Friday, March 18, 2016

Movie Musings: Trailer Pain!

Beware the Horns of Doom!
Trailers really seem to stink these days. They either give away too much plot. Or they misrepresent the film and make it look much dumber than it really is. Or they pick all the best "funny" moments or best action sequences. Then you see the actual movie and realize that you just wasted your money on a movie that could have been a trailer.  Honestly, we've got an argument for turning these into short films of one-liners and explosions. Kind of like a Michael Bay movie but much much shorter and with more character development. Ah, but I kid Mr. Bay... a little bit.

And don't get me started on the music. Honestly if I hear the Horns of Doom blasting BWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA one more time I'm going go back in time.  Then I will do everything in my power to keep Hans Zimmer from using those slowed down horns in Inception. It is ridiculous at this point. I hear the Horns of Doom and I just start laughing. The last time I experienced the Horns in a trailer was for the television special for Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch... seriously. Horns of Doom for Sherlock.

Now this...

Where do I even start with this one.

Look, I'm not against a remake of Ben-Hur. The famous film from 1959 with Charleton Heston is actually a remake of a silent film from 1925. And there was a television movie version made in 2010. So yeah you can remake this film as many times as you want. It is based off a novel, and I'm guessing there were elements of the book left out of the 1959 version. You could explore those ideas in this movie. A remake of Ben-Hur isn't a horrible idea. It's not a great idea, but it's not a horrible one.

But the trailer for this version makes it look like Gladiator... again. The visual style has the desaturated look. The action has that slow-mo affect to it. All the focus seems to be on Ben-Hur's rage and anger and rage and did I mention he's an angry guy... with a beard.

So if the angry desaturated guy with the beard looks familiar that might be because of this...

Yeah Hercules doesn't look angry, more like brooding. And Clash of the Titans and the Immortals are sans beard. But there is a trend here. The thing is, Ben-Hur doesn't have to be like this. Ben-Hur isn't just about an angry bearded guy who "fights an empire".  It is about a man who loses everything, feels that revenge is his only option, and then realizes that isn't the case. Revenge leaves him empty. The movie is about redemption. Not surprising for a film that features Mr. J. Christ.

Now maybe the movie has that element and the trailer is targeted to the teen boy crowd. Ok, I get it. But the visual approach is the same thing we've seen since Gladiator. Why do they keep pulling the color out of these historical epics set in the ancient world? Gladiator used that approach in 2000. This is because Ridley Scott was going for a new look and feel to the modern epic. He drew from movies like Braveheart and Henry V, but also put his own visual stamp on it. But just because he did it, doesn't mean that is the only approach for this kind of movie. But Gladiator was super successful, so...

Color is for wussies! FREEDOM!!!!!
The real culprit here is 300. Yes the teen boys (and lots of adult males) got all riled up by 300 and saw it over and over again. The look and feel of 300 was made to two things. One was the way the original graphic novel looked. And the second was taking Ridley Scott's style from Gladiator (especially with the action scenes being "under cranked" and "over cranked) and ratcheting the whole thing up to 11.

The minute 300 became a mega-hit suddenly every movie set in the ancient world has to look extremely stylized, feature huge amounts of gore, and lots of guys with beards screaming at each other. It's getting so so old... just like the Horns of Doom.

I love reading about the ancient world. I love movies about the ancient world. Even the old cheesy ones like the 60s Hercules flicks give me some kind of joy. But this rash of angry, gory, shouty, Horn of DOOMy, desaturated movies is taking the joy right of what could be and should be an experience that transports us back to that period.

Angry saturated guy with a beard?
I honestly hope that this remake of Ben-Hur is better than the trailer makes it look. The 50s version is a classic because it is a powerful story told with amazing visual splendor and one of the best scores of the Golden Age. Seriously, Miklos Rozsa's score is usually found in the top ten list of film score fans and aficionados all over the world. The movie has its problems, but it never feels stale.

I watch the trailer for 2016 Ben-Hur and yeah, it looks real stale.

On the plus side, Marco Beltrami is doing the score. So I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the movie gives him enough of a palette to really unleash some epic and thematic style scoring. We'll see what happens when August rolls around.

Am I overreacting? Did the trailer work for you? Are you as sick of the Horns of Doom as I am?

Did you feel the rage with this post? Then click a ad and become a desaturated bearded angry guy!


