The trailer for The Green Hornet hit the Internet last night, and online response has been harsh, to say the least. Cinematical.com says "it looks so standard, so cookie-cutter, and so silly." /Film is "shocked at how normal and rather generic this film looks." Defamer declares that the movie "Will Be Just Like Every Other Action Comedy Ever," echoing Best Week Ever's take that it is "Every Seth Rogen Movie Meets Every Superhero Movie." A few other sites are slightly more charitable but still have at least one reservation or another.
Interestingly, very little of the negative reaction seems to have been based on any sort of feelings that the interpretation of the Green Hornet is some sort of violation of the character, which seems about right. This is, after all, a character whose current level of cultural saturation is somewhere between the Shadow and the Star-Spangled Kid and his burly sidekick Stripesy. (Did I know that Mr. Hornet's alter ego was named Britt Reid before this? I did not.)
What seems to be at the heart of the grumbling is the weary concern that we've seen this movie a thousand times before. And that, in turn, leads to the biggest, grumbliest gripe of all, which is that this thousand-times-before movie is directed by The Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind's Michel Gondry, whose movies... well, there are not a thousand other movies that look like them, to say the least.
All fair points. But I do not share the concern, and not because I actually know more about the Green Hornet now than I did before I watched the trailer. (Not something that can always be said about trailers.) And that's because I am fully aware that what I've watched isn't the movie, it's the marketing.
Not only isn't it the movie, it might be only tangentially related to the movie it's meant to sell. There are countless examples of trailers that so fundamentally misrepresented a film's tone or content that it was essentially selling a different movie. This was rather brilliantly exploited several years ago by Shining, which recut footage from The Shining, slapped on a happy-go-lucky voiceover, set the thing to "Solsbury Hill" and presented a collaboration between Stanley Kubrick, Stephen King and Jack Nicholson as a heartwarming tale of a workaholic father remembering that family is the most important thing in life.
But that was an exceptionally well-made joke. For a real-life example of a trailer that missed the point entirely in its attempt to portray the movie as something it wasn't, I direct you to this trailer for Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise:
As anybody who has seen it can attest, this is not a remotely accurate representation of the movie. The Lemonheads song on the soundtrack and Ethan Hawke rakishly romancing Julie Delpy was clearly meant to pull in audiences with fresh memories of Reality Bites. I don't want to see the movie that this trailer is advertising. I would, however, gladly sit through Before Sunrise again for the umpteeth time, with its talky-talky, openhearted meandering set to Kath Bloom's "Come Here."
In the case of The Green Hornet, it seems clear that the first trailer has failed in one way or another. Either it fails to give audiences a proper taste of the product they're being asked to buy into or, if this is in fact what it will be like, it fails to get them excited about the movie. It certainly fails to highlight the fact that Inglourious Basterds's Christoph Waltz is the bad guy, which seems to be a rather glaring oversight.
Either way, at the moment, if you were to ask me who I trust more, Michel Gondry or the editors in the Columbia Pictures marketing department, I'm going to pick Gondry. Maybe he's made a good movie, maybe not. But this particular trailer isn't where I find out which one it is.