Welcome to “Trailer Tuesday” where I talk about trailers for upcoming movies, since I’ve always found trailers to be endlessly fascinating.
Hollywood loves to compete with itself, releasing two movies within a short time that have similar stories. Tombstone and Wyatt Earp in 1993/4. Volcano and Dante’s Peak in 1997. Deep Impact and Armageddon and Antz and A Bug’s Life in 1998. Mission to Mars and Red Planet in 2000. The Illusionist and The Prestige in 2006. No Strings Attached and Friends with Benefits in 2011. This year we have two post-apocalyptic, “fallen Earth” stories coming out within two months of each other: After Earth and Oblivion.
We’ll start with Oblivion, which comes out this Friday, April 19th.
The latest Oblivion trailer opens with Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) in a rustic setting, enjoying nature and listening to “The Weight” on vinyl. He’s part of a two person “cleanup crew” some unspecified amount of time after a war between humans and aliens which forced an evacuation of Earth despite humans winning the war. He and his partner work on the drones that protect Earth from the alien threat. At some point he is captured by human survivors (Earth is supposed to be deserted) led by Morgan Freeman, setting up a showdown between Jack’s still-mysterious boss (Melissa Leo) and the rebels. There’s also an unknown woman who seems to know Jack, and what seems some kind of cover up.
After Earth, directed by M. Night Shyamalan, starring Will and Jaden Smith and opening on June 7, also tells the story of an abandoned Earth, though seemingly set much further in the future (it was originally titled 1000 A.E.). Will Smith plays some sort of military commander whose son (Jaden) is in training and under his command. Their relationship is strained, as the father only knows how to be a commander to his son. The two of them set off on a mission together, which the mother hopes will be a chance for them to bond. Their spaceship crashes, injuring the father and forcing the son on a journey to find an emergency beacon in a different section of their crashed ship. Along the way he’s forced to confront the evolved wildlife while working out the issues with his father.
Despite a similar premise, the two films seem to have many differences. After Earth is more of a man vs. nature (or ubernature) story combined with a father/son bonding tale. Oblivion is a conspiracy/mystery action film, with perhaps a broader story and certainly a larger cast. Shyamalan has a clearly defined reputation as a director and writer (I’m a fan, but I understand why many people aren’t), while Kosinski has only one credit to his name, Tron: Legacy. Both films do feature Oscar-nominated superstars as their leads (or semi-leads). So will audiences turn out for both, or will they only pick one? If only one, how will they choose?
I’m much more interested in Oblivion. I think the story will be much more complex and interesting, and man vs. man is almost always a better story to me than man vs. nature. I love it when Melissa Leo says, “This is insubordinate behavior,” through the drone. The effects also look much more convincing in Oblivion than they do in After Earth despite similar reported budgets, one of the dangers of having to animate hosts of living creatures. I think After Earth is going for more of a thriller/suspense feel and less of an action/mystery feel, which might appeal to some people but is not my preference, despite my general fondness for Shyamalan. After Earth also doesn’t seem like it has much to connect it to the Earth we know, other than the evolved animals, while Oblivion gives a more recognizable view of the abandoned Earth, more in line with the sort of future presented in WALL-E.
Despite my preference for Oblivion, I’m curious enough about After Earth to want to see both, even if my enthusiasm for it isn’t huge. Based on the trailers I predict that Oblivion will do better here in the US, but After Earth will do better overseas, and that their final box office totals will be pretty close.
What do you think? Which trailer do you prefer? Which movie is more interesting to you? Which star is a bigger draw: Tom Cruise or Will Smith? Do you think After Earth will have a typical Shyamalan sentimental ending?