  1. Spot-on with just about everything here. The key difference between Gladiator, 300, and even the 1959 Ben-Hur's success is that it gave audiences something new and cool, and everything since then (the latter Immortals, and Clash of the Titans flicks) are repeating rather than innovating.

    I actually kind of dug the Rock's Hercules, although on the trailer side of things the film that promised "the real story of Hercules" and seeming to show all his mighty feats was WAAAAYY off the mark.

    1. And I don't want to make it seem that innovation is the only way to make a movie interesting. There is a lot of cool things you can do when you use an old cliche or create a base of familiarity for viewers. But what I'm seeing is slapping a visual style on a story without thinking if that is the best way to tell that story. I think this is mostly coming from the studios' fear that if they make it too different from "300" or "Gladiator" then viewers will not enjoy the film.

      Here's a tip, Hollywood, if the movie is well made and entertaining it will succeed 9 times out of 10 despite the visual style.

      I do agree that "Gladiator" and "300" felt fresh and exciting at the time. And for the most part they hold up well, because they use their style to the best advantage. But "Clash of the Titans" was such a disappointment... just... wow.

      I want to check out "Hercules" but I'm a little afraid. It does another thing I find running around like the plague... taking the magic and wonder out of a story to make it more "real". I'm kinda sick of gritty and "real" at this point. And "Hercules" should be filled with adventure and fun. That movie didn't look like much fun. But I could be wrong. I hope I'm wrong. The Rock would make a great Herc!

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  2. A list of misleading trailers would be a long one.

    "300" does seem to have had a lasting influence. However, while I understand that "300" was being true to a graphic novel rather than to history, it does bear mentioning that the real Spartans were hoplites (heavy infantry) who fought in 32kg (70 lbs) of armor from head to torso to leg greaves -- not in skimpy leather sex gear. The 1962 "The 300 Spartans" was a lot closer to accurate.

    As for "Gladiator," Commodus was strangled in his bath, not killed in the arena -- but OK, I guess the arena scene was more cinematic than the bath would have been.

    Gore Vidal was a contract writer for MGM in the 1950s and rewrote the dialogue between Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston) and Messala (Stephen Boyd); he thought that politics was insufficient to explain the intensity of Messala's sense of betrayal, so he included a subtext that they had been boyhood lovers. He said Boyd got it, but that Heston didn't. We'll have to see if that turns up in the remake.

    1. Yeah I am curious to see if they go that angle with "Ben Hur" as well. I'm not surprised that Heston wasn't in on that plot motivation. :)

      You know "300" used to bother me more. But these days I find it entertaining and flashy. Not a bad movie at all. But certainly not historical fiction.

  3. Seriously Morgan Freeman in dreadlocks? I guess he was brought over from Jamaica mon? In some ways that reminded me of Mad Max: Fury Road too, among the ones you've already mentioned.

    If I were a betting man, I'd say that one will bomb. One of the reasons is that it can't help but be compared to the original (or the Heston film). Many of these remakes just aren't needed like Psycho, Clash of the Titans, etc. Sometimes they even tarnish the better film I feel because if a young person sees Ben Hur, and it stinks, why bother to watch the earlier, better film? I don't know why Hollywood doesn't leave a few films alone so that those older films will be explored and maybe someone will think, that was good, okay I might try another older film. There seems to be this fixation that newer is better, and with the sheen of newer efx and the action, there's that temptation to think that way I'll admit.

    But yes, those trailers are supposed to get warm bodies into the cinema, I remember those days. However, now I generally read the reviews to steer me on whether a film is worthwhile to see or not.

    1. I'm not totally against remakes, but I think there should be a good reason for revisiting the story. In the case of "Ben Hur", I really don't see too many ways you could improve the telling of the tale. But maybe I'm wrong... but that trailer really does look like a cash grab.

      Fellow blog writer John Muir has a good point, they should remake movies that were bad or ones that were disappointing. Some movies missed the mark but had a great core idea or a good story marred by poor acting. Remaking those would be a great idea. But the name recognition isn't there.

      A good example of this is "3:10 to Yuma" which was a solid western, but the remake was actually an improvement in many ways.

  4. I dunno if you caught this edition of Screen Junkies w/ Chris Stuckmann & the Flickster, but they ask the question what movie should be remade--a good topic to think about. They also asked some other interesting questions. A good movie fight:

    1. I haven't seen that yet. I'll check it out. I really like Stuckmann and usually agree with him. Flickster... well, that is a different story. :)