The trailer for The Lost City of Z, aka, the movie where Charlie Hunnam ghosted his girlfriend for five months, has been released and it’s two minutes of white dudes wandering around in the woods. Again. The book it’s based on is a great read, but the trailer is communicating self-importance and pretension, and it looks like The Revenant: Amazon Edition. It’s directed by James Gray, whose work I generally like, and it certainly looks lovely, with the mellow gold lighting and deep blacks pulled out of the greens. Very saturated and contrasty without burning out your retinas, Michael Bay could take notes. And Robert Pattinson’s sadness beard is truly impressive.
But what is the angle here? This dude (Percy Fawcett, for the record) gets lost in the Amazon, and then what? Who is Tom Holland supposed to be? (His son, Jack Fawcett.) And what is RPattz doing there? (Playing the surveyor, Henry Costin.) I only know this because I read David Grann’s book of the same name back when it came out in 2009. It’s a great book, by the way, equal parts mystery and travelogue, combining modern archaeology with the history of Fawcett’s disastrous expedition in 1925. Great beach read for the non-romance novel types out there.
None of that is translating in this trailer. If you haven’t read the book, are you picking up on how any of these people relate or what the f*ck they’re doing in the jungle? 90% of cinema audiences rely solely on trailers to convince them to see a movie, and I don’t think this is getting the job done. James Gray isn’t a commercial director—except for when he is literally directing commercials—so it’s not like he has to appeal to the blockbuster set with this. But the arthouse is just as competitive as the cineplex—maybe more so, because there’s less money to go around—so you have to deliver a good trailer for this audience, too.
And I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty tired of “white people lost in the woods” movies. I listed Martin Scorsese’s Silence as a movie I don’t care for on my 2016 Top 10, and boy did a lot of people who haven’t seen the movie yet share their opinions on that. Simplified, Silence is about Jesuit priests lost in the woods in feudal Japan. It’s a Struggle Movie, too, but I found the plight of the Japanese so much more compelling than the priests.
If Silence simply switched it around so that the protagonists are the Japanese converts hiding the priests, who take a backseat to Japanese concerns and storytelling, then Silence is immediately more interesting because it’s not like every other Struggle Movie about white people lost in the woods. The book Lost City of Z is great because of the details about the Amazon and what modern archaeology has uncovered about pre-Colombian life there, but that’s the sort of thing that doesn’t translate in film. So we’re left with yet another white people lost in the woods Struggle Movie. Super exciting.