Rather than bless you with three tedious movie reviews, I’ve decided to take a different tack and instead discuss how the actual films stack up against the trailers that advertised them. Spoilers ahead across the board.
The trailers would have you believe that this movie is a “Not Your Father’s Star Fleet” kind of affair. Here’s a re-imagined Kirk actually seen shacking up with a hot green coed, here’s Spock losing his cool and hitting people, and just in case these explosions and shots of bridge angst don’t look 100% Epic to you, let’s throw in a choir of gently rising voices to make sure even your ears get the point.
What the trailer doesn’t tell you is that J. J. Abrams—who we should all greet with a raised eyebrow of intense skepticism after the first season of Fringe—delivers gold during every second of this movie. Abrams gives us much more than Star Fleet with a veneer of sex, dirt, and explosions. He digs through the Star Trek mythos and serves up the very heart of its characters and themes, while respecting all of its beloved, hokey tropes. Spock grappling with the human emotions he never wanted, Kirk reconciling duty with impulsivity, and naturally, the fate of the universe hanging in the balance. Amidst all this, Chekov still has a ridiculous accent, Scotty yells at everyone about engine power, and McCoy tells us that he’s a doctor, damnit, not a physicist. As long as we’re talking about Bones, let’s give Karl Urban some bonus points for making a truly great entrance.
The last good Star Trek movie before this one was 1996′s Star Trek: First Contact. That’s a long drought. Abrams discards just enough of Trek’s conventions (set your phasers to pun!) to pull off his daring refresh of the material, while staying true to Star Trek’s heart. While watching McCoy inject Kirk with a number of intergalactic diseases and antidotes to fake a medical emergency, I was reminded, quite vividly, of this scene from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.1 Ladies and gentlemen, this is what Bones does, and I applaud Abrams for getting it. I’m almost willing to forgive him for the plodding, mediocre crapfest that was Fringe. Almost.
Up‘s trailer paints itself as a buddy comedy about a grumpy old man and his peppy side kick, who stumble through a cavalcade of madcap adventure set in exotic locations. The Pixar aficionado should know better, since Pixar already made that movie. It was called Finding Nemo, perhaps you’ve heard of it?
What the trailers hide from us is a much deeper story, one motivated not by a child-like desire for adventure in old age, but by a need to mourn for the lost love of your life and make up for past mistakes. If you harbor suspicions that a friend of yours might be a robot, take him or her to see Up. If he’s not sobbing uncontrollably after the first ten minutes, you can safely shoot him in the head. Only a damned machine could remain tear-free during this movie. 3D glasses are awkward enough without me having to wipe my tears off them, thank you.
So yes, the trailer is hiding a lot from us. In fact, the image of a nimbus of balloons tethered to a brightly painted house is just one small part (albeit an inspired one) of an increasingly surreal, wonderful film. What do you want me to say? Pixar can do no wrong. They release one film a year, and it’s always perfect. God but I hate them.
This is the perfect example of a trailer ruining a movie. Let’s be clear. Terminator: Salvation is, at best, pretty good. The trailer has lots of footage of Terminators blowing up, and the film is at its best when it delivers on the spectacle and pyrotechnics. The trailer also makes the plot of the movie very clear: there’s a weird new Terminator model that thinks it’s human. Except, this isn’t the real plot. The real plot concerns John Connor’s attempt to save the life of a teen-aged Kyle Reese, the man who is sent back in time in the original Terminator and ends up fathering John Connor.
The movie doesn’t do a very good job reminding the audience about the Reese/Connor time travel relationship, so unless you’ve recently watched Terminator or the inexplicably canceled Sarah Connor Chronicles (Why, FOX, why??), you may find yourself slightly confused. Regardless, the trailer mentions nothing of Kyle Reese, instead focusing on this psuedo-human Terminator named Marcus Wright. The climax comes when Wright stumbles back to Skynet’s headquarters and the malevolent computer, speaking with the face of Helena Bonham Carter, reveals that though he was based on a human volunteer from 2003 (which we see in the film’s opening scene), he was also programmed to find Connor, gather intel about the human resistance, and then return to Skynet, a program he has now unwittingly executed to perfection. Anyone who didn’t see this coming from a mile away is an idiot (especially since the whole concept cribs so heavily from Battlestar Galactica). It would have been fairly easy to keep Wright’s true nature a secret, but the movie and its trailer go out of their ways to ruin the surprise for no good reason.
It’s worth mentioning that Sam Worthington, who plays Wright and who I’ve absolutely never heard of before, does a great job with the material. He’s a lot more compelling than Christan Bale’s relentlessly stoic Connor. Salvation reaches for the kind of emotional redemption we got in Terminator 2 and ends making a wild grab that culminates in a nonsensical and unnecessary heart transplant. At least the action bits are good. That and a totally awe-inspiring digital cameo from Arnold, who has been restored to his youth circa 1982. Where were these effects wizards on Wolverine?