I mean, check out the photo above. There’s a Smurf with a mohawk, a bald-headed woman, Andy Dwyer, a green lady, a human-mantis, the winner of the 2005 Royal Rumble, a talking raccoon, and a baby tree. The characters and even the premise — a bunch of space weirdos fight bad guys — are inherently ridiculous, and writer and director James Gunn knows this. That’s why he packed Guardians of the Galaxy with honest-to-goodness jokes; the climax even involved an extended dance sequence. That’s in stark contrast to most of DC’s mope-fests, including Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, with self-serious scripts written by 16-year-old Hot Topic employees.
Unfortunately, even though DC refused to drop $5 million to promote Wonder Woman or Justice League, all that downbeat brooding was everywhere during the Super Bowl movie trailers on Sunday night. It was in Transformers: The Last Knight, a film about robots kicking the crap out of each other, and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, the fifth installment in a series based on a theme park ride, and Logan, in which a beer-drinking mutant befriends a young girl. Even The Fate of the Furious — the poster-franchise for absurdly over-the-top fun — takes half the teaser to drop its first corny wisecrack. These trailers downplayed the innate absurdity of the movies, and acted like deeply serious art films. Call a spade a spade, and a dragon a dragon.
Take the worst offender, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. First off, there’s no one on Earth who can name every Pirates movie, in order, with the correct lengthy subtitle. It’s even more confusing than the Twilight or Harry Potter series. Anyway, the trailer also strips away everything people liked about the first Pirates movie, namely the goofy misadventures of Captain Jack Sparrow. Johnny Depp’s makeup-heavy shtick has gotten old and irritating, but at the time of The Curse of the Black Pearl‘s release, he was praised for his Keith Richard-inspired performance. “Consider how boring it would have been if Depp had played the role straight,” Roger Ebert wrote. “To take this material seriously would make it unbearable. Capt. Sparrow’s behavior is so rococo that other members of the cast actually comment on it. And yet because it is consistent and because you can never catch Depp making fun of the character, it rises to a kind of cockamamie sincerity.”