#3. Annapolis Was a Boxing Movie Promoted Like Top Gun
James Franco joins the Naval Academy with dreams of flying planes and doing boat stuff. His superior officer doesn't like him, but Franco works to earn his respect. You've seen this movie before, only the first time it was Tom Cruise overcoming his personal flaws from behind the stick of a fighter jet:
It's all there -- conflict among the cadets, a sexy yet tough lady officer, and lots and lots of pushups. Planes fly, boats blow up ... it's pretty clear that if you liked Top Gun, you'll love Annapolis!
"Freeway to the hazard area!"
It's a boxing flick.
Annapolis opens with Franco losing a boxing match. He then goes to the Naval Academy and starts boxing. Franco's superior officer is tough on him, but Franco earns his admiration in a boxing tournament. Planes and boats exist, but Franco doesn't get in them because he's too busy boxing. "Guys," says a confused dude in a Top Gun hat, over his popcorn, "I think this is a fucking boxing movie."
The trailer includes some quick cuts to what might be boxing, in the same way that Top Gun's trailer contains a wisp of volleyball. But the combined boxing footage features in less than 10 seconds of the trailer's 2:25 run time.
Character Whose Face We Can't See #1 and Character Whose Face We Can't See #2? They'll probably be important!
The trailer voice-over talks about how Franco will do whatever it takes to become a naval officer, and that's technically true. It just neglects to mention that "whatever it takes" means doing well in a boxing tournament, prompting his superior officer to recommend that a disciplinary board not expel him for causing trouble (because he's good at punching ...?). Oh, and he patches up his rocky relationship with his father. The one that doesn't even appear in the trailer.
Because why show an important character when you can show an out-of-context and ultimately irrelevant explosion?
The misleading promotional campaign goes well beyond the trailer -- if you view the theatrical poster or even the DVD cover and disc art, you'll find no hint whatsoever as to the film's boxing nature. The closest you'll get to an accurate advertisement is a minuscule screenshot on the back of the DVD case ... of the foreign-language editions.
Maybe those "deleted scenes" include naval action and/or something entertaining.
We understand why they were so misleading. Back in 2006, James Franco hadn't cut off his arm in a canyon, fought intelligent monkeys, gone on spriiiiiiing breeeeeeak (whoo!), or even appeared in a Judd Apatow film. His film credits included yelling at Spider-man, Bar Guy #1 in The Wicker Man, and either Tristan or Isolde in Tristan and Isolde. But come on, would it have killed them to at least utter the word "boxing" at some point?
"These two characters will settle their differences in a pugilistic polygon!"
While the trailer promises a movie more exciting than Franco boxing, flirting, and sweating, it still bombed horribly. So there go our chances of seeing a true Top Gun remake where Seth Rogen mourns James Franco's death by contemplatively riding his motorcycle, eating Cheetos, and battling Danny McBride in a volleyball match.
#2. Red Eye Pretends to Be a Monster Movie for Some Reason
Cillian Murphy flirts with Rachel McAdams at the airport. They hit it off, he buys her a drink, and they end up sitting next to each other on the plane. It looks like it's going to be a romantic comedy, but then oh shit, Murphy's eyes turn red and "From Wes Craven, director of Scream and Nightmare on Elm Street" is revealed:
Holy shit, Rachel McAdams is trapped on a plane with a demon and will have to escape supernatural terror at 20,000 or so feet!
"On planes, people can hear you scream, and they think it's really goddamn annoying."
The first twist, where the trailer pretends to be romantic and then switches to horror, is fine. It's effective, and it's far from the first horror movie to use a love story bait-and-switch.
Coming this summer: Cillian Murphy farts on a plane and then tries to hide it.
But that part in the trailer's climax where Murphy's eyes glow red, suggesting there's an inhuman terror within him? That title-appropriate Photoshop effect never happens. There's nothing supernatural about his character or anything else in the movie. The title refers exclusively to the plane being an overnight flight. The only time Murphy's eyes are mentioned in the film is in reference to how blue they are.
Much like the sea, which is also not mentioned in the trailer.
