I just went to see Star Trek Into Darkness today. I will say that I still don’t particularly understand the title reference unless it’s purely poetic, but it was a good movie. Full of action, laughs and tears, with a near overload of Star Trek references for the geeks (myself included).
There’s a lot about the movie that I won’t talk about because I don’t want to spoil it, but there are some scenes and things that occur that were genuinely shocking to me. And not because of their import in the world of Star Trek (although that, too, is a factor), but because I genuinely didn’t expect it. I had not been prepared beforehand; it had not been in the trailer.
And I loved it.
Take a moment to watch the trailer for Star Trek Into Darkness. It’s riveting, as of course all good trailers are. It introduces our characters: Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty and the gang, and the bad guy – that guy from Sherlock. It sets the tone (dark, obviously) and features back-to-back sequences of explosions and stunts, interspersed with the slow-downs of momentary reflection. Ultimately, here’s what we know: a madman is on the loose and Kirk et al. are off to stop him. Along the way buildings get blown up, people get hurt, there’s a shot with a giant shadow-Enterprise, and a tantalizing shot of a spaceship crashing headlong into the ocean.
I can now safely tell you that you don’t know half of the movie.
Sadly, not all movies are like that these days. As we waited for the feature to begin, we quite naturally sat through some trailers for new, up-and-coming movies. Among them were World War Z, Anchorman: The Legend Continues, The Lone Ranger, Ender’s Game (yeah, did you know they’re making a movie out of that?) and Elysium. Of those, the one I know the least about – and am therefore the most excited to see – is Anchorman.
Compare that to The Lone Ranger.
Now let me tell you about it. A city man returns to his home in the West, where his brother is a sheriff. He’s soon deputized, only to be ambushed by bad guys and witness his brother’s death. Rescued by a very odd native american, he learns to hide his identity to seek revenge for his brother’s murder, only to find the bad guys aren’t quite what they seem. It turns out it wasn’t a random ambush, but the very lawmakers themselves that killed his brother, in a conspiracy to smuggle some kind of valuable ore (coal, maybe?) and make a fortune out of it.
All of that, from the trailer. I didn’t look at IMDb, honest. I’ll ignore that it’s based on a previous premise, because I haven’t seen that either.
The days of the trailer as a medium of art is nigh at an end. Once, movie trailers were like this:
What a masterpiece. Every element of the story is in there, from the characters to the plot and the inevitable deaths to the tone and style set by the dark lighting and high, atonal strings. But it’s structured in a seemingly random sequence so that so one part can be associated with another. It’s not linear. It hints at a story, without actually telling it.
Here’s another fantastic trailer from the past:
What do I know? Nothing, except it’s about aliens and I’m going to crap my pants.
I’m well aware of the dangers of cross-comparison. The Lone Ranger isn’t Alien. It isn’t Psycho. It isn’t even Wild Wild West (actually, it is, but at least …Wild West‘s trailer didn’t give the entire story away). It isn’t a horror movie. It isn’t sci-fi. To be honest, it probably isn’t even a western. From the trailer, it pretty much looks like another excuse for Johnny Depp to do his thing (though I will admit that I find his thing rather enjoyable).
Here’s the thing. Every movie – every story, for that matter – needs to have a ‘reveal’: a moment in the plot where you say, “Wow – I wasn’t expecting that!” I got that with Star Trek Into Darkness. Several times. I got that with Psycho when I first watched it. Hell, I even got it with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. But I very much doubt I’m going to get it with The Lone Ranger. Much like I didn’t get it with the plethora of sequels to Pirates of the Caribbean. Nor did I with Captain America: The First Avenger. Or with (I hate to admit it ’cause I really liked the movie) Juno. And a score of others.
It’s in the nature of storytelling: you don’t give it all away, or no one will come to watch the damn thing in the first place! Actually they probably will, but that’s just even worse.
Sigh. Here’s to movies I don’t know everything about before I go to see it.
Oh, and don’t even get me started on movies that are based on absolutely anything but original ideas. Can you believe they made a movie out of rock ’em sock ’em robots?