After what’s felt like a dreadfully quiet summer, Hollywood news exploded this week. The Toronto, Venice and Telluride Film Festivals happened in rapid succession and we’re getting a picture of the fast-approaching awards season fair. That doesn’t even factor in the plethora of D23 goodness from last weekend. There’s lots of breaking news, tons of announcements and even more hotly anticipated trailers. Today we got our first look at Babylon.
Babylon comes from La La Land and Whiplash director Damien Chazelle. The film is described as depicting Hollywood’s struggles as silent movies shifted to “talking” pictures. The movie features an all-star cast, including Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt, Olivia Wilde, Samara Weaving, Tobey Maguire and Jean Smart (among others). Chazelle directs the movie from his own script.
Jumping right in, we really learn nothing about Babylon‘s plot from this footage. Rather, the initial trailer seems far more interested in showing us the world of the motion picture. Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie are by far and away the most visible stars. Though, Tobey Maguire and Jean Smart do also pop up for those who squint.
The trailer is one long, raucous (NSFW) party. There are drugs and nudity, mixed with sex and violence. With the given plot description, this is likely where the movie begins. Hollywood is big. It’s opulent. The stars of silent cinema couldn’t rise much higher and they knew it. However, when pictures started to “talk”, things grew a lot less certain for many.
Interestingly, we also know a lot less about Babylon than we knew a month ago. Updates to the movie’s IMDB page show the narrative switching from following historical figures to fictional characters. Robbie was initially thought to be playing silent “It Girl” Clara Bow. Meanwhile, Pitt was rumored to be cast as John Gilbert while Tobey Maguire was supposedly legendary comedian Charlie Chaplin.
Many of the historical figures have disappeared from the movie’s IMDB page, with the exception of Max Minghella who is still credited as the “Boy Wonder” producer Irving Thalberg. Looking at the trailer, Old Hollywood fans will still easily see the resemblance. The names may change, but the star personas remain the same. Though, Chazelle’s choice to root the story more in a fictional world is a smart one, allowing for more room to play in the narrative.
Chazelle’s last three films each brought a very distinct tone. He’s a quiet and contemplative filmmaker. As such, the very structure of this footage feels out of character. This is, of course, only the first trailer. We have three months before Babylon hits theaters. So, it will be interesting to see how the marketing continues to shape this release. The final film will undoubtedly be more complex than this brash and atmospheric trailer feels. There’s certainly a lot more to see here. Stay tuned.
Babylon is currently set to open in select markets on Christmas with a full roll-out coming on January 6.