This Week In Trailers: World of Tomorrow Episode Three: The Absent Destinations of David Prime, Apocalypse ‘45, Alone, John Was Trying to Contact Aliens, Space Sweepers

Trailers are an under-appreciated art form insofar that many times they’re seen as vehicles for showing footage, explaining films away, or showing their hand about what moviegoers can expect. Foreign, domestic, independent, big budget: What better way to hone your skills as a thoughtful moviegoer than by deconstructing these little pieces of advertising?

This week we revisit World War II, go on a very bad road trip, break down in joy that Don Hertzfeldt is back, look to aliens to provide meaning to our lives, and find an utterly charming escape from reality by way of South Korea.

Apocalypse ‘45

Director Erik Nelson is giving us a 4K look at World War II in the Pacific.

After the success of Erik Nelson’s previous archival feature The Cold Blue the National Archives opened their vaults and allowed access they had previously denied to over 700 reels of this footage, covering the harrowing expanse of the final months of the War in the Pacific. Very little of this material has ever been screened, and none of it has ever been digitally restored, frame by frame, to 4K. In addition, another treasure was uncovered and restored — astonishing new footage captured by legendary director John Ford. In essence, a “lost film” by Ford, it depicts the ruins of the Pacific Fleet, and the terrible aftermath of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

Also driving the narrative of Apocalypse ‘45 are recently completed interviews with two dozen men who lived through these nightmarish events. All of these men were in their mid to late 90’s, with the oldest, B-29 pilot Thomas Vaucher, 101 years old at the time of his February 2020 interview. Their illuminating and occasionally anguished, cautionary voices provide the film’s only narration, a true “last call” for the last of the Greatest Generation. Apocalypse ‘45 is being released as America and the world grapples with the meaning and consequences of World War II — on this most significant of anniversaries.

Apocalypse ‘45 uses the pristine raw, color film footage to tell a chilling narrative of the last months of the War in the Pacific. It documents events from the flag raising at Iwo Jima in February to the harrowing kamikaze attacks and vicious ground combat at Okinawa in April to the first test of the atomic bomb in the remote deserts of New Mexico on July 16th. In addition, we witness the air war over Japan in the summer of 1945, and perhaps most astonishingly, the still burning ruins of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, when a U.S Army medical camera crew photographed the devastation to both the city and its inhabitants.

I could not bear to cut anything from this film’s description. It reads like a dramatic piece of fiction, but it is all too real. To see how this war reached its conclusion through events that should have been the penultimate blows for either side is just unbelievable today as it was back then. Every now and then it’s good to revisit the scars of battle like this. It reminds us that it could happen again today, but hopefully it will never be as bloody as this.

Alone

Director John Hyams puts a unique spin on a story we’ve seen before.

Set in the Pacific Northwest wilderness, the film follows recently widowed Jessica who, fleeing the city in a desperate attempt to cope, is kidnapped and locked away in a mysterious man’s cabin. Her escape from the clutches of this murderous captor land her in the heart of the untamed wilderness, with only her wits to rely on for survival as her pursuer closes in.

The narrative is something we recognize, but it doesn’t take away from the suspense that Hyams creates with this trailer. It doesn’t try to be obnoxious or over the top with this woman’s captor, it creates a lush atmosphere of place and location to enhance the creepiness of it all. I don’t need much nowadays, I just need a thrill, and this looks like it delivers.

World of Tomorrow Episode Three: The Absent Destinations of David Prime

Director/writer/animator Don Hertzfeldt needs no introduction, and the latest from the Oscar-winning animator puts on a clinic showing how you do a teaser trailer right. Never mind that there is a throng of people who are awaiting his latest entry into the World of Tomorrow series with a great degree of anticipation, this is just a lovely visual amuse-bouche. It’s tantalizing enough to get us wondering what is coming next. Hertzfeldt’s World of Tomorrow series has said something about the human condition in ways that have resonated deeply with so many. This not only has the promise of something special it is very much welcomed in a year noted for its heinousness and cruelty.

John Was Trying to Contact Aliens

Director Matthew Killip isn’t here to poke fun at a guy.

A rural electronics whiz broadcasts radio signals into the stars and monitors for signs of alien civilizations while enduring a lonely personal life.

John Shepherd spent 30 years trying to contact extraterrestrials by broadcasting music millions of miles into space. After giving up the search he makes a different connection here on Earth.

What begins as a story about a dude trying to talk to aliens takes a decidedly different turn. This story will be very small in scope, focusing on this one man and whatever external and internal forces prompted him to look skyward for answers. Bt that’s kind of the charm. It’s personal, intimate, and it’s this kind of story that feels human at its core.

Space Sweepers

Director Sung-hee Jo is giving me a reason to live.

Tae-Ho (Song Joong-Ki) is a pilot of Spaceship Victory, which is led by a captain (Kim Tae-Ri). Tae-Ho will do anything to make money, but he is always broke. Tiger Park (Jin Seon-Kyu) and a robot (Yu Hae-Jin) are crew members of the spaceship.

Firefly and Cowboy Bebop, two things I’ve never seen before, are being used to compare this movie’s look and feel. To me, this just screams straight-up fun. It looks exciting, unique, special effects heavy, and, overall, has a fantastic vibe. I don’t know where or how I’ll be able to catch this, but it is now on my radar to figure out a way to see it.

Nota bene: If you have any suggestions of trailers for possible inclusion in this column, even have a trailer of your own to pitch, please let me know by sending me a note at [email protected] or look me up via Twitter at @Stipp

In case you missed them, here are the other trailers we covered at /Film this week:

    • The Blech Effect Trailer – Complex but emotionally stirring
    • Seized Trailer – Not even if there was nothing else to watch
    • Get Duked! Trailer – Some comedic moments for sure
    • The Boys Season 2 Trailer – A wretchedly paced and edited trailer
    • The Way I See It Trailer – Fascinating
    • Ratched Trailer – Stylish and exciting
    • Stuntwomen Trailer – Sure, why not?
    • Raised By Wolves Trailer – Yikes
    • The Sleepover Trailer – Kids will dig it
    • I’m Thinking of Ending Things Trailer – I have asked for little this year, so please, be spectacular
    • Critical Thinking Trailer – Nah
    • Tenet Trailer – This is getting hilarious now
    • The Undoing Trailer – OK
    • Hoops Trailer – Perhaps, but only if I’m really bored
    • The Owners Trailer – Sure
    • Robin’s Wish Trailer – Something raw and personal
    • Judas and the Black Messiah Trailer – Abso-lutely
    • Mangrove Trailer – Powerful

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