Dare You to Watch the Civil War Trailer Without Hyperventilating

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In the summer of 2021, the organization Bright Line Watch released the research from their latest poll, and it left American political scientists stunned. The organization, which was founded essentially to study the stress being placed on American democracy in the 21st century, was no longer simply asking American voters about their confidence in the economy or current leadership, but whether in fact they would like to see their state or region of the U.S. secede from the Union. According to the group’s first major poll released months after the Jan. 6 insurrection attempt, where a mob of Donald Trump supporters tried to overthrow the 2020 presidential election, more than a third of Americans seemed happy to see their community secede from the United States. And, perhaps less surprisingly, that number nearly doubled depending on geography and political affiliation.

Overall, 37 percent of respondents indicated a “willingness to secede,” while a deafening 66 percent of Southern Republicans—hailing from a region that already tried it once—liked the idea of secession.

Normally, this is the kind of sobering study that would rarely find its way on Den of Geek, yet it seems inescapably necessary to think about while watching the trailer for Alex Garland‘s newest film, Civil War, which just released its first trailer.

A genre auteur in his own right, with Aster having written and directed two instant sci-fi cult classics in Ex Machina and Annihilation in the 2010s, as well as writing the screenplays for 28 Days Later and Sunshine before that, Garland is the type of filmmaker whose name piques immediate interest for a certain type of cinephile. Yet for his latest effort, which is housed at the mercurial tastemaker indie label A24, the filmmaker returned neither to sci-fi or his recent dabbles in outright horror.

Civil War appears on the surface to be a grim speculative fiction about where the country could be headed in years or decades if current political winds pick up speed. The film also marks a reunion of sorts for fans of his productions, with Nick Offerman, Sonoya Mizuno, and Cailee Spaeny all appearing in the film (with Offerman as an ominous American president) after starring in Garland’s limited sci-fi series, Devs. The film also stars real-life couple Jesse Plemons and Kirsten Dunst, whose last collaboration was Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog. Which is to say the odds seem good that the screenplay delivered something special.

Obviously Civil War is a work of stylized fantasy, not least of all because it imagines for its seceding states the unlikely bedfellows of Texas and California. Nonetheless, the series seems to be set a few years down the road after an authoritarian government has turned on its citizens and journalists. A line in the trailer even states, “They shoot journalists on sight in the capital.” We are a long way from such naked despotism, but there are definitely political forces today that are extremely hostile to the press… giving it all an air of queasy prescience.

To bring it back to that 2021 poll, at the time it seemed many Americans who were asked that question may have forgotten the history lessons of the United States between 1861 and 1865. In which case, this film might offer an eerie reminder of where such a mindset leads, and how one person can say “we’re Americans” to a man holding a gun. “What kind of American are you?” he responds.

Civil War is in theaters on April 26, 2024.

The post Dare You to Watch the Civil War Trailer Without Hyperventilating appeared first on Den of Geek.

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