The Trailer Park: Bigger than Big

Although often lumped together with historical period pieces, the epic film as a genre is more commonly defined by featuring a central hero on a grand, ambitious journey. The stories are told in a large, sweeping scale full of spectacle and grandeur, against a lavish, panoramic and sometimes fantastical backdrop. This week’s new movie trailers all fall under this category.

‘King Arthur: Legend of the Sword’

The Arthurian legend has been the source of inspiration for a variety of entertainment media, from stage plays and comics to videogames and songs. When it comes to television and movies, this marks the twelfth adaptation in the last twenty years, ever since Jerry Zucker directed Sean Connery to feign a jealous rage over Richard Gere and Julia Ormand. As Antoine Fuqua discovered in 2004, no matter how gritty and realistic, very few filmmakers have been able to successfully translate the legendary historical romance into a sweeping action adventure flick.

But Guy Ritchie laughs in the face of skeptics and all you doubting Thomases with another take on the legend permeated with a thick Gothic fantasy atmosphere. From a story by ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ executive producer Joby Harold, the spectacle just looks like typical Ritchie dash and flair — more stylized panache and flashy visuals than sum and substance. In fact, a couple shots feel as if he directly lifted them from ‘Snatch’, while the rest looks like a phenomenal piece of CG garbage. The preview immediately opens with a terrible SnorriCam sequence and quickly devolves into a mess of swords, explosions, fantastical creatures and magic. From the looks of it, this is rental at best.

‘Ben-Hur’ (2016)

This has got to be one of the worst ever uses of modern music in a trailer. As if the movie didn’t already look corny enough to make filmgoers cringe at the histrionic melodrama, the producers opted for an awful song – of the inspiring spiritual variety – to accompany the visuals. Based on the trailer, it looks as though the movie itself can’t make up its mind between being a religious parable, a historical epic or another run-of-the-mill sports drama with chariot racing. The more I see of this movie, the more I think it wants to be the latter with a character that just so happens to run into Jesus. Much like the Arthurian legend above, the Lee Wallace novel has been adapted numerous times, with William Wyler’s 1959 classic being the only memorable interpretation. Just seeing Morgan Freeman yelling during the race like an excited coach makes me want to stay away from this one.

‘The Great Wall’

From Zhang Yimou, the director of wuxia favorites ‘Hero’ and ‘House of Flying Daggers’, the teaser for his latest fantasy actioner leaves me feeling somewhat cold and unsure. It’s ridiculous to imagine that the Great Wall was built for anything else other than what is historically known, but admittedly, the visuals have me intrigued enough to wait for a full trailer before really laying any judgment.

‘Resident Evil: The Final Chapter’

Some may argue whether the ‘Resident Evil’ series qualifies as an epic, but no matter one’s personal tastes, the agreed upon definition leaves room for franchises with sci-fi horror elements. Just look at the fact that Milla Jovovich’s super-soldier Alice is now on her sixth hero’s quest to save humanity from extinction. Her ordinary world, a dystopian America destroyed by a zombie apocalypse, is a massive sweeping spectacle where she stands alone – often literally, just for the sake of dramatic visuals – to rid the world of an infection created by the endlessly mysterious Umbrella Corp.

Promised as ‘The Final Chapter’, the trailer is sadly the only one of this week’s lot to bring a smile to my face and make me consider running out to purchase tickets. Then again, I’m a bit of fan and would obviously see this at the theater anyway. Still, I love the preview primarily for its imaginative use of Guns N’ Roses’ “Paradise City,” altered perfectly to match the editing and making it loads of fun to watch. Sometimes I wish all trailers would have this kind of fun.

For more of the latest movie trailers, check out our trailers page.

43 comments

  1. Bolo

    That ‘Great Wall’ trailer just reminds me of ‘Cowboys & Aliens’ in terms of taking a ridiculous genre mashup premise way too seriously. And Matt Damon’s hair bugs me.

    • I think what’s more problematic about The Great Wall is the casting of a white hero in a Chinese story.

      I’d be inclined to give Zhang Yimou the benefit of the doubt, but having seen A Woman, A Gun and a Noodle Shop, I learned that when he fails, he fails spectacularly.

      • Chris B

        I got into a huge fight on FB with some people about this. What I’m wondering is if the screenplay makes a point of even explaining Damon’s differing ethnicity, or if we’re all just supppsed to pretend that he doesn’t stick out.

      • cardpetree

        From the looks of the trailer, this is a big budget movie that the studio is hoping will do well at the box office. I have no idea what the story line is but Matt Damon is a pretty big draw and I’m sure they’re trying to get as many white folks as they can to come spend their money on this film. Can you think of an Asian actor that might have the same box office umph that a Matt Damon has?

