Two (more) new pop sci-fi trailers have emerged since our note on Oblivion and Star Trek Into Darkness.

Both these trailers feature earth in rebellion. As the drawling narrator of the trailer for Pacific Rim observes, “We always thought alien life would come from the stars, but it came from deep beneath the sea.” Fair enough.

The alien life forms in Guillermo del Toro’s new film look to be organic/Godzilla-esque creatures: computer generated beasts that climb out of our own planet to attack us. The human solution is natural (and, at least aesthetically, Transformers-esque): build enormous mech warriors to pilot into battle. In other words, rapidly develop new technology to defeat the natural, to dominate the earth’s peculiar rebellion against us.

And while we’re on aesthetics: del Toro’s film looks to have some pleasingly bizarre visuals. I say bizarre because the emphasis seems to be leaning rapidly away from the realism (or pretend realism) that was the stock and trade of Godzilla (1998,) Cloverfield, and Monsters. I say good riddance. A digital cartoon is good enough, especially if you’re going to do a movie about monsters besieging our cities. 

In the trailer, no reason is given for the sudden beast-rampage, and their real source, deep beneath the sea, is said to be an inter-dimensional portal (another way of saying “no reason”) but I submit to you: climate change anxiety. These digital behemoths in Pacific Rim lead us to…

…the digital beasts in After Earth: an original film from writer Gary Whitta (Book of Eli)  and the first film directed by one M. Night Shyamalan since the (Razzie) award winning The Last Airbender. After Earth imagines a futuristic (and abandoned) earth that looks an awful lot like prehistoric earth. It’s also crawling with distinctly African looking beasties. These include a CGI saber tooth cat, apparent stampeding okapis, baboons, and others.

All Avatar all the time, it would seem.

While both trailers feature ra ra motivational-speech voice-overs (the more egregious by far: the former) they’re not as stale as the last two sci fi trailers reviewed here, and they’re hardly works of pure pastiche. The two films look to offer opposite fantasies to deal with the same threat: one deals more happily in fantasy, and the other more in horror.

After Earth: man can return to his native roots, survive, and run wild in the beautiful, abundant (albeit dangerous– although this danger will be processed into pleasurable escapes) world of “the natural.”

Pacific Rim: the natural world has come for our cars, bridges, jet-planes, and cities. “Let’s go fishin’,” as they say in the trailer. Or, in the filmic parlance: lock and load.

-Max Berwald


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