Trailer Mash

'Tintin' meets 'War Horse' in our roundup of holiday-movie previews

Against the odds, the first teaser for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was rather thrilling. Against the odds because by the time it appeared this fall, who wasn't bored to death of Lispeth Salander after three novels and three foreign-language movie versions of a story whose notoriety rested largely on one episode early on in the first book? Despite this ennui, the teaser set a frantically cut sequence of snowy postcards from the book to Trent Reznor's crackling cover of "Immigrant Song" and punched it through with texts that owed much to the title sequences of Gaspar Noe films. (Not that anyone knew, because who watches Gaspar Noe films anyway?) Anyhow, good looking, knowing and modern enough, this teaser promised much and even elicited the best of the Muppet Movie parodies. As for the new, actual trailer, well, not so much. Itemizing every detail of the mystery of the first novel, and incidentally reintroducing the world to Julian Sands, the strongest reaction it provokes is to make you wonder why everyone but Daniel Craig is affecting a funny accent. Except for that pronouncing his r's as w's thing he does from time to time.

So, Edgar Wright is a fine and original director, writer Stephen Moffatt has revitalized Dr. Who, Joe Cornish is a British national treasure both for his comedy and to a select few for his Spielberg tribute Attack the Block, and Steven Spielberg is Steven Spielberg. Quite why this illustrious team made the decision to declare themselves the government of Uncanny Valley is the biggest mystery of the new Tintin movie. Since it is barely possible to distinguish a CGI backdrop from a real one, why would human actors not have been a better choice over the retro-style, dead-eyed computer zombies who lollop about like Satanic rag dolls in this trailer? Actors such as these?

As a privileged 11-year-old boy forced to endure the Japanese invasion of China in Empire of the Sun, Christian Bale gave a performance so compelling that he's been struggling to surpass it ever since. In this trailer for The Flowers of War, he's returned to similar territory a few years earlier: the Nanking Massacre of 1937. This time he's a ne'er-do-well posing as a priest surrounded by courtesans posing as choristers in an under-seige and ridiculously photogenic church. Director Zhang Yimou is seemingly uninterested in letting a quiet tale of unlikely heroism stand in the way of his enthusiasm for setting off explosions during every single take.

Angelina Jolie's In the Land of Blood and Honey is evidently a star-crossed lovers affair, Romeo and Juliet updated and relocated to the heart of the Bosnian war that took over 100,000 lives between 1992 and 1995 following the break up of Yugoslavia. You wouldn't expect Jolie to make an easy choice, and this could have gone horribly wrong, especially in light of some of the controversy surrounding the source material. But based on this trailer, it in fact looks insanely accomplished, as though she'd been doing this kind of thing for years. Directing an Oscar-winning serious movie is probably going to be her next job. She's Clint Eastwood, basically.

Kill a couple of innocent bystanders in a trailer or a couple of soldiers and who cares? Kill a dog and you might get some attention. At least, that may be the rationale for doing so halfway through this one for The Darkest Hour, otherwise just a by-the-numbers alien invasion affair with an even less than usually memorable cast of plucky teens waving guns. The major point of difference is that it is set in Moscow, but then, so is the new Mission: Impossible, so you know, been there.