Extremely Loud Holiday Movies

Sarah Posted by Sarah at June 5, 2018 18:54:59 June 5, 2018 18:54:59

Star Wars has dominated the last three holiday box office tournaments. In the wake of Solo’s summer slip, don’t forget that from 2015-2017, Star Wars cranked out billion-dollar business each December. But there is no Star Wars this Christmas, which means everyone else is trying it in their absence. Aquaman is coming out in December, as is an animated Spider-Man movie, Mary Poppins Returns, and the James Cameron/Robert Rodriguez collaboration Alita: Battle Angel. There will also be the first Transformers spin-off, Bumblebee, and Peter Jackson’s latest fantasy-adventure, Mortal Engines. It’s going to be an extremely loud holiday movie season.

We’ve already had some of the December crop release first looks, including a trailer for Alita and teasers for Mary Poppins Returns and animated Spider-Man. We’re still waiting on Aquaman, but I’m not expecting that trailer until Comic-Con. (If it doesn’t premiere there, THEN we can talk about if it’s a problem that there is no trailer. Right now, I’m fine with DC displaying some restraint.) Today trailers for Bumblebee and Mortal Engines dropped, filling out more of the December field. Let’s start with Mortal Engines because it’s the most obviously catastrophic. Take a look at this:

So how much money do we think this will lose? All of it? It’s based on Phillip Reeve’s fantasy novel series, and it has Peter Jackson’s cult of celebrity behind it, which won’t matter because it’s f*cking steampunk. I have a theory that most people hate steampunk. By “most people” I mean “literally almost everyone”, and by “hates steampunk” I mean “dislikes on a scale of ‘indifferent’ to ‘actively loathes’”. Steampunk is a really specific aesthetic that requires you to be into Victoriana AND engines, and combining them does not make either thing more likeable, it just turns people off twice as hard. If you are into steampunk, good for you, but there aren’t enough of you to sustain steampunk movies. (See also: Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, and more recently the Three Musketeers remake that had dirigible airships crashing over Paris which everyone hated.) Alita is doomed for similar reasons, so the only real question is which one loses more money: Alita or Mortal Engines?

Then there’s the Transformers spin-off, Bumblebee. I don’t hate this? Bumblebee comes from Kubo and the Two Strings director Travis Knight, making it the first Transformers movie not directed by Michael Bay. You can feel the difference immediately—there is a sweetness in this trailer never before seen in a Transformers movie. And that’s what I like about this trailer, it’s really focused on Bumblebee and his new pal, Hailee Steinfeld. There’s a real strong E.T. vibe, but that’s not the worst thing to invoke when your movie is about an alien making friends with an Earth kid. 

Also separating Bumblebee from the Transformers pack is the immediately clear personification of Bumblebee. The Transformers, as characters, are a f*cking mess. Either they’re racist cartoons or they’re switching motivations so fast you can’t keep up—ahem, Optimus Prime—but Bee has always been super cute, as he should be, because bumblebees are super cute.  And people LOVE him. When they were shooting one of the Transformers movies in Chicago a while back, people went nuts when the Bee car rolled around. Optimus Prime is, ostensibly, the Top Transformer, but I remember everyone from kids to Business Adults FREAKING OUT whenever Bee was on the street. So they’re smart to give Bee his own movie, and I like how clear his personality is in this trailer. He’s a scared, hurt kid! It’s SO sharply realized. Travis Knight’s background is stop-motion animation, and you can see that influence in how deliberately Bee’s movements are calculated to communicate emotion. I really like this. It’s 100% going to get wiped out by Mary Poppins Returns, but if Bumblebee delivers on the promise of this trailer, then it will be the first Transformers movie to not be the cinematic equivalent of a garbage disposal.


Emma McIntyre/ Getty Images

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