We rank the trailers and the movie-related ads from the big game.
Editor’s note: This article will continue to be updated between Friday and the big game on Sunday night. Bookmark it and come back as we rank the trailers in realtime.
Even if you’re not a fan of football, you possibly tune in to the Super Bowl year after year to see the commercials, including the latest movie trailers. Hollywood spends a bundle ($5m for 30 seconds) during this one popular sports event to catch millions of viewers’ eyes in order to make sure they’re aware of the biggest movies coming to theaters in the near future. Sometimes we get our first glimpse at an anticipated blockbuster. Other times we get fun new spots for titles that could use an extra boost in buzz. Often the choice of ad for this particular crowd can make or break the excitement level for a movie.
As I do every year, I’ve split the trailers and other commercials relevant to movie lovers into best and worst categories, and ranked them, as well. Factors on where the movies fall could have to do with the ad’s appeal to a mostly mainstream Super Bowl crowd. Even a quality trailer might not go viral or generate water cooler talk. Because some spots have already shown up online, we’re posting the ranking ahead of the game and will update through Sunday night.
Ghost in the Shell
Even for people who don’t know what Ghost in the Shell is, as a manga, anime, movie, controversy, whatever, this brief look at the Scarlett Johansson-led adaptation has enough sex, shooting, punching, Matrix-like action, sci-fi special effects, and other intriguing visuals to catch notice. There’s no room or need for plot info or other filler here, and DreamWorks/Paramount is appropriately efficient for this venue.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
They really only need to show us more Baby Groot, but why not go for more, and to the tune of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain”? The Guardians of the Galaxy are back, the roster re-introduced with new additions Mantis, Yondu, and Nebula, the latter two back from the first movie but now parts of the supersize team. We don’t need to see anything in the way of plot or villain, just a good amount of action and humor and, yes, that adorableness that comes with Baby Groot. Keep us together indeed, going to the movies in droves to see this sequel.
The Fate of the Furious
Compared to the famous Super Bowl ad for Fast 6, which kind of changed the game for the series for a lot of people who hadn’t been paying it notice, this one for the eighth installment isn’t terribly spectacular. I feel like we’ve seen a lot of the stunt set pieces teased previously. But it’s still pretty darn awesome for a Super Bowl trailer in general, compared to anything else. If you’ve worried about the fate of the brand post Paul Walker, there’s no need because we’ve got more Jason Statham, turning good guy as is expected of any Fast and Furious villain, more Kurt Russell, and a lot of Charlize Theron. I can’t wait to see more.
Stranger Things 2
Jason Hervey! I bet he’s excited to be in a Super Bowl commercial. As I called it last year, a second season of Stranger Things won’t be like a second season so much as a sequel season, and the way it’s titled in this teaser sure does make it sound like that’s what Netflix and the Duffers also believes it to be. Anyway, from the Eggo ad to the shout for Eleven to whatever that monster is on the horizon, this spot packs a lot in to get us excited. And then be frustrated we have to wait until Halloween. So are those Ghostbusters costumes Halloween costumes after all?
The Super Bowl is a great place to spread buzz on movies most people don’t know about or haven’t seen anything from yet. Daniel Espinosa’s Life needs the attention because it’s an original sci-fi feature (as original as something apparently crossing Alien, Evolution, Gravity, and much more can be), not something with a built-in audience, and it’s coming very soon without a sizable blip on most people’s radars so far. This new spot does a good job of previewing a thriller with thrills over emphasis on— not that it’s hard to notice – the star-studded cast of Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds, and Rebecca Ferguson. Of course, Sony is only offering a tease during the game and then telling people to go online. Hopefully enough people do.
A Cure for Wellness
I must have missed the commercial for A Cure for Wellness below, but it’s a very clever TV spot, especially for a time like the Super Bowl. It does the fake pharma ad even better than that tank video game. I did see the other more conventional spot for the movie, and even that’s a winner because it looks great and is another original property in need of the spotlight.
