An odd first look at the BP oil spill disaster flick


It must be time again to analyze the importance of a good movie trailer.  A good movie trailer may not indicate a good movie is behind it, but if you can’t even create a good movie trailer from your movie footage then the movie behind it probably doesn’t stand a chance at being good.  Just take a look at all the horrible Batman v Superman movie trailers and this week’s unusually large barrage of over-exuberant advance reviews.

We now have a our first look at what could be a great disaster movie if it wasn’t about a real disaster that has nothing possibly entertaining to share–the failure of BP and the oil industry to properly see that its equipment did what it was supposed to instead of ruin the ocean, nature, and the planet.  But this trailer for Deepwater Horizon reveals–in the way only an exciting action genre movie trailer can–this movie is “inspired by the true story of real heroes”.  What?  Big explosions!  Cool!  Nail-biting tension!  Neato!  The cutesy family talking about daddy’s job feels a lot like an advertisement for… BP.  What is the story of the BP oil disaster?  Wouldn’t a movie about that story star Mark Ruffalo as a lawyer fighting to see that the BP execs get what they deserve?  A story of volunteers trying to save the fish and birds drowning in oil?  Instead we get a well-stocked action film cast with the likes of Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, Kate Hudson, and John Malkovich–a great cast–for another movie.

Without a doubt it is too early to judge a film by its trailer, but that’s not the point.  It’s up to the marketing folks at the studios to grab us and get us hooked.  This trailer misses the mark.  The solution?  Go back and try again.  Unless this is as good as it gets.

The problem may very well be that the BP disaster is too recent and carries too much political baggage.  Some stories have no heroes, and if there were any to be found here it would be those people rescuing and cleaning the animal life that could be saved.  Those doing everything the law made available to punish BP.  Wahlberg’s name is shared with the title, so it’s likely the producers are looking for a follow-up to his notably excellent disaster movie also based on real events, The Perfect Storm.  We’d like to see that movie, too.

Will it be a good gamble for Peter Berg, director of action films Hancock and Battleship, to make the BP oil spill into an exciting, entertaining action flick?  It all just seems wrong, maybe more the subject of a made-for-TV movie, like Dead Ahead–The Exxon Valdez Disaster starring Christopher Lloyd and John Heard.  If there’s more to it than that, maybe the next trailer will find its way to tell us what that is.  And if the goal is showing hard-working oil rig workers, like The Perfect Storm reflected with fishing crews, how about picking another story of a rig that didn’t fail?  Wahlberg is one of those rare, bankable actors that you can usually rely on–he often makes a movie better than it otherwise deserves to be.  Maybe he can pull this story concept out of the muck.

Here’s the first trailer for Deepwater Horizon:

Deepwater Horizon is scheduled for release in theaters September 30, 2016.

C.J. Bunce

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