$9 Movie Trailers: Django Unchained

[$9 Trailers is a feature that examines movie trailers, and judges how well (or poorly) they execute their job of making me want to shell out nine bucks to see them.]

In today’s installment of $9 Movie Trailers, I’ve decided to switch tactics and look at a trailer I feel is a failure. Plenty of movies look bad outright, and we find our preconceived opinions on them confirmed when the trailers surface. However, there are also the rarer (but not uncommon) occurrences where a movie with high potential yields a very subpar preview. We all know trailers well enough to ignore them when certain criteria are involved, which in this instance would translate to, “well, it’s the new Quentin Tarantino movie, so I’m definitely seeing it.” But let’s table that and take on the trailer for Django Unchained with an entirely blank slate.


By far and away, the opening moments of the trailer are the best. The scenic shots of a slave chain-gang shuffling across shifting landscapes are intriguing. Our ears are treated to Johnny Cash’s “Ain’t No Grave,” and then we meet Christoph Waltz (of milk-drinking Nazi fame in Inglorious Basterds). Waltz approaches the slaves and upon finding Jamie Foxx aka Django, attempts to take him. The man in charge of the chain-gang will have no part of it, and with a gun aimed at Waltz, tells him “last chance fancy pants.”

Now Tarantino is nothing if not an innovative dialogue writer. To this day you will hear friends and strangers at parties quoting random snippets of Pulp Fiction, True Romance and so forth. But “last chance fancy pants”? Yes, I’m taking a line of dialogue out of context, but in my defense, it’s the first significant exchange between characters in the trailer. Of all the dialogue in the movie to choose from, that’s what we need to lead off with?

Christopher Walken’s scene about a watch, an ass and Vietnam perfectly illustrates Tarantino’s dialogue skills.

Apparently Waltz’s character doesn’t care for the line either, because he shoots the man and heads off with Django. Immediately we are jarred into a James Brown tune with the quintessential superhero removing his cape shot as Django tosses a blanket from his back. Waltz explains that he’s a bounty hunter, and he needs Django’s help tracking down some people that he knows Django has seen before.

It’s a bit expository for my tastes, with Django proceeding to tell Waltz about the incident, which involved his wife being taken. Since when has the plot of a Tarantino movie ever been its selling point? I look to a Tarantino trailer as a chance to see the kind of set design, aesthetics and action that will inform the picture, not to see two characters set-up the back story plus one menacing shot of Leonardo DiCaprio.

If someone made a Tumblr called ‘Leo DiCaprio Looking Menacing’ , I’d visit.

Speaking of DiCaprio, he represents what makes me so excited for Django Unchained. Tarantino has worked with a number of highly-respected actors, but the sheer power of a Tarantino/DiCaprio picture has me giddy with anticipation. Which is why when we only get a few insignificant shots of him as a plantation owner, I was bummed out. Yes, there may be aspects of his role that viewers ought not to know before seeing the film, but let me see him punch someone or say something truly menacing (he is allegedly the bad guy after all).Instead, the summation of his scenes in the trailer (quick shot, whooping at a table, “Gentleman, you had my attention, but now you have my curiosity,” and his closing observation riding on a wagon) just feel like obligatory inserts from an editor instructed to make sure some shots of DiCaprio get in the trailer.

The final third of the trailer is a montage of tepid explosions, Django voiceover and the tagline (“Life, Libertyand the Pursuit of Vengeance”) flashing on the screen. Ok, the tagline I love, but this isn’t $9 Movie Poster. In what should be a climatic reveal, the part of the trailer where things ratchet up to one significant snippet of a scene or dissolve into foreboding credits, we are instead treated to more exposition and a throwaway line about how it’s “Django, the D is silent.”

Maybe I’m being overly critical, but a Tarantino feature film is not a very frequent occurrence. I can distinctively recall how excited the previews for Kill Bill and Inglorious Basterds made me; the biggest letdown was the release date at the end not being tomorrow. But with Django? I remain excited for the movie, but simultaneously concerned that this film may mark some kind of “departure” from his previous filmography.

I may not need Chuck Palahniuk to write the same novel for the eight time, but Tarantino’s filmmaking has never seemed tired. If you like him, and I totally get why someone point vehemently do not, I can’t really see how you don’t like all of his movies. Who likes Kill Bill but not Resevior Dogs? How can you own Grindhouse on DVD but not love Jackie Brown? All his movies are like different shades of the same color. He has a lot more reds to get through before he needs to worry about making the leap to green.

Perhaps the second trailer will be drastically different, and perhaps it won’t but the film will be a classic just like the rest. The only thing I can state definitively is that this first look at Django has planted a microscopic seed of doubt. Let’s hope Tarantino can DDT that sucker this Christmas.

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  1. The man Jamie Foxx is talking to in the last scene is Franco Nero, the “original” Django, which is to say he played a character named Django in a 1966 western that Tarantino took inspiration from, a la the original (and spelled correctly) “The Inglorious Bastards.” I guess it’s meant to be some kind of “in joke.”

