Stranger Things 2 – and yes, they are trailing it as a numbered sequel – promises more of the same glorious eighties retro horror that the first season gave us, with Will Byers' mind still half-trapped in the Upside Down, and thus able to see some vast, Cthuloid horror looming over the town of Hawkins Indiana. The trailer confirms that Eleven will be returning, alongside our other young heroes, and of course Hop the inexplicably badass, whom we will probably spend another entire season expecting to die horribly. I hope he doesn't. There's little sign of any human antagonists, but I suspect that there will be some.
Also, 'Thriller'. Vincent Price, still doing the business almost a quarter of a century after his passing. If that isn't a fitting tribute to a horror actor, I don't know what is.
Also in the field of original urban horror/fantasy (although definitely less original and more fantasy) is Bright, a sort of mashup of Alien Nation, any film where a group of ostensibly respectable protagonists find a fortune in hostile territory(1), and Shadowrun(2), with Will Smith as an LAPD veteran assigned the first orc cop as his partner in a world where humans live alongside fantasy races (presumably due to relatively recent shenanigans given the otherwise now-ness of the world.) From the looks of it, orcs have fallen into the lower class, while elves have joined the 1%, because fucking elves, dude.
Will and Orc arrest an elf carrying a magic wand, described as 'a nuclear weapon that grants wishes.' Several of their fellow cops appear to want the wand to 'disappear' into their pockets, and there are elves and all sorts after it, with our heroes trying to get it safely to... somewhere. So there's a bit of the Warriors in the old CNA(3) as well. It looks kind of mad, although a bit as if it might have benefited from a miniseries rather than a movie to be contentiously released only through Netflix. I mean, I'd pay out to see this at the cinema.
The latest trailer for The Defenders shows our team somewhat less united than they might once have appeared, with basically everyone but Danny Rand opposed to either a team up or Chinese food. From this brief glimpse I already feel more sympathy for Danny, as he's so obviously the little kid with the bad solo series situation who just wants to hang out with the cool kids and pretend he has a fanbase that love him. There are also some signs of him doing something more interesting with his chi powers than just punching really hard. However, most of what we get from this trailer is Sigourney Weaver's Alexandra and her plans for Manhattan, which feel distinctly League of Shadows. We see her coaching Elektra on war, goading our heroes on how they suck, and holding her own in a glowering contest with Madame Gao, which is no small feat.
There was also a character teaser, which ended with the Punisher putting in an appearance.
From there, let's jump to non-Netflix Marvel TV shows.
After a deeply underwhelming first trailer, Marvel's Inhumans (henceforth Inhumans) got a longer reveal with some added SFX, in particular Medusa's hair doing its thing. Also of significant note is a scene of Iwan Rheon getting some man of the people vibes, as well as being sassed for being 'only human.' As of now, I've got to say that I'm on team Maximus. Inhumans joins Agents of SHIELD on ABC and for my money looks to have the same slick production values and hints of the same lack of truly engaging characters. Black Bolt is a barely expressive beefcake, which is not a good start for a character who can't talk. There's a lot of work to doing that character well, and just looking noble and stoic doesn't cut it.
Anyway, I probably ought to get caught up on Agents of SHIELD at some point.
From the non-MCU side of things we get a longer trailer for The Gifted, Fox's upcoming offering within the X-Men multiverse (presumably a slightly different corner thereof than Legion.) It's your classic brother and sister mutants are hunted by the agency that once employed their father scenario, with said father reaching out to a group of other mutants – canon X-Men characters Thunderbird, Blink and Polaris, and light-bending newbie Eclipse – to help the family disappear. What's really interesting about this one is that, alongside Agents of SHIELD and a few other shows, it defies the unwritten convention that representation means 20-25% female cast and one minority. The Gifted has 50% female cast in its protagonist group (half of the established mutants, one of the newbies, one of the parents,) and Native American, Chinese and Hispanic characters in the lead group(4).
It's probably telling that my other takeaway from this is not the action, the effects or the poignant and tragic tale of vampire export Stephen Moyer trying to recreate the existential dilemma of Horn-Rimmed Glasses in the good season of Heroes, but that a male and female character are shown discussing relationships with no apparent UST.
From Marvel to DC now, and let's start where the CW started, with Arrow.
We open with a recap of the end of Season 5 and the explosion of Lian Yu. New footage shows that Will is haunted by what happened, and as he is seemingly living with single dad Oliver we can assume Mum didn't make it off the island. No sign of Felicity yet, or Diggle, but Echo Kellum shows up in some of the marketing, so we can hope that they're not burying the gay guy yet. The other confirmed survivors are the Dinahs Lance and Drake, apparently engaging in a protracted feud, and Slade Wilson, last seen leaving the rest of the team in the lurch (although a scene of him shaking hands with Oliver tells against him having gone full heel again.)
