Godzilla and Edge of Tomorrow demonstrate trailer deceit
One is a dull film with a great trailer. The other is something else.
Do you remember when we all thought this year’s remake of Godzilla was going to reinvent the action picture? The rivers would flow with chocolate. Bluebirds would twitter the Choral Symphony. The wind would smell of cinnamon. And Gareth Edwards’ picture would make the multiplex a safe place for punters with working brains. It didn’t quite work out that way. Godzilla wasn’t bad exactly. It received a perfectly respectable rating on Metacritic and, here at The Irish Times, we stretched to a couched three-star review. But it was more than a little dull. The characters weren’t characters and the creature himself never really took hold of the frame. After a big opening at the box office , it declined dramatically and is now looking in danger of (thank God) not generating a sequel.
So what were we all on? Well, those of us in the know were quite properly excited by the presence of Mr Edwards on the project. His fine film Monsters pointed towards a smart sensibility. So it proved. But, if we’d payed greater attention, we’d have noticed that Monsters wasn’t really a monster movie. His take is just a little too quiet for the material.
What really drove the hysteria was, of course, the excellent trailer. Revisiting it again, I almost doubt my own judgement of the film itself. Just look at this thing. It echoes to great biblical throbs. The scenes of post-apocalyptic hell are troubling. At 57″ it does one of those cut-the-sound things and delivers a series of insidious images accompanied by some very spooky sub-György Ligeti trills. All this is (I think) in the film. But the editing in the trailer is much more effective. By the time, watching the picture, you get to those torches in the wood there is every chance you and your pals will be on the way to Sleepytown.
Now let us consider the upcoming Edge of Tomorrow. The makers of the trailer do have something of a challenge on their hands. Most of the world really has had enough of Tom Cruise In The Future. We’ve had quite enough of him in the present thank you very much. So this is a hard sell. But, still, the trailer really could be a lot better.
Unlike the folk behind the Godzilla promo, the Edge people have decided to emphasise bangs, booms and thuds. The sub-Philip K Dick premise — actually taken from a Japanese novel — is lurking in there somewhere, but, heed this trailer, and you could be forgiven for thinking the picture is a bossy explosion fest that happens to have some science fiction attached. In fact Doug Liman’s picture (his best since The Bourne Identity) is closer to Source Code than it is to Transformers. It has its flaws. But it passes the time very divertingly indeed.
What lessons are there in here? Well, there something to be said for promising (if not exactly offering) something outside the blockbuster norm. We know we’re going to get mayhem. We know we’re going to get old men kissing young ladies. We know Tom Cruise is going to turn up. The suggestion of something just a little different might be enough to get us excited.
More generally, this reminds us that a skilled trailer director can make us believe anything of the advertised film. Remember, a few years back, the cult started by a trailer for The Shining that made it look like a silly comedy. It was funny. But it was also making a point. Do we need to spell it out.