John Wick: Chapter 2
Nice jab at its competition, Fifty Shades Darker, and otherwise a fine showcase of the sequel with less than a week until it opens. There’s another spot that also addresses this is a Valentine’s Day release and a joke about how everyone’s getting action. That’s cute, too, but ironically it doesn’t even feature the better action sequences of the two ads.
Wix.com “Chef Fexlix” Commercial
Louis Leterrier reunites with his Transporter and Transporter 2 star, Jason Statham for this action packed commercial also featuring Wonder Woman herself, Gal Gadot, and it’s an entertaining ad regardless of whether you remember what it’s for. Who else wants a movie teaming Statham and Gadot for real? Yes, they’re both part of the Fast and Furious franchise but not as a duo like we see here. Should Statham join the DC Extended Universe?
Squarespace “JohnMalkovich.com” Commercial
The latest Squarespace ads with spokesman John Malkovich should remind everyone of Being John Malkovich, because again we get a fictional look at the actor’s life – now an aspiring fashion label entrepreneur – and there are actually pretty good nods to the movie. In the first of the following two spots, he acknowledges the movie. In the second, “Get out of my name!” recalls the line “It’s my head!” And given that the person on the other end of the phone is apparently also named John Malkovich, it’s as if another of the Malkovich Malkovich clones from his meta-mind escaped and started a website. Or it’s at least about another guy being (named) John Malkovich.
Evony: The King’s Return Commercial
Titles designer turned director Henry Hobson, whose sole feature is the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Maggie, helmed this video game ad starring Aaron Eckhart, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Fan Bing Bing. I don’t play video games and this doesn’t make me want to start, but it’s a pretty well-made spot, and if an adaptation of Evony that looked like this was made I’m sure the reputation for video game movies would be altered for the better.
Budweiser “Born the Hard Way” Commercial
This mini biopic about Adolphus Busch has been the subject of controversy just because it deals with immigration. That and the dumb boycott of Budweiser because of a commercial celebrating history that also appears to be a jab at Trump’s immigration ban almost makes me want to drink Bud and other Anheuser-Busch beverages. Jody Lee Lipes, the director of photography for current Best Picture nominee Manchester by the Sea as well as Martha Marcy May Marlene, also shot this ad directed by Chris Sargent.
National Geographic teases its upcoming scripted series Genius with a fun Super Bowl tie-in rather than showing actual footage from the show. Genius is a biography of Albert Einstein starring Geoffrey Rush and directed by Ron Howard (this spot is helmed instead by Ivan Zacharias), and here we see the actor portraying the scientist playing his beloved violin, but he’s anachronistically performing a song (“Bad Romance”) by Super Bowl LI halftime headliner Lady Gaga.
Mercedes “Easy Driver” Commercial
The Coen Brothers directed this spot paying tribute to Easy Rider, complete with Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” on the soundtrack, and starring one of its leads, Peter Fonda. It’s not the greatest thing the filmmakers have ever done, but it is nice to see a cool classic movie reference during the game with the silly twist being that a Mercedes GT Roadster is more badass than a motorcycle. It would have been better if the Coens got Randall ‘Tex’ Cobb to make an appearance, too.
NFL “Baby Legends” Spot
Those babies made up to look like Super Bowl legends, including Mike Ditka, Joe Namath, and Bill Belichick, sure are cute. Last year’s “Babies Choir” thing was a little weird, but this continuation works. Moonwalkers director Antoine Bardou-Jacquet is at the helm here.
Michelob Ultra “Our Bar” Commercial
Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine, The Light Between Oceans) directed this ad for weak, tasteless beer that manages to make most viewers feel like crap for eating junk food and maybe drinking good beer during the game. Because we’re drunk off alcohol that does what it’s supposed to and not thinking clearly. Clever use of the Cheers theme song.