  2. Jeez, people are so critical and especially on a freaking TRAILER?! Oh ye of little faith.

    Why do we like QT movies? Their superiority. Tarantino has never let me down. I love the fact that he every single detail is exactly the way he wants it, right down to killing Hitler in a french theater. You think some movie studio might have stuck their grubby hands in it? No, QT has the Midas Touch. If this is a story Tarantino thinks we deserve, he’s going to do it and do it right.

    I think, the trailer might show a bit more than we’re used to with QT only because of it’s touchy subject of slavery. You can’t just depict these types of images all over TV without some explanation of where this movie is headed.

    “To this day you will hear friends and strangers at parties quoting random snippets of Pulp Fiction, True Romance and so forth. But “last chance fancy pants”?”
    Are you kidding me? You think this is unlike Tarantino.. who made one of his best characters drive around in a truck called the “Pussy Wagon”? Just like that represented so much more, who’s to say this doesn’t either?
    This is some small-time character that we will probably only see in this scene getting shot. He says this line and you’re going to callout Tarantino for not giving him a better line? Yes, he is a master of dialog and I think this fits perfectly here. It shows a crap slave trader disrespecting our hero by pointing out he is ‘fancy’.. this shows the ignorance and classlessness of the man, but also speaks a lot for the protagonist. If he just said ‘yes’ it would not be the same…

    “I look to a Tarantino trailer as a chance to see the kind of set design, aesthetics and action that will inform the picture”
    Is that not EXACTLY what we get here?

    “when we only get a few insignificant shots of him as a plantation owner, I was bummed out.”
    You just said you were made they gave away some plot lines, now you want more?

    “simultaneously concerned that this film may mark some kind of “departure” from his previous filmography.”
    You think after Inglorious Basterds, that beast of a movie, he’d let you down? this is a TRAILER… probably not even put together by him, but by someone who wanted to make this movie appealing to the widest audience possible.

    I will hold all judgements until I actually see the damn film.

  3. @Mandy, the whole point of this article is to judge the trailer solely on how it is as a trailer. Zack’s not knocking Tarantino one bit; he’s just saying the trailer didn’t wow him like some of the others did. In the first paragraph, he says he’s going to table his anticipation and future viewing of the film and try and remain unbiased. In other words, calm down, it’s just one trailer, one article and one opinion.

    But if you’d like to try and start an internet fight based on this, so be it. I’ve said what I wanted to say and I’ll leave it at that.

  4. And @Andy I gave my reasons why I thought the points he pointed out were absurd. He barely mentions anything about the trailer except that it is not how he expected it and not like the others (with out any real examples given). Who’s trying to start an internet fight (what are we 12?), was just making my points as well.

  5. In all honesty, I wasn’t impressed by the trailer for Django Unchained either, but I have my hopes since it’s Tarantino after all. Whatever this man shits I’d eat with a knife and fork.

    As for Palahniuk, read Pygmy, if you have not, it’s genuinely entertaining and it both continues and breaks away from the mould of his previous works.

  6. @ Wevs… Isn’t that Pygmy, second book from the left in the stack?

    I’m inclined to agree, though, with the glorious third-person invective, the social satire, the ludicrous violence, Pygmy reminds me of Irvine Welsh’s phonetic Scottish and Anthony Burgess’ NADSAT for the ‘active reading’ experience…

    Re: DJ n’ all…

    Andy and Mandy, sittin’ in a tree, F-O-I-G-H-T-I-N-G…

    I’m inclined to agree with Mr. Ruskin. The trailer isn’t as involving as most, and I’m left wondering at all the attrition in the casting and how that will reflect into the final product…

    Personally, the jury’s still out on whether or not Foxx can lead… At least he’s hedged by Waltz n’ DiCaprio…

  7. Thanks for all the lively discussion!

    @ Frank Damn, I knew I’d blow that. Thanks for the heads-up!

    @ Mandy If my article inspired you to give a response of such length, than I’m happy. Fine that you disagree, although I do feel my points are backed-up, even if they differ from your own take. And for the record (again), I am still cery excited to see the movie. I try to keep that part seperate from my columns, although it’s always a give-and-take.

    @ Wevs I tried Pygmy, but the writing style was too off-putting for me. Palahniuk is a great novelist; I just wish he’d take a breather between novels and make each one special.

  8. @Zack – the audio book for Pygmy is well worth it.. I’m not military strategist so there was no way I could read through it as sing-song and eloquently as the audio reader does. Loved the listen though.

    Lullaby is still my favorite though…

  9. @Donovan: Not sure, I may have a different edition, but the font is your typical communist propaganda poster block letter.

    The book itself is brilliant, given the fact that I tried to read it as much as I could in Engrish and seeing as I have lived under the communist rule for a while it was both hirarious and it still kept the “fuck society, cause society fucked me” attitude of Chuck.

    And as far as Django goes, I just wish we had Sam Jackson in his “final form” as the ultimate black badass. Seriously “Killing white folks for a livin’? What’s not to like” are words just meant to be said by him. Instead he gets to play Uncle Ben’s revenge.

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