Big Screen: Universal Panel

Battleship, Immortals, The Thing...

Kicking off with fantastic new footage of it’s US release, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the Universal panel maintained the literary vibe with the Edgar Allen Poe-starring trailer for The Raven. Plunging us back to dank days of the 19th century, it’s brimmed full of John Cusack – a nice way to kick off any afternoon. Cusack is Poe, the great American master of the macabre, and the new trailer finds him busy detectiving his way around days of yore on the hunt for a serial killer. The twist? The killings are inspired by Poe’s own novels. Our advice would be to write a novel in which a copycat serial killer accidentally chops his own head off with a carrot, but thankfully for the trailer’s dramatic oomph that’s not Cusack’s approach. His tactics look a million times more exciting. There’s scraps, chases and some gloriously dark-hued production design. It’s black, foreboding stuff and Cusack looks to be on cracking form in a rare crime-fighting turn.

Next up came The Change-Up trailer. Gloomy dad Jason Bateman and girl-hungry singleton Ryan Reynolds swap identities through the power of movie magic and some handy lightning, and find themselves occupying each other’s bodies. Cue life-swapping antics, all-round sexiness (thank you, Olivia Wilde) and much hilarity.

Then came Mark Wahlberg, fresh from being generally awesome in The Fighter, and looking like he may again be in the awards shake-up in the new trailer for thriller Contraband. It looks grittier than Mike Leigh’s driveway and should further enhance Wahlberg’s rep as a man for heftier roles.

What did we learn next? That everyone loves the trailer for Johnny English Reborn. The sight of Rowan Atkinson driving a motorised wheelchair or welting a granny with a tea tray isn’t getting old, and the world is arguably a better place for it. And better a wheelchair than a McLaren.

The Tower Heist trailer was the next cab off Universal’s rank. The comedy-drama sees Ben Stiller’s white-collar schleb plotting – albeit a little gormlessly – to rob back from the Ponzi schemer who cost him his savings. He’s joined by a strong-looking (and very funny) gang of wannabe heisters. There’s Matthew Broderick, Gabourey Sidibe and Eddie Murphy looking like he may just be back to Bowfinger form. And look! It’s the mighty Alan Alda. How’s that for fried credit-crunch gold?

Peter Berg’s mighty vessel, Battleship, looks like it may just blow up next summer and leave us sweeping up bits of cricket matches, parasols and picnic blankets with a massive dustpan and brush. We’re calling it Cow-Buoys & Aliens, although we’re not quite sure why. It’s full of the sound and fury, and crowd-pleasing dialogue (“Open fire”, “With what weapons?”, “All of them!”). With Liam Neeson going all taken Taken on the extra-terrestrials and the biggest aggregation of naval firepower since Top Gun, we’re saying bring it on.

Still reverberating from the boom of Liam Neeson’s salvos, the trailer for Matthijs van Heijningen’s The Thing prequel added a shiver of menace to the Big Screen air. It’s scary and atmospheric and boasts a talented cast of up-and-comers: from what we’ve seen, John Carpenter would approve.

Last but definitely not least – especially if you get extra points for massive battles and throwing spears really, really fast – came extended footage from Tarsem Singh’s Immortals. It’s a whole world (literally) of visual fantasy: mead for the eyeballs and catnip for movie fans looking for a hack ‘n’ slash extravaganza as astonishing as anything we’ve seen since 300. We saw Henry Cavill’s Theseus and his band of warrior brothers slug it out ferociously against all manner of nasties, redecorating the ancient world a lurid shade of innard. Immortals is out in 3D and on a giant scale on November 11.