The first weekend of Weekend Trailer Roundup continues with Planes, a spinoff of Pixar’s unimaginably successful and critically underwhelming Cars franchise. Rather than continue the series with Pixar, Planes was farmed out to the lesser-known DisneyToon Studios, and one need only watch the trailer to understand why: if the following clips is any indication, Planes is both a poorly thrown-together knockoff and an unmitigated disaster.
Nearly half the trailer exists only to set up a punchline that never actually arrives. The clip begins with a combination of daring aerial maneuvers and aeronautics jargon that’s practically an Air Force commercial in its own right, and goes on for such lengths that there’s only one obvious conclusion: we’re building to a goofy reversal, revealing the previous footage to be totally out-of-sync with the silly nature of the actual film. Our hero plane does indeed show up, and is both awkward and significantly lower-tech than his colleagues, yet the hard rock/military action aesthetic blares onward without any kind of wink, nudge or acknowledgement that the first half of the trailer was completely over the top. Instead, Planes ignores the gaping hole where its punchline should be and immediately begins establishing a newer, weaker joke: our hero plane is afraid to take off, but once he’s in the air he gets the hang of it and then everything is fine. He even writes “cool” with his vapor trail. Cue up some more heavy metal and high-altitude stunts and the trailer is finally over.
Yet despite being only a minute and a half of footage that’s most likely not a part of the final film, this trailer is crawling with hiccups, inconsistencies and awkward moments that spell all but certain doom for the quality of the actual feature. For example, when he finds his footing, our hero plane is cheering and shouting and completely overcome with the thrill of nailing all kinds of daring unseen maneuvers he never thought he’d pull off in his wildest dreams. Yet he chooses to say “cool,” as though he saw a moderately interesting Youtube video or just learned what a miracle berry does. The emotion doesn’t match up, and while it may not seem like much, it makes the only real joke in the entire ad seem oddly disconnected from what an actual person would think and feel and skywrite. Second come the intertitles, which are overlong, awkwardly written, and are often full of complex aeronautic jargon that your average filmgoer (or, god forbid, the target audience of the film- young children) would have absolutely no frame of reference for or be able to understand. It doesn’t help that the phrases like “auto ground collision avoidance systems” zip by at a speed where fully processing each one is like trying to speed-read a textbook while someone slams the book closed every two seconds. The animation also shows signs of trouble- the action pieces look perfectly acceptable, but a reaction shot of two jets wincing has that same jerky, stuttering quality of early Flash animation.
Even after seeing this trailer multiple times, I still don’t know what Planes is supposed to be. Either the actual film will be some awkward blend of cheap kid’s fare and high-octane hard rock dogfights, or this whole ad is just a tonal misfire that doesn’t represent what’s probably a carbon copy of Cars with one incredibly minor surface-level difference. In all honesty, it doesn’t matter either way. I doubt there’s a whole lot of anticipation for this one outside of the school-age set, so in writing a bad review I’m not so much discouraging people from seeing Planes as I am offering my condolences for whatever parents get dragged to see it.