Spielberg, you want some wine with that cheese?
On September 13, Google Plus and Disney teamed up to unveil the first proper trailer for Steven Spielberg’s upcoming film Lincoln starring Academy Award winner Daniel Day-Lewis as the titular character. The film, focusing on the final few months of Abraham Lincoln’s presidency, is based on Doris Kearn Goodwin’s Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.
Lincoln is widely considered as one of the best politicians in history, successfully navigating rivalries by stocking his cabinet full of his opponents yet still managing to end the Civil War and reunite the nation under one banner. Goodwin, as fans may recall, helped Jon Stewart settle a feud with Ambassador John Bolton after he referred to the comedian as “historically wrong” and is considered one of the prime authorities on Lincoln. If Tony Kushner’s screenplay does well to emulate the accuracy of Goodwin’s account, proponents of historical accuracy should be elated.
Another cause for celebration for fans should be the stellar cast.
Daniel Day-Lewis is a fantastic actor who is perfectly at home playing characters from a different time, as he showed terrifically in the film adaptation of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible or The Last of the Mohicans. Sally Fields, another Academy Award winner, will be lending the graceful support that she always does, something she has become the master of since Forrest Gump.
Tommy Lee Jones is also involved. If one needs any proof of his greatness, understand that he did not let the fantastic Javier Bardem run the show in No Country for Old Men (the way Christian Bale let Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight).
Other heavy hitters include James Spader from Boston Legal, Hal Holbrook (who actually played Lincoln in the 1976 TV series based on the president), and Joseph Gordon Levitt (seriously, Inception, Dark Knight Rises, Premium Rush, Looper and now this; how many movies can one man work in simultaneously?). The cast is suitably big for a movie of this caliber.
And now, the painful part: the trailer itself.
Lincoln's presidency is one of the darkest, albeit most inspiring, periods in American history. Any movie based on the 16th president’s final term in office should address the precarious situation he found himself in when tasked with reuniting a nation.
The trailer, however, is proving to be classic Disney cheese. The first half is really just an extension of the viral teaser, which features Lincoln being all inspirational speaker in the background, with shots of Lewis’s head and side profile.
The second half, however, starts to become a Disney holiday movie with heavy piano music, shots of Lincoln with his child, people smiling and crying in jubilation. Essentially, it’s enough to make you vomit a rainbow. The movie is already wearing its intention and inspiration on its sleeve — it really just wants to show us how inspirational this entire period is. The Civil War itself, one of the saddest times in American history, gets one screenshot.
I am not saying that Lincoln is not someone we can learn from; on the contrary, he is the epitome of the man who sacrificed literally everything to keep his country together. However, we have all heard the Gettysburg Address many times. Now, it's time to give us a picture into the president’s inner turmoil as well.
Of course, what do you expect from the director Steven Spielberg?
Spielberg is the “genius” behind E.T. and Jurassic Park — both films I loved, by the way, but they were things I could only enjoy by strangling the adult within me. And I know that fans will stand by him for all the admittedly amazing things he’s done, but remember that anyone who can willingly make trash just to make money (particularly when they have plenty of it to begin with) is not an artist and, therefore, does not deserve the sympathy of having only his best works taken into account.
Only 25% of the Bourne series is terrible, for example, but it is enough to make me hate the franchise because I see it for what it is: shameless and greedy. I hold fond memories of Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass but I will always remember Bourne as the franchise that sold out, just like Spielberg.
As for Tony Kushner, the man has great experience writing things of fantastic variety and cultural significance so I trust his screenplay adaptation.
Right now, it may be putting our horse ahead of the proverbial carriage, but the film looks rather generic. Granted, the actors seem to be of such caliber that they probably did not pick anything terrible, particularly Lewis, who is notorious for being very selective and only choosing to take part in things that are culturally significant.
In the heavily hyped post-trailer sit down on Google Plus, Spielberg had much praise for Lewis’ dedication as an actor. (Yes, because that is such news to me that I would go all the way to the Times Square Jumbotron to get it. How about a fish’s remarkable ability to breathe underwater, Spielberg? It's just as obvious.) Still, as much as I hate Spielberg for his commercialization, I cannot deny that the man has made a mark on Hollywood at least equal to someone like James Cameron.
All the signs, save for the cheesy trailer, look really good.
I personally feel that the movie is currently picking up hype because we are all worried that the nation is at as divisive a point in history as any. We want to look back to a hero that kept us together.
If movies are now helping us alleviate political fears, perhaps we are holding Hollywood responsible for more than it deserves. Movies should be entertaining, educational, inspirational and even cathartic. However, the day we start to seek leadership and directional advice in them, we might be going a bit too far.