The Magical Trailer for Beasts of the Southern Wild Lives Up to the Sundance Hype

Slate's Culture Blog
May 2 2012 3:55 PM

Trailer Critic: Beasts of the Southern Wild

BeastsoftheSouthernWild_still
Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) in Beasts of the Southern Wild.

© 2012 Fox Searchlight

Beasts of the Southern Wild came charging out of Sundance earlier this year: Manohla Dargis placed it “among the best films to play at the festival in two decades” in The New York Times, while here on Brow Beat, Bill Wyman called it “unforgettable.” The new trailer, which premiered this afternoon over at Apple, should do nothing to slow the movie’s momentum. Much of what critics and festivalgoers praised is immediately apparent here: The haunting score (composed by director Benh Zeitlin with collaborator Dan Romer), the gorgeous Terrence Malick-like cinematography, the force of newcomer Quvenzhané Wallis’s performance as the six-year old Hushpuppy.

Less apparent is the story, which follows Hushpuppy as she searches for her mother in the face of signs of apocalypse, a Louisiana storm that evokes Katrina, and, somehow, giant prehistoric boars. But the imagery is evocative enough on its own. And the lyrical cinematography is not the only thing reminiscent of Malick: The naïve voice-over would be at home in almost any Malick movie, while the dilapidated Southern setting and the focus on children is reminiscent of another Malick-inspired debut (and festival darling), David Gordon Green’s great George Washington. Those tinkling bells, on the other hand, seem right out of another child of Malick, Andrew Dominik’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

Of course, with those magical furry beasts and images of children running away from home, there’s at least one more movie this trailer might conjure up: Where the Wild Things Are. While that movie didn’t quite live up to its excellent trailer, there’s hope that Beasts—about to enter competition in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes—just might.

Grade: A-

Previously
The Beautiful, Brilliant Beasts of the Southern Wild
Trailer Critic: The Dark Knight Rises
Trailer Critic: Lawless
Trailer Critic: Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike
Trailer Critic: Judd Apatow’s This Is 40
Trailer Critic: Woody Allen’s To Rome with Love
Trailer Critic: On the Road

Forrest Wickman is a Slate staff writer.