I'll be honest, I came out of this a little unclear who the villain of the series might be, and I'm worried it's going to be existential angst and that Arrow Season 6 is going to turn out to be Arrow's Buffy Season 6, all pain and misery and crushing mundanity. On the other hand, I could go for a proper musical episode(5).
The Flash goes into Season 4 lacking a certain... Flash. Barry is still stuck in the Speed Force, leaving Iris to coordinate the emotionally battered members of the team, including Caitlin, who appears to be going with a freeze ray look this season, but not Julian apparently. It pitches us a massive samurai dude as our major villain, although that might just be a lever for bringing Barry home. We get even less hint of the overall plot than with the other shows – this makes sense; most of their episodes probably haven't filmed yet, so we've only got some early episode stuff to show – but it's a sadder and a wiser world on display, and... well, I miss Season 1's sense of fun.
Also lacking somewhat in her habitual joie de vivre is Supergirl, who is moping over the loss of Mon-el and deciding to 'retire' Kara Danvers to be a full time Supergirl. Now, Mon-el grew on me as a character, and I like the juxtaposition of Kara's self-sacrifice with Superman's commitment to personal relationships, but seriously if the moping goes on for more than a couple of weeks I may flip a table. It's not just that I like my happy Supergirl, because I accept that it's not unreasonable that the kind of shit superheroes deal with would wear you down, but that I don't want to see her brung low by love of a man. Mourn, mope, move on(6).
Anyway, we also get a glimpse of Adrian Pasdar as an evil businessman threatening to get all up in Lena Luthor's grill, Alex and Maggie being alternately adorable and badass as all hell, and Supergirl heat visioning the shit out of something. Again, no substantial sign of our big bad yet(7).
If I was worried that the Arrowverse was going into complete angst overload, Legends of Tomorrow drops a season 3 trailer to soothe my worries, with dinosaurs in LA and Mick Rory going after a clown wielding a giant hammer. With anachronisms all across history as a result of their Spear of Destiny shenanigans, modern-day Vixen's dead evil sister popping up, and some sort of time feds getting all up in Sara's face about her team's ability to handle a super-secret rising darkness situation, our band of misfits look to be saddling up for another season of balls to the wall goofball action and occasional moments of poignancy, more in keeping with its glorious sophomore year than its rocky beginnings.
As bad as the head-pasties were, I kind of got used to them, and I can't help finding the Kelvinverse Klingons a little offputting(8). Presumably we’ll see somewhere in this series the genetic accident that produces the Original Series Klingons, before they reverted to the movie/Next Gen appearance.
Where was I?
Right; so the new Star Trek: Discovery trailer promises action, thrills and war, and it's all our slightly gung-ho protagonist's fault. I strongly suspect, looking at this, that Michelle Yeo's character won't make it past the early episodes before being replaced by Lucius Malfoy, which is a bit of a shame, but it is as it is. All in all, the look is very Kelvinverse – not just the Klingons – even if the continuity isn't. I wonder if the show is going for more of a serial vibe than previous Star Trek series, which tended to be more a collection of individual stories than a single arc.
We open with William Hartnell morphing seamlessly into David Bradley, which is really uncanny. I assumed at first they just reshot with Bradley and showed the first bit in black and white. It seems to confirm that we're opening at the point where the First Doctor is about to regenerate, although what follows with its 'frozen moment' looks more like WWI. Mark Gatiss is a wide-eyed army officer known only as 'The Captain' at this point. Time Lord? Psychic projection of the Doctor's fear of being an officer? Lethbridge-Stewart senior, perhaps(9)? A reappearance for Bill as a physical being suggests to me that a lot of this is going to be in the Doctors' mind, which is not to say that I find it unlikely that super-powerful water-being Bill could find her way into such a construct.
Not much to go on here, but apparently we're looking at the adventures of Catherine Langford, action schoolgirl. Interestingly, if this is supposed to be in continuity with SG-1 and she goes through the Gate at all, then she was presumably lying through her teeth to Daniel and the others for years. On the other hand, perhaps the Stargate won't ever be opened; who can say.
Again, very little specific here. We see the hosts - led by Delores and her faithful Teddy - purging the park of tourists, and what looks to be a push back from the company, as well as the pianola being upgraded to juke box mode. Most intriguingly, we have the Man in Black still around. I kind of want to go back and remind myself where he was shot...
Okay, movie time.
It's obviously early days on production of the Pacific Rim sequel, with this teaser trailer featuring little footage and instead taking the form of a mock recruiting ad for the Jaeger programme, featuring a voice over by GLaDOS (once more, Ellen McCain's filters are at full GLaDOS for the trailer.) I want McCain to do a song for the credits on this one, I really do.
