Wyatt Russell co-stars in Overlord from Bad Robot

The First Trailer for Overlord Drops, Proving JJ Abrams Still Has It

As JJ Abrams and Bad Robot's #1 fan, I've been yelling all morning
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Even setting aside the fact that he whitewashed one of history’s most iconic villains in Star Trek Into Darkness, I love JJ Abrams. The man can cast a movie, produce the hell out of a franchise, direct a pretty darn good action scene, and give you all the lens flares you desire. Plus, he can play the keyboard which is pretty awesome. As far as self-proclaimed geek overlords go, he’s actually one of the good ones, as evidenced by the fact he’s won awards for championing diversity in film (though his track record with LGBT+ characters could use some work).

JJ Abrams plays the keyboard in the music video Cool Guys Don't Look at Explosions

While Abrams is busy making dreams come true in a galaxy far, far away—may the Force be with him—his production company Bad Robot is still hard at work releasing awesome sci-fi films and keeping us all guessing until the final reel. After the somewhat misfire of The Cloverfield Paradox (which I will defend based on the merits of a good marketing campaign, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and David Oyelowo), the company is stepping back from the cinematic universe in favor of a standalone adventure. Overlord, which dropped a trailer this morning, will be the company’s first R-rated venture, and from the trailer we’re getting one spooky ride.

Directed by newcomer Julius Avery and written by Mark L. Smith (who wrote The Revenant and will be writing the fourth Star Trek film) and Billy Ray, the film centers on American paratroopers on the eve of D-Day who drop into a French village only to discover that the Nazis have been conducting secret, twisted experiments to create a new breed of super soldier. There are plenty of frightening visuals—at one point there’s a woman who seems to only be a head and a spine—and plenty of action to match. Some have called the film another Nazi zombie movie, but that seems like a bit of a reach currently, as they don’t seem to be coming back from the dead just yet.

Outside of the creep factor, the film showcases Abrams’s and Bad Robot’s positive diversity. Despite being set in WWII, we see an integrated unit—the protagonist of the film is black— and a female paratrooper and nothing is said of it. It seems as though bigotry and prejudice have taken a backseat to fighting Nazis, which could point to an alternate universe but also could point to a future of filmmaking where non-white-male characters are allowed to exist in a narrative without having to have race or gender be the defining part of their story. They are characters first and foremost.

The film does rely on Bad Robot’s favorite trope, the mystery box. At the end of the trailer, Jovan Adepo’s Boyce heads towards a mystery wall from which voices appear to be coming from. He peers through a small hole as his voiceover asks “What’s behind the wall?” The trailer cuts to black as a German scientist replies “they have been given purpose.” The entire film makes it not entirely clear what has inspired the monstrous experiments being done, and the press for the film hints at a supernatural element being present in the film. JJ Abrams does love a good mystery, and sometimes the payoff isn’t as good as the build-up. However, this film seems to be much more transparent when it comes to the plotline, so hopefully Bad Robot has learned from past mistakes and will be moving forward with clearer intentions with the viewers.

Will Boyce be a Final Guy figure and escape from these experiments safe and sound? Will the flamethrower-wielding female soldier make it out okay? And what is behind that wall? We’ll have to wait until November 9 to find out, but this looks to be a solid horror venture from a production company that knows how to please the core viewership. The Force is still strong with them, even if they’re only here on Earth and not in that galaxy far away.

(Image: Paramount)

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Image of Kate Gardner
Kate Gardner
Kate (they/them) says sorry a lot for someone who is not sorry about the amount of strongly held opinions they have. Raised on a steady diet of The West Wing and classic film, they are now a cosplayer who will fight you over issues of inclusion in media while also writing coffee shop AU fanfic for their favorite rare pairs.