Michelin “I Need You” Commercial
Simple but effective, this commercial shot in South Africa, France, and China and featuring family members reuniting may be a little common for the Super Bowl, but it’s still nice. The ad’s movie relevance is that it’s directed by documentary filmmakers Anna Sandilands and Ewan McNicol (Uncertain).
Dwayne Johnson stars in one of the best Super Bowl movie trailers, and he stars in the worst. There’s a chance this adaptation of the ’90s TV series will be funny, but so far the marketing has not done a good job convincing us. It’s cool to see a Georgia beach in the spotlight while the Falcons are kicking butt, yet that last shot sure looks like it was shot with green screen. I was too distracted by the fake looking sky (overdoing the special effects to make winter at Tybee Island look like summer in L.A.) to even notice Zac Efron’s star-spangled speedo.
Transformers: The Last Knight
Firstly going by the shorter version that dropped ahead of the game, this spot is efficient in mostly just showing Transformers fighting other Transformers, and that’s fine, it’s what people who like these movies want. If any Super Bowl viewers didn’t know there’s a new one of these things coming out, they’re now aware. Other than that effect, it’s just a bunch of metal banging up against metal with a confusing dash of Anthony Hopkins.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
Is Johnny Cash played over your trailer a trend as well as a meme, now? I am one of the few people still excited for more Pirates of the Caribbean movie, and this spot kept my interest going with all its skeletal creatures, but why so little Johnny Depp? Is it because nobody likes him anymore? Because that’s mostly true, but for fans of this franchise, Captain Jack Sparrow remains the big selling point. For him not to show until the end, and then not in full iconic appearance, is a mistake. Meanwhile, for anyone not already looking forward to more POTC, they’re not going to care with this.
This movie has already had a couple great trailers, and this one is pretty mediocre by comparison. If you’re not aware of and/or excited for this latest solo Wolverine installment, this isn’t the thing that’s going to catch your attention. Does the movie still look amazing? Yes. But this isn’t a remarkable spot at all.
The Handmaid’s Tale
Personally, I’m possibly on board with this series based on the source material (by Margaret Atwood) and the cast (including, as seen in the ad: Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss and Alexis Bledel and Orange is the New Black’s Samira Wiley), though I’m not a Hulu subscriber and this probably isn’t enough to make me one. Worse, I really don’t think it’s going to appeal to much of the Super Bowl crowd, even with those of us who aren’t regular football viewers. This seems like a misguided waste of money for Hulu.
Kia Niro “Hero’s Journey” Commercial
Matthijs Van Heijningen, whose one and only movie is the 2011 prequel The Thing, directs this commercial starring Melissa McCarthy as herself as she tries to get involved with “eco-warrior” activism. She tries saving the whales, trees, polar ice caps, and rhinos, failing each time in slapstick fashion. Fortunately, as the ad says, she can just buy a Kia Niro and that’s all the good she needs to do. It’s a pretty dumb message, especially in these times when people are truly acting more than ever. Anyway given what we see, McCarthy probably just crashes her car, too.
Honda “Yearbooks” Commercial
This ad seems to be pretty popular, but really, must we extend the de-aging special effect to car commercials? Especially those in which the gimmick and the premise of the spot have so little significance to the car being sold? I think it’s a cool commercial. Not just for the effect, which uses actual stars’ yearbook pictures, but because the mix of faces participating, including Tina Fey, Viola Davis, Stan Lee, Robert Redford, Missy Elliott, Magic Johnson, Jimmy Kimmel, and Steve Carell, is impressive. This commercial was directed by Angus Wall, who has Oscars for editing The Social Network and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and was nominated for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button — he also won one of his two Emmys for co-designing the Game of Thrones opening credits.
I’m not sure it was clear enough that this ad was broadcast live (I had to inform my wife while we were watching it), and at least on my end there seemed to be a glitch where we didn’t get the very end of it. The fact that I’ve seen no talk about it makes it a loser. Otherwise, it’s a cool ad to attempt to do in this way now that I’m seeing it in full. But then Adam Driver makes everything great.
Related Topics: Trailers