Welcome to Trailer Park Tuesday, a showcase of new book trailers and, in a few cases, previews of book-related movies.
Sweeney Todd? The unsuspecting moviegoer would have no idea that what looked like a Tim Burton and Johnny Depp Victorian slasher film would turn out to be a wall-to-wall musical. Or how about that Liam Neeson vs. wolves flick The Grey? Anyone watching that trailer would have thought they were in for a thriller rather than a disappointing borefest. But I can hardly fault movie trailers for all the lies they’ve spun over the years—after all, that’s the nature of their job: to tease us into the theater with smoke, mirrors and romantic montages set to Adele pop songs. Once we’ve shelled out our money, movie trailers can laugh all the way to the bank, deaf to our cries of disappointment. Which brings me to the trailer for Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, based on the novel by Ben Fountain and directed by Ang Lee, which will hit theaters in November on Veterans Day. It is a very, very good movie preview, full of uniformed men marching across a football stadium to the cheers of thousands. There are fireworks, All-American cheerleaders, breeze-rippled flags, and the shiny tracks of tears flowing down the cheek of Billy Lynn (played by Joe Alwyn, who embodies everything I’d imagined Billy would be—at least looks-wise). With a new version of David Bowie’s song “Heroes” by Scala and Kolacny Brothers playing underneath the images, the trailer is chest-bursting with patriotism, vivid battle scenes, and Vin Diesel tenderly laying a hand on Billy’s shoulder. It’s enough to make a battle-hardened warrior cry. The only problem is, based on this trailer alone, the movie will not bear even the slightest resemblance to Ben Fountain’s 2012 novel. That book left me bleeding from a thousand cuts from its satire. In pithy, witty, withering sentences, Fountain captured everything wrong with the war and America’s reaction to it. By comparison, the trailer for Billy Lynn the movie is like a vat of syrup poured over a plate of knives. I just pray to God the preview is lying to us with sleight of hand and misdirection and that Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk turns out to be the kind of smart, witty movie that bites the hand of the too-sentimental public that’s feeding it. Given Ang Lee’s track record of stellar films (particularly literary adaptations), I’m betting there will be plenty of people walking out of the theater saying, “Well, that wasn’t nothin’ like the preview. It’s like he was criticizing ’Murica or somethin’.” One can only hope this is a bait-and-switch kind of trailer.