Would you risk your life to fight the son of the man who killed your father? Would you force a child to make a medical choice that they believe is against god’s law? If these questions give you a mild headache or serious queasiest, we get it, and we have good news: You probably aren’t actually in a position to decide these things. However, thought exercises like these (both of which are catalyzed by two brand new and highly anticipated trailers) create important opportunities for dialogue in increasingly complex times—even if that dialogue only ever exists within you. So with that, get ready to wrap your head around some seriously slippery stuff:
Just as we were starting to get a little shaky from Michael B. Jordan’s withdrawal, the trailer from Creed II has arrived to slake us! Creed II’s striking, minimalist movie poster did much to assuage our dismay that Ryan Coogler won’t be directing this sequel (though he is the executive producer, so his touch is thankfully still present and accounted for), as did the comforting presence of (everyone’s #WCW) Tessa Thompson reprising her role as Bianca, but this trailer has really raised the stakes. Beginning with the opening shot of Creed going down hard in the ring and the fade to him waking up the hospital, it’s clear that we’re plunging right into this saga’s second act (i.e., when everything starts to go really wrong). While Creed was a deeply satisfying exploration of the Rocky legacy, the trailer seems to warn us that there is a dark side to thinking a fight is your birthright. But, lest we ponder the concept of epigenetic trauma too hard, there’s also the sweet satisfaction of seeing an epic training sequence set to Kendrick Lamar, which is basically our equivalent of ASMR.
The trailer ends with a reveal: The opponent in question is a descendent of Soviet murder machine Ivan Drago. It could be argued that the Cold War has gotten a little warmer in recent months, what with Pussy Riot, the hacking, and the (alleged) collusion and all, so it will be interesting to see how the rivalry is refracted through this contemporary prism. The younger Drago will be played by Florian Munteanu, a German beefcake (bratwurst?) who goes by the charming nickname “Big Nasty.” It makes a nice companion to “Pretty” Ricky Conlan, don’t you think?
The Children Act
From the boxing ring to the courtroom, the fight continues—this time, over a teenager’s right to refuse a life-saving blood transfusion on religious grounds. He’s a minor, but only barely, and the incomparable Emma Thompson is the judge who must decide his fate. The trailer doesn’t expose too much of the plot beyond broad strokes (a judge with a tough job, a fraught home life, and a seemingly impossible decision ahead of her: Deny someone’s life or deny them an afterlife). But if the movie is anything like the novel upon which it’s based, it’s probably not going where you might think it’s going.
Quandaries like the one laid out in The Children Act, which exists at the intersection of laws, morals, and ethics (the relative power and merits of which have been argued much in recent days, especially when it comes to the lives of children), raise serious implications about the separation of church and state and the limits to bodily autonomy under the statutes of one’s particular circumstances—that is to say, sometimes there are no right answers. What could become a melodramatic or hyperbolic parable seems to be anchored, in this case, by the sure-footed performances of old pros Thompson and Stanley Tucci and relative newcomer Fionn Whitehead (in his first role since starring in Dunkirk), and the marital problems alluded to in this trailer add a b-plot that probes at the contradictions between the professional and the personal in an authentic-feeling way. Plus, it’s already been well established that A24, which is distributing The Children Act, can do no wrong. They seem to be fans of films that inspire spirited post-screening conversation and debate, and this newest offering is practically assured to carry on that tradition. September 14, which is The Children Act’s release date, may well be too early for a fresh batch of Oscar bait, but then again, who are we to judge?