        • I have no doubt that’s precisely the reasoning. The filmmakers want to court an American audience, and American audiences are afraid of movies that don’t have American (more often than not, white) characters for them to identify with. Nonetheless, that’s an incredibly cynical reason to insert a white character into a story set in ancient China. It also speaks to an uncomfortable trend in movies like The Last Samurai, Dances with Wolves, etc. of centering a story around a white hero saving people of color who can’t take care of themselves.

          • cardpetree

            Yeah, I doubt there’s any movie studios that care too much about uncomfortable trends as long as they’re making money.

        • Chris B

          That’s exactly my point to. Without a recognizable Hollywood star, barely anyone in North America will go and see the movie.
          Not because they’re racist but because they’re fickle are far more likely to buy a ticket if there’s a familiar performer in the cast.

          Can you imagine the average movie-goer in North America walking up to the poster at his or her local ciniplex and seeing all asian actors in a film called “The Great Wall”? Most of them would probably figure it’s a foreign film and wonder if it’s even in english. 99% of them wouldn’t go and studio execs know this.

          The highest grossing movie of all time in China is Steven Chow’s Ther Mermaid. Try finding anyone you know (with the exception if us cinephiles and movie geeks) who has even heard of it. Did anyone go see the new Godzilla movie that opened a few weeks back? You know, the all-Japanese one with no hollywood stars? No? Exactly.

          This is about familiarity and crossover appeal. Two countries working together to make a fuckload of cash.

          • “Not because they’re racist but because they’re fickle are far more likely to buy a ticket if there’s a familiar performer in the cast.”

            I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss racism as a motivating factor.

            “Most of them would probably figure it’s a foreign film and wonder if it’s even in english.”

            The Great Wall is a Chinese film by a Chinese director made in China with a 99% Chinese cast. It is a foreign film. I would expect most of the dialogue to be in Mandarin, aside from the Matt Damon storyline. The trailer notably does not show any characters speaking. The only dialogue we hear is Matt Damon’s voiceover.

            This is ‘Hero’ all over again. The Weinsteins did everything they could to disguise the fact that the movie was subtitled. Opening weekend audiences had record walk-outs.

          • Does anyone know why some Americans dislike subtitles? I, for one, would never ‘walk out’ of a movie with subtitles. I once accidentally and without clue landed in a theater playing ‘3 Idiots’, a Bollywood movie. Three hours of singing, dancing, humor and (a light amount of) drama. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and never thought of walking out – even if it wasn’t what I was expecting.

          • That’s a complicated question. It’s a mixture of extreme nationalism drilled into young children from an early age (“God bless America, and everybody else can go to hell”), insecurity about the fact that very few Americans can speak more than one language, intellectual laziness (“I ain’t going to no movies to read!”), and a fair amount of xenophobia about other cultures.

          • cardpetree

            “The Great Wall is a Chinese film by a Chinese director made in China with a 99% Chinese cast. It is a foreign film.”

            So the Chinese are racist. I demand there be more diversity in Chinese films. I’m extremely offended that there’s only 1% non-Chinamen in this film.

          • It’s a Chinese film that’s trying to pander to the American market by inserting a white hero into the Chinese story. I wouldn’t be surprised if that character doesn’t even appear in the version of the movie that plays in China. He’s there strictly so that American viewers can breathe a sigh of relief that, “Oh good, there’s a white guy there. Maybe it’ll be OK for me to watch this. I certainly wouldn’t want to see a movie that’s just a bunch of Asians running around with no white man to rescue them!”

        • cardpetree

          So Americans that live in the most diverse country in the world are the racists? Or just the white people that live in America are racists? Does China get a pass on racism?

          • I suggest you watch the news sometime to see just how much underlying bigotry, racism and xenophobia have been riled to the surface in our country recently.

            China doesn’t get a pass for anything, but this is a Chinese story set in ancient China, and there’s no conceivable reason for an American character to be there. America wouldn’t even exist for another 2,000 years! I mean, I get that this is a fantasy movie with monsters and stuff in it, but is he also supposed to be a time traveler? Maybe that explains it…

          • cardpetree

            Well, this is your site and this could obviously turn into a nasty back and forth. So I’m just gonna bow out gracefully and let you have the last word on it.

          • Timcharger

            Speaking of the Martian…

            “sciencing the shit out of it.”
            “If he holds true to form, he’ll need a team of Americans to come rescue him.”

            …it did take Chinese rockets to bring Matt Damon home
            from Mars.

            So this is just a debt repayment. Matt Damon will now
            save all of China from the monsters/dragons beyond the
            Great Wall.
            🙂

            —–

            Cardpetree, we aren’t in a position to criticize China, or
            other countries of racism unless we first hold ourselves
            to a higher standard. And this point of yours:
            “So Americans that live in the most diverse country in the world…”
            And that’s a good thing, right? Then we need to
            preserve and foster that diverse environment. Building
            walls, overgeneralizing immigrants, or whitewashing
            movies weaken our diversity.

