I couldn't even begin to guess how many trailers came out in 2008, but whittling that number down to seven is no easy task. Looking down at my list of the top seven trailers of 2008, I'm noticing that most of these previews are for films I haven't seen yet -- in fact, the majority haven't even been released. It wasn't a conscious decision, mind you, but maybe it has something to do with the fact that once you've seen a film, its trailer tends to lose its mystique. After release date the magic begins to fade, like in the case of Jumper, which was a cool trailer but it gave away most of the good scenes. It's all about the anticipation, and the seven trailers I've picked have done an exemplary job of piquing my interest. So, in reverse order, here are my top seven trailers of 2008.
7. Step Brothers
Will Ferrell does a variation on his innocent man-child act from 2003's Elf with the emphasis shifting from innocent to idiot with hilarious results. Ferrell and John C. Reilly play grown men still living at home who find they are about to become step-brothers when their respective single parents wed. I love the long scene that opens the trailer with the two staring each other down across the lawn, and we see their relationship getting off to a rocky start with one step brother trying to bury the other alive. Soon, though, they're sharing secrets, karate kicking pumpkins and building bunk beds that are just not up to code.
6. Black Dynamite (NSFW)
This is probably the least known entry, but this preview has style. The green band trailer plays up the humor of this homage to the blaxsploitation films of the 70s, but the red band trailer more effectively captures the look and feel of a grindhouse-era preview with the jive talking rhyming narration, and the 70s fashions and 'fros. Black Dynamite is cleaning up the streets in the wake of his brother's murder and the pollution of his neighborhood with adulterated malt liquor. As the official description puts it, "Black Dynamite is the one hero willing to fight all the way from the blood-soaked city streets to the hallowed halls of the Honky House." Righteous. The cameo by Captain Kangaroo is the icing on the cake.
This trailer wastes a little too much time blowing Pixar's horn, reminding us of their previous hits, but once you get into the thick of the trailer (and it's still only a teaser) you'll want to see the movie right away. Ed Asner voices a cranky old man who turns his house into a flying machine with the aid of several thousand balloons and some home made sails. The smart money says Pixar has another hit here.
4. Monsters Vs. Aliens
The scene in which we learn that the Pentagon's war room requires a butt print for access is admittedly juvenile, but how can you not laugh? An alien comes to conquer earth and the U.S. government retaliates with a team of monsters they've been keeping around for just such an occasion. This animated homage to 1950's monster movies comes from Dreamworks and the voice casting seems dead on, including Seth Rogen as an amorphous blob without a brain ("turns out," he tells us, "you don't need one")., Hugh Laurie as Dr. Cockroach, and (God help us) Stephen Colbert as the President of the United States.
3. The Strangers
OK, here's one I did see, and the movie lived up to the trailer's promise. A young couple, played by Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman, who retreat to a secluded house are stalked by creepy-ass people in creepy-ass masks. That shot of Tyler's character standing in the kitchen as one of the masked people silently appears behind her still gets me. Those empty swings blowing in the wind, the villains just standing there in the dark looking menacing. This is some seriously creepy stuff.
2. Star Trek
There's been plenty of grumbling about this one from the fans, but I'm an old school Trekker who thinks this could be pretty awesome. I loved the Next Generation cast, but that last movie they did (2002's Star Trek: Nemesis) was just painful, and the series needs a new direction. The teaser trailer that ran before Cloverfield, showing the construction of the U.S.S. Enterprise by sweaty guys in welding masks, with the gravelly voice of Leonard Nimoy saying, "Space, the final frontier," definitely gave me a chill. The full length trailer is the real winner, though. I even had the pleasure of being taken by surprise when it played before Quantum of Solace. I didn't realize I was actually watching the Star Trek trailer until that reckless young car thief identified himself as James Tiberius Kirk. What follows is a barrage of special effects, a look at the new incarnations of the classic Trek characters, a line of dialog from Simon Pegg as Scotty and Lieutenant Uhura taking off her shirt. Like I said: awesome.
...and a drum roll please...
The second trailer for the Zack Snyder adaptation of the Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons graphic novel had the advantage of dialog, but I prefer the original preview with scenes that uncannily reproduce panels from the comic accompanied by Smashing Pumpkins' "The Beginning Is the End Is the Beginning." Photos of the characters had been released prior to the trailer, but this was the first time we saw Nite Owl, Dr. Manhattan, The Comedian and the rest as living, breathing entities. Previous adaptations of Moore's work have left me unimpressed, but based on the trailer Watchmen hits it out of the park.
What were your favorite trailers of 2008?