaber. The saber is a new design, with what looks like ‘exhaust flames’ coming out on either side of the hilt, giving the activated saber a ‘cross-like’ look. Much online speculation about this one. And finally, the Millennium Falcon swoops over the desert planet and engages with a couple of TIE fighters, as the Star Wars theme starts up; at this moment, I started giggling helplessly and got goose bumps. No matter how disappointing that 2nd trilogy was, there’s millions of fans around the world who want to go back to that galaxy far, far away. There are two bits, each lasting about 2 seconds, which give clues that this film will carry a different pace and tone to anything that’s come before. One is a scene with a bunch of stormtroopers in close confines aboard some sort of transport; the flickering lighting, the jerky camera and the sense of danger as the ramp door opens is definitely more Abrams than Lucas. Similarly, that moment when John Boyega pops up on the screen had an urgency – it was practically a horror film beat – that would never have been seen in the oh-so-laid-back 2nd trilogy. There’s a brief look at a new ‘droid, which seems set to provide some comic relief à la R2D2. No doubt, there will be more teasers and trailers to follow in the next 12 months before the film releases; I will have to take a conscious decision not to watch any more!
Danny Collins. Releases in March 2015: Dan Fogelman who wrote the screenplay for Disney animated films like Bolt, Tangled and Cars, then moved to lightweight dramedies like The Guilt Trip and Crazy, Stupid, Love., now tries his hand at directing. This indie film has an intriguing premise. A washed up rock star (are there any other sort in movies?) is given a handwritten note which John Lennon had written to him in the 70’s, but never delivered until now. He is inspired to restart his career and reconnect with his estranged son and his family. The rock star is played by Al Pacino and already, without even watching the trailer, you just know that Pacino is going to play this in ‘larger than life’ mode. It is true that he carries off this sort of thing well, but I do wish he would go back once in a while to the understated performance that made him famous as Michael Corleone in The Godfather. Even though this seems to be a formulaic redemption story, the actors are all top class (Annette Bening as the potential love interest, Christopher Plummer as the old friend/ manager, Bobby Cannavale as the son and Jennifer Garner as the daughter-in-law) and therefore likely to be worth the time.
Seventh Son. Releases Feb 2015: Typically, a movie which has its release postponed multiple times is considered to be doomed to box office failure. Particularly, when it is a fantasy film with magicians and demons, then prospects are not particularly good as these films appeal to a very narrow demographic (unless it’s part of the Lord of the Rings franchise). Having said that, this film from award-winning Russian director Sergey Bodrov (2007’s Mongol) does have a powerhouse cast including Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore, Djimon Hounsou, Kit Harington (Jon Snow from Game of Thrones) and Ben Barnes as the titular seventh male offspring. The special effects all look top class, as one would expect from a Legendary Pictures (Pacific Rim, Godzilla, Interstellar, etc.) production. One of the potential problems is Jeff Bridges himself; much like Al Pacino, Mr. Bridges these days seems to think that all his roles require him to be a larger-than-life character with lots of attitude. This can grate on the nerves, particularly when he uses the same vocal style across every film from R.I.P.D. to True Grit. The film is based on Joseph Delaney’s children’s fantasy novel, The Spook’s Apprentice and the producers must have been hoping that success would lead to a franchise, as there are 4 more books in the series. If they can keep the production cost at USD 100 mn and earn at least USD 300 mn across the world, then a new fantasy franchise could become a reality.
Jurassic World: Releases in June 2015: Steven Spielberg transformed movie making (yet again) with the release of Jurassic Park nearly 22 years ago. The computer-generated super-realistic dinosaurs led to the plethora of fantasy films and comic book adaptations which we now take for granted every summer break. Soon after the 3rd instalment of the series came out in 2001, computer animation was breaking new ground in the Lord of the Rings series, the Harry Potter series and X-Men/ Spider-Man movies. There was nothing special about seeing dinosaurs on screen any more, so the series effectively shut down. But no franchise ever stays dead in Hollywood and a dozen years later, the young writer-director duo of Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow came up with a script that got Spielberg and Universal excited. The dinosaurs are now under control, the park’s been open for some years and it’s a huge success obviously. But since the investors are constantly looking for the next big thing, they go and create a hybrid dinosaur which is a T.Rex++. Obviously mayhem ensues. There’s some nice little touches in the trailer which has been analysed in detail by Vox.