Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Watch gets its balls back

You may remember a couple weeks ago I trashed the trailer I'd just seen for The Watch, formerly Neighborhood Watch, which was an ill-conceived and disjointed pastiche of 20-second scenes from the movie that did whatever they could to deemphasize the words "neighborhood watch."

The thinking was, after Trayvon Martin was killed by an overzealous neighborhood watchman, audiences wouldn't come to see the movie.

It makes sense from a public relations standpoint, and secondarily, serves as some sort of tribute to Martin, or at least an acknowledgment that his death is not something to be made light of.

But in deemphasizing any reference to the original film's title, and then including these otherwise disconnected scenes in which it's so obvious the characters are talking themselves into circles, the studio neutered all the funny out of that trailer. Which is a shame, because that cast (and that director, Akiva Schaffer) are capable of great amounts of funny under the right circumstances.

Apparently, those circumstances came along a few weeks later.

The new trailer I saw last night before Prometheus (a film I won't delve into right now) starts with these words, narrated by Ben Stiller:

"There is an alien invasion happening. That's why I founded the neighborhood watch."

Own it, guys. Own it.

Oh, and the trailer that follows is more the conventional kind, made up of briefer snippets of action and dialogue, and it actually made me laugh a couple times.

It's a pretty shrewd change of course, when you come right down to it. It doesn't allow you a moment to wonder if the movie treads too closely to the story of a self-proclaimed security guard who felt threatened enough by a black teenager in a hoodie to shoot him. No, this story is about aliens, and therefore, is utterly divorced from reality.

It's probably what they should have done all along. Now, keeping the original title ... yeah, that would have been a bit trickier.

More surprising than the sudden confident ownership of the phrase "neighborhood watch" is that the trailer does not shy away from making light of excessive gun violence. In a bit I must admit I found pretty funny, the quartet of watchmen appear to have killed one of these aliens, who were not shown in the previous trailer. Having (understandably) little knowledge of alien physiognomy, the guys continue to pop an additional seven or eight caps in the corpse, unconvinced that it won't still rise, horror movie style, and lunge at them. The last two or three, spaced out over five seconds, are casual afterthoughts.

So these are a bunch of regular guys who don't really know how to use guns and unleash more bullets than they probably need to.

Not unlike George Zimmerman, for whom one bullet was too much.

However well meaning the changes in the marketing of The Watch may have originally been -- and really, profit was probably the biggest motivator -- I like this honest approach better. Some movies are just cursed with poor timing, but it isn't their fault. It doesn't mean they should be exiled into the deepest, darkest corners of the studio's basement.

So will I see The Watch in the theater?

I think it's up to the third trailer to convince me of that.

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