The Last Jedi is a Messy Masterpiece
The year 2013 has not even drawn to a close, and already Marvel has been hard at work bringing attention to the projects they have in store for the coming year. While any media on the sequel to “The Amazing Spider-Man” and the enigmatic “Guardians of the Galaxy” has been sparse, the heads at Marvel satiated fans this week with trailers for two of the most hotly anticipated films of the coming year. The excitement is tangible for sure, but so are other emotions; from the looks of things the studio will be going in a darker, more serious direction with it’s sequels to “Captain America: The First Avenger” and “X-Men: First Class,” both originally campy period pieces. Perhaps the popularity of these films will shed some light on the way the public has felt about events this past year.
For starters, this week saw the first official trailer for “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” a film that promises to continue Marvel’s so-called “Phase 2” by catching up with the character of Steve Rogers after the events of “The Avengers.” This time around we find Rogers, the titular WWII superhero, considerably disillusioned with the activities of the American government (in particular his employers at S.H.I.E.L.D.) and the measures they’ve taken to protect its citizens. The creators have already mentioned in the past their wish to create a sort of superhero political thriller with the movie (a far-cry from the “Indiana Jones”-esque original), and the Captain’s conversations with a mysterious government agent (played, in an ingenious piece of casting, by Robert Redford) further this notion. Indeed, lines like “this isn’t freedom, this is fear” seem to speak especially well to an audience that has spent a year dealing with the NSA and Snowden scandals. It doesn’t help that Cap seems to spend more time in the trailer fighting S.H.I.E.L.D. weaponry than he does the main villain. Even the villain, the mysterious (to anyone who doesn’t read the comics) “Winter Soldier” brings to mind the similarly named investigation into American war crimes during the Vietnam War.
It’s a clever direction to take a superhero film in the modern day, especially with a character like Captain America, who is always just on the fringe of coming off as ridiculous.The good thing is the trailer also shows plenty of exciting action, showcasing not just the Captain, but also the return of Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, and introducing Anthony Mackie as the flying hero Falcon. The film is directed by the Russo brothers and is slated for release on April 4th, 2014.
But while longing for a world long past is a major theme in “Winter Soldier,” it’s the overarching plot of Marvel’s other, perhaps bigger film. “X-Men: Days of Future Past” has been one of Marvel’s most anticipated films since its announcement, and for good reason; for fans Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s “Days of Future Past” has enjoyed fame as one of the X-Men saga’s most loved installments, in part for its dark and thematic story. Indeed, fans of the series have kept up with updates on the film for months, thanks in large part to director Bryan Singer’s tendency to post set pics and teasers on Twitter.
The trailer in question, which went viral this morning, makes the Captain America trailer positively optimistic by comparison. In an apocalyptic future, the X-Men that we know and love, including a resurrected Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart), a surprisingly amiable Magneto (Ian McKellen), and a host of other familiar faces have come up with a desperate plan to save their world; they must send the mind of one of their own back through time to the ’70s to meet up with a past version of the X-Men, and prevent a catastrophic event from occurring. The volunteer for the plan is, of course, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) who must team up with a cynical, bearded, 70s era (it was a weird time for all of us) Xavier (James McAvoy) and an even more cynical 70s era Magneto (Michael Fassbender). What follows is a confusing, unintelligible, yet somehow exciting montage of the heroes, villains, and Oscar-nominated actors that the six-film series has become famous for.
But more than that, the trailer delivers a promise that fans have been expecting; that this will not be just another X-Men movie. In many ways, it’s a crossover; a sequel not just to 2009’s “First Class”, but also 2006’s “Last Stand”, and even this year’s standalone “Wolverine” feature. How is this possible? A plot that involves time-travel seems to help.
The end result is an endlessly ambitious trailer that tries to squeeze in enough screen time for the film’s intimidating cast. The X-Men films have always been known for trying to fit as many characters as possible, so it will be interesting to see how this works in a film that uses characters from multiple movies (with a few characters being played by more than one actor). One can hope that the final film does a better job than the trailer does (Halle Berry and Michael Fassbender don’t even get a word in). Still, the mixture of newcomers like McAvoy, Fassbender, and Lawrence with X-Men veterans like Stewart, McKellen, and, of course, Jackman, is too exciting to pass up.
While there are plenty of explosions, superpowers, and costumes to showcase, the fact remains that these two trailers give a view of the things that make the public of today frightened; not the least of which include surveillance, prejudice, and the end of the world we know. It may seem like lofty material for superhero movies, but, as Xavier says to his younger self at the end of the trailer: “We need you to hope again.” He may very well be speaking to us.