Steven Spielberg's adaptation of War Horse has been touted as a 2011 Best Picture frontrunner pretty much from the day the director signed on to adapt Michael Morpurgo's 1982 children's book last May. When Nick Stafford's Broadway adaptation of the book won Best Play at this year's Tony awards, the project took on even more of a can't-miss vibe. How could Steven Spielberg make a movie about the friendship between a boy and his horse during World War I that doesn't scoop up Oscar gold? The first trailer offers a potential roadmap--it's impeccably edited, with a suitably rousing John Williams score, but comes distressingly close to self-parody at times. It's great, but you're constantly aware that this is Spielberg doing Spielberg.
"The first impression of Spielberg’s teaser trailer for the movie (out Dec. 28) is simply: God, that’s gorgeous," writes an impressed Anthony Breznican at Entertainment Weekly. At The Telegraph, Mark Monahan also approved of the trailer, but noted that the "bare-bones synopsis" of the boy-loses-horse-boy-goes-to-get-horse-back story "reads remarkably like that of his 1982 masterpiece E.T." At Screen Rant, Sandy Schaefer concedes that while the trailer does "an excellent job of teasing the film’s picturesque imagery of war-torn Europe, as devised by Spielberg’s multiple Oscar-winning director of photography, Janusz Kaminski (Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan)," he's worried that the director is laying things on a bit thick. Schaefer wonders, "does it also make the movie look too much like Oscar bait for its own good?"
Our favorite quibble came from Vulture's Amos Barshad, who also wasn't overwhelmed by the trailer's pedigree and general air of good taste. "Seeing as the book was written from the horse's point of view," asked Barsahd, "is it asking too much for the horse to narrate the movie?" No. No it is not.