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rare female film critic | by maryann johanson

why does the PG-13-rated ‘Beowulf’ have a redband trailer?

I started off pissed, and now I’m scared. Seriously.

Look: I’ve been kinda psyched for the upcoming Beowulf, opening November 16, because it’s cowritten by geek god Neil Gaiman and directed by Robert “Back to the Future” Zemeckis and because, well, it’s Beowulf, one of the greatest stories ever told and one of the wellsprings of modern epic fantasy.

And then I heard that this movie, which is slated for a PG-13 rating — or so Gaiman and his cowriter Roger Avery said at ComicCon this summer — has a redband, or “restricted” trailer, which means it contains R-rated material. (Trailers for all audiences, of course, are “greenband.”) Why would a PG-13 flick need a redband trailer? I’ll tell ya why: because Paramount, the studio releasing the film, is gonna try to squeeze as much dough out of us suckers as possible. They’ll get ya to put your butt in the seat for a regular multiplex showing — as well as for IMAX and IMAX 3-D showings — and then they’ll come at ya again with an unrated DVD release, which all the fanboys simply won’t be able to resist. I mean, look at how many versions of The Lord of the Rings trilogy we all bought on DVD. (Or so the thinking goes; this ain’t gonna be no Lord of the Rings.) And the fanboy suckers will fall for it, because rumor has it that — hoo boy! — one of the reasons for the harder rating will be full frontal female nudity supplied by Angelina Jolie, who’s playing the monster Grendel’s wacky, witchy mother. (I’m thinking it will be much like her insane performance as Alexander’s mother in that flick.)
This is all easily guessed, and why I was pissed, at yet another mendacious example of a studio messing us, its customers, around. I didn’t get scared until after I decided to torture myself by watching both the green- and redband trailers. The regular ol’ greenband trailer is available at Film.com: I was stunned to discover that the film is one of those CGI-enhanced motion-capture things — somehow this had previously escaped my notice. This new Beowulf looks like a video game, all plastic “people” barely moving their shiny, fakey faces. How I had forgotten Zemeckis’s last adventure in motion-capture, the horrifying Polar Express, I can’t say, except that perhaps the trauma of it forced my brain to block the memory as a defensive measure.

As if that weren’t scary enough, to watch the redband trailer, you have to go to the film’s official site, and then to the “restricted” area of the site. To gain access to the restricted area, you have to supply your full name, zip code, and date of birth. And you can’t offer phony info, either (I tried), because the site checks up on you. They’re not kidding with the “Submit” button: it means “I authorize you to confirm the accuracy of the information I have submitted against government-issued ID.” Ho. Ly. Crap. Submit to your studio overlords right now: they know who you are, and they are using government databases to keep an eye on you.

How on Earth can they get away with that? And how on Earth can they expect that after giving them the right to rifle through your “government-issued ID,” we’ll be satisfied with an “exclusive uncensored Internet trailer” that offers nothing naughty beyond the greenband trailer except a brief glimpse of a possibly nude CGI-enhanced Barbie doll?

It’s time for a revolution. We gotta do something before it’s too late and we’re all at the mercy of Big Brother Global, Ltd., which won’t even keep us happy with decently sinful redband trailers.

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