My 2021 wrap-up has officially begun. I’m kicking things off with a top ten ranking of my favorite movie previews of last year.
What constitutes a “dope ass trailer” in my opinion? Every year I try to refine this definition, and I think I can nail it down to 2 things – hype and emotion. I can get hype over ANYTHING, not just superhero movies, and I can find myself moved by a variety of different things; I don’t always have to see myself in them. Sometimes you just crave the escapism—and I’ve needed it plenty. There are some obvious choices here, along with a few surprises had me smashing the replay button at 2AM.
Ladies and gentleman, my favorite trailers of 2021:
Honorable Mention: Those Who Wish Me Dead
I had forgotten about the feature film side of Taylor Sheridan because Yellowstone took off at Paramount (which he’s showrunner) and figured that was his sole frontier as storyteller. Those Who Wish Me Dead marks Sheridan’s sophomore effort, and this trailer does an excellent job of conveying the contrast. Wind River is cold and unforgiving; Those Who Wish Me Dead is scorching hot, and unforgiving. Overall, I dug the movie as a mid-budget thriller that’s doomed to get dropped as a streaming exclusive these days where IPs reign supreme. It cooled off for me eventually, but ho boy was I addicted to that repurposed Johnny Cash tune, with a fiery Tomb Raider-esque Angelina Jolie to boot.
10. Godzilla vs. Kong
If 2020 couldn’t quite figure itself out as a year in movies (and understandably so) then it was wholly reassuring to get a look at 2021’s first major blockbuster. It was hard to even grapple with the fact that this gargantuan thing would be a day-and-date release on HBO Max. Subscribers were getting spoiled in a big way. Now, I had sorta tapped out on the Monster-Verse in between Kong: Skull Island and Godzilla: King of the Monsters. The solution to bring me back? Put the two titans head-to-head. As soon as “Here We Go” came bumpin’, I knew I was seeing Godzilla vs. Kong day one. Next one gotta be a cage match, obviously.
9. Spider-Man: No Way Home
Still blows my mind we got an MCU Spider-Man trilogy before a Doctor Strange sequel, so I suppose setting Spidey’s latest adventure in the multiverse was the least they could do for the Sorcerer Supreme. Strange is once again testing limits, and Peter Parker is once more trying to have his dual life both ways. Call No Way Home’s plot either the best or the worst kept secret, it had me with Willem Dafoe’s bone-chilling Goblin laugh. That ending shot of Alfred Molina back in the Doc Ock getup was the icing on the cake.
8. Across the Spider-Verse
This teaser ran away with No Way Home’s lunch then put a “kick me” sign on the back. I’m sorry, but Sony Animation is a thousand multiverses more imaginative than what the MCU’s been putting out lately—and we’ve only had one Spider-Verse movie so far. This peek at the sequel has me bowing down before its colorful and crazy comic book aesthetic. Sam Raimi’s first two Spider-Man movies were perhaps the last time this whole superhero thing felt so visually poppy and distinctive. Spider-Verse just might match Raimi two for two.
7. The Last Duel
When I heard about Ridley Scott doing The Last Duel, I thought why the fuck would he bother with a Ben Affleck and Matt Damon movie. Then I saw the trailer and I cannot believe I doubted my liege. Kingdom of Heaven is top-tier Ridley for me, and its raw visual style is all over The Last Duel. Deep blues and shadowy greys; THIS is how you do “raw and gritty” without losing colors or a filmmaking personality. The letterheads bleeding into the visuals was a nice medieval touch.
6. The Green Knight
I had The Green Knight’s teaser as an honorable mention the year before simply because its brief sneak peek wasn’t enough. This one did it for me. I was already digging the sinister medieval vibes. Then this thing balloons to an epic song filled with giants, ghosts, talking animals, and legends in-progress; I HAD to see this Arthurian poem come to life myself, if only to put my English education to use, finally.
5. Fear Street Trilogy
“Three movies, three weeks, one killer story.” And the game was changed. I never thought I’d be sold on a Netflix “event” but here we are. I had my eye on this R.L. Stine adaptation since it was announced but kinda figured it would be tailored for the Freeform and Disney Channel crowd. Then I saw how hard-R they were going, and suddenly July couldn’t get here fast enough. Its release strategy alone was ingenious. I suspect we’ll get a copycat by a rival streamer this Halloween. Credit where credit is due, Fear Street was here first.
4. Jackass Forever
Didn’t expect to get choked up over a Jackass trailer of all things. I underestimated how nostalgic I was for this kinda nonsense in an era of YouTube and TikTok pranks that go way overboard or miss the mark entirely. Getting shot out of a canon, getting clocked in the balls, and a bunch of overgrown men on a playground fixture – MY nonsense. It’s ‘Camaraderie and Vibes’, the movie. Oh, what we could’ve had last year ☹
3. West Side Story
In retrospect, I didn’t need a trailer for this one. I knew Spielberg was gonna stage the shit outta this thing. But I’m not that ungrateful a human being, and the trailer alone made me feel alive. The colors pop in a way that doesn’t seem to happen anymore as more and more movies get washed-out and CGI’d into oblivion in post-production. Spielberg is among the last auteurs who shoots and lights his stuff IN CAMERA. The score here swept me off my feet, and Rachel Zegler’s delicate vocals are a lullaby for the heart and soul.
2. The Batman
It’s kind of not fair considering this is a 2022 release. But I cannot ignore how fucking HYPED I was upon seeing this. I had been replaying the teaser since it dropped last year. Now I’m mainlining both as I await March 4th. (Fingers crossed the release date sticks.) Director Matt Reeves’ craftsmanship is on full display here. Moody, immaculate, and seething. How can one go darker and grittier after Chris Nolan’s stab at the Caped Crusader? It seems Reeves found the answer to that with audaciously raw visuals to spare. Just before 2021 ended, WB dropped a third official trailer on top of this. The Batman hive, we eatin’ GOOD.
1. The Matrix Resurrections
This is the one. No other trailer in 2021 had me vibrating in my seat like The Matrix Resurrections. Like the trilogy that came before, I had NO idea what to expect. I didn’t know what kind of a mindfuck Lana Wachowski had in store, or how she’d weaponize the fourth wall-device to nudge the franchise towards evolution. Visually, Resurrections already looked far better than most movies I had seen at the time this dropped. I sure as hell found myself misty-eyed at the thought of Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss in their iconic career-defining roles. Never has “White Rabbit” been put to better use since ever. FEED 👏 YOUR 👏 HEAD 👏