Steven Spielberg's much-anticipated adaptation of Ernest Cline's Ready Player One gets its first showing in this teaser, which is as packed with 1980s retro imagery as you would expect, from Duke Nukem to the Iron Giant.
The astute among you will of course have noted that both Duke Nukem and (the movie version of) The Iron Giant are from the 1990s, and this is indicative of a general problem with the movie. It's not 80s enough by a long stretch. The Oasis is a highly sophisticated simulated reality, yes, and much of it is no doubt super-futuristic and impossible high def, but especially those parts of it designed by Halliday really ought to look more eighties, and in these days of Stranger Things, Far Cry: Blood Dragon and even Thor: Ragnarok, there's little excuse for mucking this one up.
Now, don't get me wrong, I recognise that there is a huge step to be taken in adapting a novel much of which consists of the protagonist playing cabinet arcade games or being inserted into seminal eighties nerd movies, and the giant Hot Wheels track race is a great image, but overall it just looks too... 2017, and has too much from the 90s in it. Apparently retro-futurism – or is this future-retroism? – ain't what it used to be.
Kingsman was a divisive film in a lot of ways. I found it to be interesting, but flawed. From the looks of things, this sequel has managed to slim down the concept a lot by jettisoning the interest and keeping the flaws. Roxy/Lancelot, who got only a single shot in the original trailer, here has... nothing. She's gone. Eggsy, meanwhile, continues to be boorish, arrogant and rude, and yet his mentor seems to be questioning the American Statesman organisation's understanding of the creedo 'Manners Maketh Man.' At this point, I'm really more interested in Statesman.
The times they are a changing, and no better sign of that – in this rundown at least – than the shift in Justice League's focus from Batman to Wonder Woman in this trailer as compared to last year's SDCC trailer. It's not that Batman has gone, but Wonder Woman is front and centre here, as befits the most experienced warrior, not just in the Justice League, but pretty much in the entire world, if Themiscyra really is going to be the first place destroyed by Steppenwolf. There's a reference to the Lanterns, and a few hints that Superman will turn up (because that would be a shocker at this point, right?) although I would punch the air if it turns out that our super-costumed cavalry was Kara Zor-el. There is also a shift to the Wonder Woman colour palette, and a few Whedonisms thrown in for good measure (most notably 'They really just vanished. That's rude.')
Other thoughts: The trailer is playing up the Flash's doubts to the point that I suspect they will remember that he is basically the most powerful of them all, since on his A game he's untouchable, unstoppable, and could phase a brick into Superman's heart if he really wanted to. Plus, time travel. I strongly suspect that we'll see him be pivotal to the final save in the film, and quite possibly getting lost in time as a consequence.
Also, boom tube! I wonder if they'll call it that in the movie?
And finally, on top of their TV shows, Marvel dropped a new trailer for Thor: Ragnarok which is epic AF. We get to see the actual Team Thor – sadly, Darryl doesn't seem to get a look in – with a prominent role for Bruce Banner/Hulk, as well as more scenes of Hela dominating the Asgardian forces. The rest of Team Thor is filled out by frenemies Valkyrie and Loki, with sadly little sign of recurring favourites, unless that's Sif leading the flying horse cavalry that Hela's winding up to slaughter. I hope they don't kill off Sif. It would be a poor lookout for all of the sub-franchise's supporting female characters to end up dead or absent. The other thing I noted was the bit at the end where he appears to have internalised the powers previously only granted by Mjolnir, which makes a certain amount of sense given that it was always described as 'the power of Thor.'
Of course, the really notable thing is that this trailer is way, way more eighties than anything in Ready Player One, from the music to the title card(10). It's a high risk design strategy, but one that seems to be paying off to judge by the response.
So that's this year's trailers. Of course there are others, but mostly for stuff I don't or won't watch, so I don't have much to say on that front.
(1) I'm thinking Three Kings, I'm thinking Trespass...
(2) And with shades of Defiance in its pale, fancy elves.
(3) Cinematic Nucleic Acid, the building blocks of film.
(4) After that it's pretty much Caucasians, all the way down, but progress is progress.
(5) Disappointingly, the Flash/Supergirl musical crossover only had one original number, tellingly the highlight of the episode.
(6) With life. I'm not advocating she get a new boyfriend straight away. If I haven't made it clear before, I would be more than happy with the character establishing herself as okay outside the bounds of a relationship.
(7) Not Doomsday, but a character actually called Reign, which I would have known if I were more of a DC nerd.
(8) Especially as this series is set in the Prime Timeline.
(9) Grandfather, rather than father.
(10) Even if not like this, there is no excuse for the title card for Ready Player One not looking like an arcade game ready screen.