Monday, February 06, 2012

Super Bowl Trailer for 'Battleship'. Is This The Same Movie?

Is this trailer for the same movie as the first trailer was? First trailer came off stock and cartoonish. With questionable CGI and sterile action it was generally laughed at and bloggers cringed at what this flick might turn out to be.

This Super Bowl spot, though, clicks.

By the :05 mark we see the new focus -- people in harm's way. A kid, sitting in the family car stuck in traffic, calmly watches as an alien projectile heads straight for him. The projectile strikes, burrowing deep into the freeway, wreaking havoc, tossing vehicles. Luckily, our little boy survives, wide-eyed. The message is clear: The threat is to us, not to ships made of steel, and the effect is we care. All within five seconds. These people mean business.

It doesn't stop there. Next, at sea, a worried Liam Neeson watches a strange disturbance from the command center of a battleship. He comes off much better than in the first trailer, in which his barking was (in context, at least) a bit hackneyed and by-the-numbers. We only see him for a second, possibly due to overexposure of late, but Neeson looks great. You'd think the producers realized, after 'The Grey', that heartfelt portrayals work, even in genre movies. And, yes, we care.

After that, more projectiles crash into office buildings, and the message 'The Battle For Earth' makes it clear what's going on. Certainly, we knew, or had guessed as much. We get it -- the stakes are high. However at :28 comes the clarifying and central imagery -- an alien in a suit produces a mechanized knife and prepares to attack a woman who is very vulnerable indeed, bent over looking back at him. Well done, we can care about this more than metal machines shooting at each other from miles away. A good move, post-Transformers.

So, the threat is close at hand, a few feet away. It's in our faces. But, if all this is too touchy-feely, we're reminded it all 'Begins At Sea' (:31), and once again the nuts-and-bolts boilerplate imagery is about fighting machinery guided by masked, anonymous pilots. After this baseline commercial eye candy has been reiterated we get back on message at (:50) -- you can't win a war with machines, you gotta to send infantry, there has to be boots on the ground. We're engaged in a bit of mano a mano between our main man Taylor Kitsch and a Cylon-esque bad guy. It doesn't last, though -- Rihanna man-euvers a very phallic 5-inch main-gun and blows Mr. Space Invader away in a ridiculous (Sorry, you can't point a gun at your own deck [if you could it would have been done accidentally a bunch of times] because a) that would kill everyone on deck and b) would likely sink the ship, but let's not split hairs) bit that is sure to fuel rampant word-of-mouth (among both boys and girls) and float 'Battleship' for a solid second weekend. We may giggle a bit but, alas, we also care.

Overall, a much better effort than the first trailer. If everyone has forgotten that, this new ad bodes well for the movie. Still, though, you have to wonder what exactly a battleship can do to stop far superior combat hardware from a distant planet. Well. That would be the crux of the story, yes? Just how do we deal with these invaders? Give them a virus their immune systems can't fight? -- been done. That element, whatever it is, if it works, is what this movie is riding on. If that plot point snaps into place smartly we'll like the movie. If not, we'll condemn it. I'm not sure the box office take would be different either way, though.

It remains to be seen whether writers Erich Hoeber and Jon Hoeber conjured up a winner, but I'm far more optimistic than I was after the first trailer. I can honestly say I care. I'm not swept off my feet, mind you -- it is summer popcorn after all -- but I like 'Battleship' a lot more than before.

If you've only seen the first trailer, check the new one out.


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