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.
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.
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