So at the very least, you'd suspect that Murphy is a crazy killer, if not an outright otherworldly evil. But he's actually a terrorist involved in an elaborate plot of Die Hard-esque proportions. See, McAdams works at a hotel where an important political figure is staying, and Murphy wants her to transfer the VIP to a waterside room so they can fire a giant missile into it from the ocean, because Murphy is apparently the kind of terrorist who is OK with political assassination but horrified at the thought of collateral damage. Oh, except he'll have McAdams' father murdered if she doesn't cooperate. So ... wait, what?
What does this have to do with flight again?
OK, whatever. It's your standard cat-and-mouse thriller pitting attractive people on a commercial airline flight against each other, which is fine. The problem is that the trailers hint at exactly none of that. So the whole time you're watching this by-the-numbers movie, you're thinking to yourself, "If Cillian Murphy actually had terrifying supernatural powers, it would be a lot easier to stay awake."
That's doubly true considering the pedigree of the director. The trailer emphasizes the fact that we should expect something along the lines of A Nightmare on Elm Street Part Whatever: Freddy Is on a Plane This Time, We Guess, not hotel reservation-based political murder schemes.
#1. Bridge to Terabithia Turns a Poignant Tale of Loss into a Narnia Knockoff
Walt Disney Pictures
It's a pretty standard fantasy template at this point: Lil' Peeta from the Hunger Games and his intrepid blonde friend swing across a magic river and end up in Terabithia, a Narnia-like fantasy land full of fairies, giants, and all sorts of other magical creatures!
Looks pretty cool! When our plucky protagonists are threatened by monsters, our hero even summons a mechanized power glove for some serious punching capability, so you know a bunch of awesome fantasy shit's going to go down.
Walt Disney Pictures
The trailer has a bridge in it, how much more accuracy do you need?
There is no fantasy land, only the harsh pain of being a lonely fifth grader.
The 2007 film, based on the classic Newbery-winning novel, follows elementary school students Jesse and Leslie. The outcasts become fast friends and begin visiting a nearby forest, where they escape their daily problems by imagining a magical world called Terabithia.
That's right: Every piece of expensive CGI in the trailer, from the tallest giant to the tiniest fairy, is a product of the kids' imagination. While the trailer shows the kids swinging into Narnia's non-union equivalent, their imaginary creations never take on a life of their own in the film. Each "fantasy" sequence serves as a device for Jesse and Leslie to work through their childhood problems -- for example, the giant in the trailer represents a bully that picks on the pair at school.
Walt Disney Pictures
So it's less "epic fantasy battle" and more "this dick keeps stealing our lunch money."
"So what?" you're probably saying. "The Wizard of Oz was technically all a dream, too! And 'Narnia' was probably just a wardrobe full of the old man's stash of hallucinogens! That doesn't detract from the wonder!" Sure, but these fantasy moments, as grand and pretty as they appear in the trailer, take up only a fraction of Bridge to Terabithia. Most of the running time is spent on Jesse fawning over his cute music teacher, drawing pictures, and getting yelled at by his dad for losing his keys.
Walt Disney Pictures
The most exciting fantasy epic of 2007.
The trailer also leaves out any hint of the film's serious plot twist and tonal shift, aka the most memorable part of the entire story. When Jesse skips out on a trip to Terabithia so he can go to the museum because he's hot for teacher, Leslie goes by herself, falls into the river, and drowns. The rest of the story is about Jesse dealing with her death and his guilt, as he struggles with depression and withdraws into his fantasy world before finding the strength to move on.
Walt Disney Pictures
There aren't even any fairies at the funeral.
It's a poignant, down-to-earth story about escapism and loss, not the feel-good fantasy of the year the trailers portray. But as its successful marketing campaign and The Hunger Games prove, what sells is Josh Hutcherson punching CGI wolves in the face.
In addition to knowing too much movie trailer trivia, Jonathan Persinger is the founder and editor of Remarkable Doorways Online Literary Magazine. You can find his fiction publications at Persinger's Pages, or his wasteful reviews of children's television at Blog with a Dog.
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