10 Things We Learned From The Super Bowl Movie Trailers

If you’re like me, you watch the Super Bowl for one reason: you can eat as many fried mac ‘n’ cheese balls as you want without so much as a dirty look. If there’s another reason to watch, it’s because Puppy Bowl has gotten repetitive. If there’s a third, it’s the commercials – specifically the movie trailers.

Most of the movie trailers this year gave just a bit more insight into trailers we’ve already seen, but a select few (like Transformers 3 and Super 8) gave us our first look into the worlds being created for the big screen.

Fortunately, like the PSAs that get to air for free during the big game, these movie trailers also taught us a lot. Especially about the trends of 2011 that are already emerging.

Here are just ten things we learned.

The Fast Five and The Furious Five

The trailers for Fast Five and Kung Fu Panda 2 proved that both movies look exactly like the others in the series. For Panda, that’s a good thing. The first was hilarious, and the look of it was truly stunning. For Fast Five, that’s a bad thing. As the Bare Naked Ladies have sung before, it’s all been done. Adding the Rock doesn’t mean that Paul Walker gets to drive home quickly to fondle the prom queen. As usual, the fast cars and cleavage will probably carry the entire movie, but it’s fascinating that underground racing culture has changed so little in a decade. Faux hawks have been in for a really long time.

Jack Black is Funnier as a Cartoon Panda

Maybe it’s just been a streak of bad choices, or maybe his particular brand of delivery has gotten obnoxious, but Jack Black has been off his game lately. Except for Kung Fu Panda. Perhaps said delivery is best when done as an overweight, animated Ailuropoda melanoleuca with flying fists of fury. Or maybe it’s because his baby talk nonsense words belong to the realm of children’s movies. It’s unclear why, but we’ve learned that Jack Black is still funny. He just has to be bathed in Dream Works Animation for it to happen.

A Lot of Children Watch the Super Bowl

I’ve never understood exactly how marketing children’s movies works. I assume it’s a matter of playing the trailers on channels like Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, and Fox News. Still, you also want the parents to be aware of the movie so that when Little Timmy tugs at the apron strings to go see the new animated flick, Mom will already be hip. Maybe that’s the reason why there were so many trailers for children’s fare during a game where every living thing (including Ben Roethlisberger’s ego) left the field battered, bruised and bloody. With Kung Fu Panda 2, Hop, Rio, and Mars Needs Moms flashing their trailers, it seemed like children’s movies were the second most popular featured product behind cars. And, yes, that being said, the noticeably missing animated trailer was Cars 2 – which was nowhere to be found.

Zombies Are In Again

Somewhere out there, George Romero will see this as a sign that he should keep making the same zombie movie he’s been making for the past two decades. It’s not quite a trend, but there were two movies featuring zombies during the broadcast. One was Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. The other was Super 8.

It was a brief moment, but during the trailer for J.J. Abrams’s latest mysterious work, there’s a shot of some kids making their own movie using a Super 8 camera, and wouldn’t you know it? It’s a zombie movie. A very cool element to a movie that will slowly reveal its cards (but not all of them) as the marketing campaign continues.

Ian McShane Makes Everything Better

Speaking of On Stranger Tides – beyond its zombies (and mermaid torture), the most prominent feature of the trailer was Ian McShane’s Blackbeard. He didn’t have CGI tentacles crawling all over his face, but he managed to be a bit scary, unethical, funny, and compelling. All in just a few shots. Penelope Cruz on the other hand, didn’t. There were some hints at more solid side characters, but this looks to be the Johnny Depp Show, and that could be interesting considering that Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann did a lot of work to bring the story down to a manageable, non-headache-inducing level. All of that is thinking too deeply though. The movie will most likely be just as fun and adventurous with just as much swash being buckled as previous entries.

Johnny Depp and Westerns Are Trending

Johnny Depp is in On Strangers Tides and Rango. Rango is a western, and so is Cowboys & Aliens. The connection between Cowboys & Aliens will be made further as the last lesson on this list (because it’s the biggest). Depp as Hunter S. Thompson as a lizard has a lot of promise, and the look of this movie continues to astound. The trailer doesn’t really show anything new, but it’s cut (like several on this list) to display its humor and massive amount of action. It’s an adventure in the desert. It feels like summer is back to channeling its tent pole beginnings again.

Cowboys, Aliens, and Sex Sell

Bar fights. Strange weapons. Explosions. Naked women in front of fires. The trailer for Cowboys & Aliens further cemented how cool that movie can potentially be. Beyond the Comic-Con footage, this was the first serious look at a lot of elements of the film that have been in question – specifically because they hadn’t been made until the crew wrapped a few months ago and the project headed into the computer lab for its extra-terrestrial foes. Jake looks like a version of Indiana Jones that never speaks, Olivia Wilde’s Ella looks like a great partner in adventure, and the whole thing looks like a huge amount of Western, Sci-Fi goodness. Plus, the marketers were smart enough to capitalize on the news story from several months back that revealed Olivia Wilde would be revealing herself for a scene. The whole trailer worked as a great tease.

Steroids Work

Wow. Being a mild fan of Captain America, I knew that Steve Rogers was no Mr. Universe contender going into the secret government project that would him the one man army, but they really made him scrawny. Check out the reaction of the female scientist who seductively, almost unthinkingly, touches his chest when Chris Evans emerges from the steroid chamber. Nude Chris Evans also falls under the Sex Sells lesson, and the trailers for Cowboys & Aliens and Captain America: The First Avenger are startlingly similar. A vintage design, a lone hero, some toplessness, things going boom, a bad guy that looks like an alien, and broad-appeal adventure and general bad assery.

Optimus Prime Is Finally Cool

Remember what we learned about Fast Five? The lesson here could just have easily been that Transformers: The Dark of the Moon looks exactly like the previous two movies. If it ain’t broke…keep blowing it up. However, there seems to be one major difference here. Instead of getting chased by something ten times larger or being beaten to a pulp, Optimus Prime is actually doing some major damage. Finally. It’s about time that character, the leader of a group of alien robots, show some leadership acumen and slice through some bad guys.

Aliens Are Going To Kill Us All

The end of the world isn’t in 2012. It’s in 2011. And it’s aliens that are going to take us out. Six out of the twelve movies displayed during the Super Bowl feature aliens prominently. Super 8, Cowboys & Aliens, Mars Needs Moms, Transformers 3 (which can be confusingly shortened to T3), and Battle: Los Angeles. Even Thor is an alien, but he doesn’t fit the classic sci-fi mold going on with the trend here.

The Battle trailer was another that used old bits of trailer to make something new, but the action is still impressive. It looks huge, and  it follows suit with what seems to be the trend of 2011. Aliens. Someone call Ridley Scott! Oh, wait, they’ve already got that brewing.

So to recap:

  • 2 movies featuring zombies
  • 2 westerns
  • 2 comic book superheroes
  • 4 sequels
  • 4 animated movies
  • 6 movies featuring aliens (counting Thor, a different kind of alien)

Looks like this spring and summer are in for a lot of undead, computer-drawn, unearthly action. Hopefully the superheroes can save us.

The overall lesson, though, is that a lot of this looks absolutely fantastic. Last summer was pretty limp, so it’ll be great to see 2011 capitalize in a big way and deliver the types of movies that make us want to shove popcorn into our faces with great abandon. Can’t wait.

What do you think?

A veteran of writing about movies for nearly a decade, Scott Beggs has been the Managing Editor of Film School Rejects since 2009. Despite speculation, he is not actually Walter Mathau's grandson. See? He can't even spell his name right.

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