Trailer Tracking: ‘Battleship’ ‘Men in Black III,’ ‘Frankenweenie’

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CHICAGO – As the movie industry starts to recover from the marketing disaster that was ”John Carter” – a film with possibly the least effective trailers in recent history – it might be more important than ever for film studios to connect their with audiences with really, really kick-ass movie trailers.

Because, all other forms of media – be they traditional or social – aside, in my mind, there is nothing, NOTHING more effective for getting a person excited for an upcoming movie release than a really well-done movie trailer. Case in point: “Prometheus.” 20th Century Fox is betting that audiences will be so knocked out by the trailer for “Prometheus”, that they will be so completely won over by just a few well-edited glimpses of the visuals from Ridley Scott’s first sci-fi movie since “Blade Runner”, that they actually created a teaser trailer for the upcoming “Prometheus” trailer. That’s right. They created a trailer FOR A TRAILER. If that doesn’t speak to the implied power of the coming attraction, I don’t know what does.

While the trailers we cover this month aren’t as “trailer-for-a-trailer” worthy as “Prometheus”, they do show off some of the best and worst qualities that previews have to offer. (You can find the best in Josh Brolin stealing focus from Will Smith and a boy lovingly hugging his dog. You can find the worst in… well, mostly in the “Battleship” trailer.)

Take a look at our recent trailer breakdowns and decide for yourself whether these trailers do their artform justice.

Movie: “Battleship”

Best Parts of the Trailer: Realizing that Taylor Kitsch isn’t the only guy from “Friday Night Lights” who got cast in the movie (you go, Jesse Plemons!); the video-game-esque alien body armor suits are kind of cool; the peg weapon hitting the battleship did, actually, remind me of the “Battleship game”

Worst Parts of the Trailer: Still looks like a poor man’s Michael Bay film; Plot is still incoherent and odd; And, once again, no one ever, EVER utters the phrase “J-7, mother-****er!”

OUR TAKE: I reviewed the “Battleship” Super Bowl trailer in last month’s “Trailer Tracking” and, to be frank, I wasn’t exactly kind to it – if I remember correctly, the phrase “schizophrenic mess” turned up pretty early in the review.

Photo credit: Universal

This new theatrical trailer for “Battleship” doesn’t have the WTF cache of the earlier previews – the first trailer touted the ridiculous “Brooklyn Decker as the admiral’s daughter” subplot and the Super Bowl trailer was an even bigger, louder mess. This trailer, however, is a much more calculated piece of movie-marketing collateral. It’s less crazy, but it also seems to have a more obvious agenda than the other trailers. How so? Well, the most interesting thing about this new “Battleship” trailer is the timing of its release. It came out mere days after Taylor Kitsch’s OTHER giant 2012 blockbuster, “John Carter”, was declared an international flop by most of the world’s press organizations. Having this trailer come out so early in the “John Carter Dies at the Box Office” news cycle does seem to be a very deliberate move on Universal’s part. It’s as if they were worried that all the bad “John Carter” press would eventually evolve into an “Is Taylor Kitsch’s “Battleship” Now in Trouble?” conversation, so they decided to do a pre-emptive strike by very quickly releasing a new trailer and throwing some weight behind their extremely expensive summertime gamble.

The other aspect of the “Battleship” trailer that seems very calculated to me is the new emphasis on the mecha-suited alien creatures. I compared the alien armor to the video game “Halo” in my Super Bowl spot review, but now, it seems obvious that, perhaps, while this trailer is seemingly meant to distance “Battleship” from “John Carter,” it might also be meant to more closely align “Battleship” with, what is sure to be one of the biggest success stories of 2012 – I’m, of course, speaking of the very recent release of one of the most anticipated (and sure to be best-selling) video games of the year, “Mass Effect 3”. Gamers, back me up on this one, but don’t those armored aliens look like they just stepped out of the Mass Effect universe? Maybe I’m just being a conspiracy theorist and am not giving Universal their due, but, to me, this trailer is working overtime to position itself as the next cool thing. When I watch this trailer, I see a movie begging audiences, “Please, PLEASE don’t think of us as the next “John Carter”! We’re MUCH more like “Transformers 3” or “Mass Effect 3” – you know, those MASSIVE success stories!”

Campaigning aside, is this over-eager “Battleship” trailer an improvement on past trailers? Kind of. It’s way more focused than the past trailers and the newly emphasized alien mystery is a much more compelling hook than Taylor Kitsch trying to prove himself to Liam Neeson. The effects, while impressive, are still coming across like Michael Bay clones and this trailer did even give us “Battleship”’s version of “Armaggedon”’s famous “asteroid the size of Texas” line – as the alien ships bomb Japan, we hear “The debris field from this is going to cover the entire hemisphere.” We spend a lot of time with the alien weaponry – seeing how the glowing red balls of doom are formed – and, as I mentioned earlier, we do see a board-game-esque peg drill into a battleship and sink it, which is the only part of the trailer that really got a laugh out of me.

In my opinion, the BIG problem with the “Battleship” trailers so far is very similar to the problem “John Carter” had with their trailers. The “Battleship” trailers NEVER explain the central conceit of the movie. Just like the “John Carter” previews never told us who John Carter was or why we should give a damn about him, the “Battleship” trailers have never even come close to explaining how a guy from “Friday Night Lights” and an old-school battleship can stop an alien invasion of Earth. They spend 90% of their time showing us ridiculous “Transformers”-style world destruction and yet somehow we know that we’re going to be asked to believe that the crew of a battleship is the planet’s best chance for survival. HOW? Battleships are huge, hulking behemoths. They’re not exactly the most maneuverable bleeding-edge tech Earth has to offer. And there’s this huge elephant in the room every time I watch a “Battleship” trailer and a nasty voice in the back of my head says, “They don’t actually think I’ll believe that they can stop an advanced alien invasion with some naval know-how and screaming ‘FIRE EVERYTHING!’, do they?” That’s just a level of ridiculous I can’t handle. So, I dearly hope that the “Battleship” marketing team will continue to learn from the failings of “John Carter” and will realize that evoking “Transformers” and “Mass Effect 3” is not going to sell ANYONE on their movie. If they want people to give “Battleship” the benefit of the doubt, they very, very quickly need to make us understand WHY we should give a damn about Taylor Kitsch and his all-powerful battleship and shot of explosions and Rihanna aren’t getting that job done.

TRAILER OUTLOOK: Such a mess, but, to their credit, it looks like a way more entertaining mess than “John Carter”

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