Trailer Tracking: ‘Rise of the Guardians,’ ‘Looper,’ ‘Ted’

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CHICAGO – Now that most of the big summer movies have already had their trailers hit the internet, studios are realizing that we’ve probably decided whether or not we’re seeing “Avengers” (yes) or “Battleship” (no), and, as such, they’re now releasing previews for some of their more interesting films coming out later this year.

In their minds, the marketing battle for Summer 2012 is already over and now it’s time to turn our attention to the fall and holidays seasons.

Frankly, though I love big, blockbuster, $300-million-dollar previews, it’s nice to get a look at how movie studios plan to thrill us for the rest of the year. And, from the looks of these trailers, it seems like their main strategy is to wow us with high concept premises. What do I mean by “high concept”? I mean, big gimmicky wild ideas. We’re not talking about everyday romances or murder mysteries here. We’re talking Santa Claus teaming up with the Easter Bunny, time-traveling hitmen, and foul-mouthed sentient teddy bears. These movies might not have “Avengers”-sized budgets, but they’re making up for it by swinging at the fences on a conceptual level. Will the strategy off? It’s hard to say.
Take a look at our recent trailer breakdowns and decide for yourself whether these trailers sell you on their “more is more” high concept premises or if they just leave you aching for a nice, simply family drama.

Movie: “Rise of the Guardians”

Best Parts of the Trailer: Tattooed Russian Santa Claus (voiced by Alec Baldwin) is AWESOME; that shot of the Sandman’s dinosaur dreams strolling through town; seeing Guillermo Del Toro and William Joyce listed as executive producers

Worst Parts of the Trailer: Something this high concept is possibly too good to be true… we’re still hurting from “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”.

OUR TAKE: If I’m being honest, I’ll admit that, at times, I’ve looked down my nose at Dreamworks Animation. They’ve just always had this air about them, like they’re a less creative and more needy knock-off of Pixar. I was never a big fan of the “Shrek” films, “Shark’s Tale” was awful, the “Madagascar” movies are fluffy confections… their animated films just never left that much of an impression on me. However, over the past few years, Dreamworks has really come into its own as an animation studio and it now seems to excel, in particular, when it comes to adventure films. The first “Kung-Fu Panda” was an action genre-loving romp, “Monsters vs. Aliens” was an underrated gem, and “How to Train Your Dragon” was probably the first DW Animation film that I’d refer to as a “triumph.” With all that in mind, I have to say that I was VERY pleasantly surprised that “Rise of the Guardians” seems to fall firmly more into the “Train Your Dragon” camp than the “Shrek” camp, and that’s a very good thing.

To me, “Rise of the Guardians” has TWO big things going for it. First, that concept, that glorious high concept that makes you slap your head and go “Why didn’t I think of that?” An adventure film with the legends of our childhood – Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and the Sandman teaming up to protect the world from evil? What a fantastic idea. It reminds you of why “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” was such a big deal before the movie bungled its execution. There’s something inherently engaging about watching icons team up together – i.e. this summer’s “Avengers” – and watching characters like Santa and the Easter Bunny, with such a natural, organic reason to work together, unite against a common cause is, in my opinion, far more exciting than watching someone invent a reason for Captain Nemo and Mr. Hyde to form a super-group. The concept is KILLER. Plus I give the filmmakers a lot of credit for taking creative liberties with their interpretations of the childhood icons. There are people who will go see this movie solely to see a sword-wielding, Baltic Santa with “Naughty” and “Nice” tattooed on his arms. That reimaging of Saint Nick alone will draw in the crowds, not to mention their fresh take on the Sandman (who now reminds me of “Harold and the Purple Crayon”), the long-legged jack-rabbit Easter Bunny, and the gorgeously re-designed, hummingbird-esque Tooth Fairy. Both the concept and the execution of said concept just feels fresh.

The other BIG thing that “Rise of the Guardians” has going for it is the pedigree behind the production. While it proudly touts that it’s from the producers of “How to Train Your Dragon”, the names of the two executive producers were the most exciting credits to me - Guillermo Del Toro and William Joyce. Del Toro, of course, is the writer/director behind the “Hellboy” movies, “Pan’s Labyrinth,” and the upcoming “Pacific Rim”, and he’s a man who seems to take delight in the darker, more macabre aspects of fairy tales. So, turning him loose on icons like Santa and the Tooth Fairy feels like a lot of fun to me. Del Toro’s name gives the impression that the movie will have more of an edge than previous DW Animation projects and, again, that’s a good thing. The other name, William Joyce, is even more important. Joyce is an acclaimed children’s book author and illustrator, who’s created some breathtaking works for kids, including his new “Guardians of Childhood” series that ties directly into the “Rise of the Guardians” movie. (Disney’s “Meet the Robinsons” was also based on one of his books.) But, even if you’re not a kid lit fan, you might’ve seen Joyce at this year’s Oscars where he won the Best Animated Short Oscar for his film “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore”. If you haven’t seen “Morris Lessmore”, seek it OUT. It is one of the most beautiful, creative, and legitimately moving animated shorts I’ve seen in a long while. So, following that triumph, the fact that Dreamworks is making a film with Joyce, shepherded by Guillermo Del Toro and the “Train Your Dragon” team, with a concept that is so freaking note-perfect for an animated film… in my mind, the sum total of all that makes it hard not to get excited about “Rise of the Guardians”. Plus did I mention Tsarist, tattooed Alec Baldwin Santa Claus? How can you pass that up?

TRAILER OUTLOOK: VERY positive. Almost too positive. Starting to look for flaws… NOW.

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