The thrills, the big plays, the wince-inducing moments of pain and awe-inspiring glimpses of glory. For once, this year’s Super Bowl proved to be nearly as entertaining as its commercials.
But while the Patriots came up short of perfection, how did potential blockbusters such as “Iron Man,” “Wanted” and “Wall-E” fare? Read on for a detailed dissection of the TV ads that, at $2.7 million per 30 seconds, cost more than most independent films. ( Head here for a look at how musicians — both in commercials and in performance — fared during the Super Bowl.)
“Wanted”: Apparently, Universal’s faith in this Angelina Jolie/ James McAvoy flick is growing faster than Eli Manning’s Hall of Fame credentials. Originally positioned as a pre-summer sleeper, the studio followed up the film’s new June 27 release date with more eye-popping visuals from Russian auteur Timur Bekmambetov. For the first time, we see McAvoy’s assassin-in-training learning to curve bullets and dive through glass while shooting two guns, John Woo-style. Unfortunately, earlier trailers had shown us the car scooping him up during a skid-out, Angelina on the train roof and their sexy kiss — but the millions who saw it all for the first time this weekend were undoubtedly impressed. Bonus points for Angelina’s badass bullet inscribed with the word “Goodbye” on it.
“Iron Man”: Shifting the soundtrack from Sabbath’s “Iron Man” to Audioslave’s “Cochise,” the newest ad in the Marvel movie’s campaign finally shows Tony Stark getting himself up, up and away. “I’m working on something big,” says Robert Downey Jr., leading into a shot that begins at the feet of the gold-plated superhero, then watches him propel into the air. With his moves looking reminiscent of the Green Goblin, we then watch a prototype of the eventual suit rocketing Stark around his underground garage, then out into the night (notice the tiny “REC” symbol in the corner of the screen, revealing that he’s videotaping his maiden voyage, likely alone). At last, we get looks at Terrence Howard, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeff Bridges (hmmm — what’s he standing in front of?) in costume and are annoyingly teased again with Iron Man flying in front of fighter jets but not battling them. Finally, there’s a sure-to-be-controversial prolonged shot of the hero firing at a tank, then walking away like an ’80s action star as it explodes behind him. Not only is it bringing nearly as much cheese as that guy in the Bud Light ad, but the shot is so slick and antiseptic that it looks like between-levels video game filler.
“Leatherheads”: Cleverly kicking off like the umpteenth quirky beer commercial of the day, this ad isn’t shilling hops and barley but rather John and Clooney. That’s Krasinski and George in an old-timey football comedy, for those scoring at home. Remarkably, Renée Zellweger keeps her streak alive of looking less and less like Renée Zellweger with each passing role, but seeing Clooney dust off his “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” attitude is never a bad thing. The biggest fumble in this ad, however, is that it shows nothing audiences who have been to the local megaplex in the past two months haven’t already seen. It’s already a stale trailer, and you can check off the scenes in your head: Guy hidden in mud, fat football player punching everyone, old-fashion fight between the two male leads. This ain’t “The Dark Knight,” fellas — give us something new to look at!
“The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian”: Now, here’s what we’re talking about! Huge upcoming release, new eye candy to look at; where do I buy my ticket? “You may find Narnia a more savage place than you remember,” somebody says, his statement punctuated by sword-wielding warriors and shrieking wolf-creature thingies. Just as you’re realizing that Santa Claus probably won’t make a cameo this time around, here comes catapults, battle scenes, a furious Aslan, and the return of the White Witch. Every great Super Bowl ad needs to cap itself off with something huge, and “Caspian” delivers with an enormous water monster that should haunt the nightmares of watching children nearly as effectively as the halftime image of Tom Petty in hi-def. Maybe it’s just me, but that water monster looks like it could take down tank-destroying Iron Man any day of the week.
“Wall-E”: The cutest and perhaps shrewdest ad of the day, this Pixar commercial comes on the heels of the studio’s recent announcement that the “Toy Story” gang really is coming back to the big screen in a few years. To remind today’s kids of what they’ll eventually see, and introduce a new friend in the process, we get Buzz and Woody sitting on a couch munching popcorn, talking about footage of a friendly, futuristic robot. “I heard he saves the world,” Woody teases. “Something I believe you wanted to do at one point.” As the robot engages a Shop-Vac and a bug in some silent slapstick, the cowboy adds: “I hear he even goes to infinity.” Gruffly, Mr. Lightyear responds: “But not beyond.” All-new footage, all-new funny — it might just be the best ad of the day.
“Semi-Pro”: Scratch that. Will Ferrell’s clever cross-promotional ad with Bud Light is just as smart and original, albeit for a more adult-minded audience. In character as basketball star Jackie Moon, the commercial features outtakes of a commercial (à la “Talladega Nights”) with him promoting the beverage. “Bud Light, suck one!” is such a funny tag line, it might even be enough to make a Patriots fan crack a smile.
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