            Calling this out now allows us to gripe if one day, future
            movies about the American Revolution may have the
            latest Chinese heartthrob actor play the ship captain
            that aids George Washington in crossing the Delaware.
            Because then “for financial reasons” an Asian superstar
            must be cast so the studios can make a “f*ckload of
            cash.”

          • cardpetree

            “we aren’t in a position to criticize China, or
            other countries of racism unless we first hold ourselves
            to a higher standard.”

            We have a black President that won two landslide elections. Where are the people of color in China? Why does China get a pass for not having people of color in their country? Btw, I don’t care if China has any diversity when it comes to the color of someone’s skin. Just pointing out some slight hypocrisy. This calling everybody or I guess just white folks in America racist over and over has made the term basically meaningless anyway.

          • Timcharger

            For the record, I have criticized China
            for its own xenophobia. I can cite the Age of
            Extinction thread or Ip Man 3’s surprise lack
            of xenophobia for Tyson.

            There’s this strange belief implied by the
            events you cited. How about thinking of it in
            this historical sequence:
            Slavery abolished in 1865, so racism is dead?
            Separate But Equal overturned in 1954, so
            racism is dead?
            Civil Rights Act of 1964, so racism is dead?
            Obama getting 53% of the vote in 2008, so
            racism is dead?
            Obama getting 51% of the vote in 2012 so
            racism is dead?

            So calling out our racism is “meaningless”
            to you, but how meaningful is your point
            that we are less racist than China?

            And going back to film. One day China may
            “yellow-wash” a movie about the great
            American expedition of Meriwether Lewis
            and Jackie Chan. The Lewis and Chan film
            have such crossover appeal, it breaks all
            sorts of box office records. All in the name
            for profits. And to be consistent, you’ll
            defend this film?

            I smell a Roundtable topic…

          • cardpetree

            “And going back to film. One day China may
            “yellow-wash” a movie about the great
            American expedition of Meriwether Lewis
            and Jackie Chan. The Lewis and Chan film
            have such crossover appeal, it breaks all
            sorts of box office records. All in the name
            for profits. And to be consistent, you’ll
            defend this film?”

            I certainly wouldn’t say I’d defend it. I would one hundred percent say that I wouldn’t care and would not be offended by it.

          • Timcharger

            Yeah, Lewis and Clark isn’t a touchstone
            for Americans. But if George Washington
            needed the help of Shaolin Kung Fu monks
            who weaponized Chinese fireworks in order
            to defeat the British, maybe that might hit a
            nerve?

          • Timcharger

            Gotta admit though…
            seeing Oberyn Martell in the Great Wall
            trailer brought a smile to my face. Maybe
            Pedro Pascal will have a big fight with a
            giant, “mountain” of a monster and this
            time hopefully redeem himself in the
            rematch.

          • cardpetree

            “But if George Washington
            needed the help of Shaolin Kung Fu monks
            who weaponized Chinese fireworks in order
            to defeat the British”

            Haha, that actually sounds like a pretty cool idea for a movie. You should submit that to someone.

        • cardpetree

          “white people don’t have a long history of being oppressed by any other race”

          Sure we have, maybe not in this country. Just check your history facts and go back a few centuries. All races have issues and eras during the history of the world where they’ve been oppressed.

  2. Excellent ‘Resident Evil’ trailer, indeed. I haven’t seen any of the previous movies, so my question: does she always acknowledge the audience, and lean on the fourth wall?

    • Elizabeth

      I didn’t think she was breaking the fourth wall when she said, “Welcome home.” I’m assuming that’s what is being referred to. I felt like she was just talking to herself, acknowledging her return to Raccoon City where the series started.

      Unless you’re referring to her smiling while riding the motorcycle. That seemed like she might be acknowledging the viewer. But it was a nice smile so if that’s the closest she comes to breaking the fourth wall in the movie, I’m okay with it.

      And having watched all the other films, I’m sure I’ll be seeing this one in theaters. I don’t expect a great movie, I expect a fun movie in 3D.

      • Indeed, I meant the smiling while riding the motorcycle. She seemed to be directly looking in the lens. But indeed, it could be just a small nod (or even a shot just for the trailer). In any case, the trailer makes me want to see the movie, so mission accomplished.

  3. EM

    “Memorable” is in the eye of the beholder, but I wouldn‘t call the 1959 Ben-Hur the only memorable film version. The 1925 version’s chariot race in particular is indelible.

  4. cardpetree

    Whoa, just noticed the link to the trailers page. That’s really cool. You guys need to post a permanent noticeable link to that on the front page.

    • There used to be one. It got lost in the redesign a couple years ago. That page is just a feed that links to apple.com, so there’s not really any original content from us there.

  5. Patient O.T.

    You lost ALL credibility admitting that you will see Resident Evil 6 in the theater and that you are a big fan.
    Yeah, I trust your judgment NOW….

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