Wonder Woman, Black Widow, and Ghostbusters Show Us the Light at the End of Oscar Season
It’s trailer season! As the holidays roll through, it’s time to start preparing for the big summer films of 2020. First up we have three projects that all have a bit of a chip on their shoulders.
A long-awaited direct sequel to the beloved Ghostbusters franchise comes to us in the form of Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Original director Ivan Reitman’s son Jason Reitman takes the directorial reins with a script from franchise co-creator Dan Ackroyd. While that all sounds like it’s on the level, it must be acknowledged that the approach of this film appears to be a direct response to the backlash that some dark, gangly corners of the Internet delivered to the all-female Ghostbusters (2016).
Fans have clamored for Marvel’s Black Widow since the character’s introduction in Iron Man 2. For reasons unknown, Marvel passed up Scarlett Johansson’s character all these years for her own solo film. This controversial undercurrent has run throughout Marvel Studios’ tear through cinema over the last two decades, especially each time it gives another male character a solo film. Even more strangely, Marvel provided this bit of fan service as a prequel, well after Black Widow completed her arc in the MCU. Very Late Spoiler: She died in Avengers: Endgame.
Finally, we have what might end up being one of the biggest box office hits of 2020. Building on the success of one of the only successful (and watchable) films in the DC Extended Universe, Wonder Woman 1984 hits in June of next year. Does it carry the hopes of a continued core of characters in the DCEU? I honestly don’t even know any more now that we’ve seen the success of Joker, apparently now in development for a sequel, and that Matt Reeves’ The Batman is sounding like a world-beater. Both those films supposedly occur outside of the continuity where this version of Princess Diana of Themyscira resides.
But what about the trailers themselves? Let’s see what’s in store for us next year.
Wonder Woman 1984
It’s been some 70 years since we last left Wonder Woman in her solo continuity, as she triumphed over the god Ares and lost the love of her life Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). Let’s not talk about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League, please, and pick up from there. Now in the colorful “future” of 1984, Diana (Gal Gadot) is wistful about her lost love as she talks with Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig), who comic geeks will know as the villain Cheetah. But wouldn’t you know it, Steve just appears out of thin air without having aged.
That’s troubling, but the trailer gives no indication we should be worried. Way to play it close to the vest. Voiceover comes from known DC villain Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) by way of a TV commercial, giving the trailer an ominous tone. Meanwhile we get to see Wonder Woman kicking ass in a totally 80s shopping mall, sliding on the floor with her golden lasso and crushing guns, all of this set to New Order’s Blue Monday. Then we get the iconic shot. Diana lands in the foreground, wearing Golden Eagle Armor, her wings falling away majestically before she crosses her gauntlets and sends us to the title card.
Gal Gadot’s portrayal of Wonder Woman has been one of the few shining spots of Warner Bros.’s attempts to create a persistent universe around its stable of DC characters. This looks bigger, better, and more fun than the first film, which dragged a bit, if we’re being honest. Reversing the roles between Diana and Steve, making him the fish out of water this time is just the cherry on top.
I never would’ve expected a trailer for a Ghostbusters film to look like a cross between Bumblebee and Stranger Things, but here we are. A young single mother (Carrie Coon) takes her two kids to her father’s abandoned farmhouse across the country after being evicted. Do you think it might be haunted? The town seems to be, having regular tremors despite being nowhere near fault lines or any fracking. We find that the old house is harboring dusty, old equipment. One of the children, Phoebe, (McKenna Grace) takes in a device to her science teacher (Paul Rudd) to have a look. “Whoa! Killer replica!” Of what? “A ghost trap!”
He shows the kids archival footage of the original Ghostbusters kicking ass in NYC and wonders aloud who Phoebe’s grandfather could’ve been. She investigates under the farmhouse to find all the equipment of her prolific ghostbusting grandfather, Egon Spengler. No one has seen a ghost in more than 30 years, but that’s sure to change, right?
The trailer closes with the discovery of the Ecto-1 out in the barn under a tarp. The kids take it for a joy ride through a wheat field and discover it has a gunner seat. They then appear to be chasing Slimer through the small town’s business district, trying to subdue him with a proton stream.
Aside from the loving tribute to Harold Ramis and some easter eggs that would get any fan of the originals breathing hard, it’s tough to vibe with the feel of this trailer. It seems Hollywood has decided that young generations carrying the torch in revivals/reboots is the way to go now. I’m the last person who wants to gatekeep how a studio should handle a property, but doesn’t the spirit of Ghostbusters really derive from the idea of blue-collar underdogs putting a whole city on their backs in the face of zany phantoms? The reboot will certainly show us some familiar faces, but the children angle seems really misguided.
I guess we’re doing this. All the way back in the time just after Captain America: Civil War, Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) has decided she can’t keep running from her past, which involved brainwashing, sterilizing and advanced assassin training at the hands of a Russian spy organization fronting as a school for ballerinas. She returns home to a fight with her sister-in-arms Yelena (Florence Pugh). Things settle down and she reconnects with the rest of her adoptive family, including the Red Guardian (David Harbour). There isn’t much else in the way of plot revelation, besides the implication that this group is going to team up to take down a compound run by Natasha’s tormentors from her past.
Black Widow looks like every other Marvel standalone film in the Russo brothers era, despite being directed by Cate Shortland, only this time it’s got a bit of a James Bond military snow compound thing going for its presumed final act. I want to be excited about this one, especially with the additions of Pugh, Harbour, and Rachel Weiss, but the hype I would’ve had for this in like Phase 2 of the MCU has died along with the character of Romanoff.
Will these be the biggest blockbusters of 2020 or will audiences have some of these same trepidations about returning to the well again for each of these franchises? We’ll have to wait until next summer to find out. In the meantime, we can all hope for a world where Ghostbusters, Wonder Woman, and Black Widow give our geek hearts something to cheer about.