No one ever went broke, the saying goes, by underestimating the intelligence of the American public. But did anyone ever secure world peace by underestimating the gullibility of a dictator?
The faux movie trailer Donald Trump showed Kim Jong-un on his iPad during their meeting in Singapore is a masterpiece of bad storytelling. If there were a filmic equivalent to literatures bad sex award, this four-minute production from "Destiny Pictures" would surely win it hands (or pants) down.
"Seven billion people inhabit planet Earth," the Trailer Man voiceover begins. "Of those alive today, only a small number will leave a lasting impact. And only the very few will make decisions or take actions that renew their homeland and change the course of history."
Goodness, who could the heroes of this exciting tale of exceptionalism be? Why, at the word "actions" an image of Donald Trump appears; at the word "homeland" we get the first appearance of Kim. Who knew?
The subtle touches continue throughout. History seems to repeat, the voice continues, with all its attendant negatives (cue black-and-white footage of the demilitarised zone, empty supermarket shelves, North Korea seen from a satellite, with all the lights off) but there is hope (cue sunrise, rice-paper lanterns floating skywards, North Korea and South Korea with the lights on, unified at last). If only our heroes can grasp this special moment (close-up shot of a seedling sprouting from the earth), a moment that may never be repeated (slam dunk).
Had he not been banished from Trumps inner sanctum, youd swear this was the work of Steve Bannon, the former communications adviser whose past work as a screenwriter-producer-director gave us such lumpen-handed gems as Clinton Cash (about the alleged corruption of Bill and Hillary) and Battle For America (about the supposed radical agenda of Obama).
There is a Destiny Pictures in Hollywood, but it has denied any involvement in the trailer, which is in all likelihood the work of Trumps own communications team. Bannon may be gone, but his legacy lives on.
Will it work on its intended audience? Well, probably not. And maybe.
Kim Jong-uns father Kim Jong-il was an enormous fan of cinema, and in his 1973 book On the Art of the Cinema he identified the art form as "a powerful ideological weapon for the revolution and construction". A tool for state propaganda, in other words. (His ideas on cinema were simultaneously adopted and parodied to great comic effect in Australian filmmaker Anna Broinowskis 2013 documentary Aim High in Creation.)
Given that, its not very likely Kim will have been "tricked" by the Trump camps hackneyed efforts. But that doesnt mean he wont have been impressed: the basketball footage is aimed squarely at hoops fan Kim, and that briefly glimpsed picture of Trump laughing in the Oval Office as Sylvester Stallone stands at his shoulder is surely intended to suggest that North Koreas biggest Rocky fan might one day be invited into that inner circle too, if he just plays his cards right.
But maybe the real intended audience for this nonsense isnt Kim or his fellow Koreans at all. Maybe it's Trumps wavering constituency back home in America. After all, how private is any message meant to be when it is immediately replayed on large screens outside for the benefit of the Western worlds waiting media?
For all the intended flattery of Kim as a potential man of destiny, the message in the trailer is equally about Trumps role in reshaping the world.
"Only the few … take actions": cue Trump. "Only a few are called upon": cue Trump again. The "hand of peace" being extended belongs, naturally, to Trump. Respect, goodwill – Trump, of course.
Even when the images arent actually of Trump, they sort of are. The Era of Great and Glorious Prosperity being dangled in front of Kim and his fellow Koreans seems to include rather a lot of beachside high-rise development (including the Blue Diamond and Green Diamond towers in Florida). Trump has reportedly said he was struck by the real estate potential of North Koreas beachfront while watching footage of cannons being fired from there. Go figure.
As the trailer draws to a close, the voiceover intones that "the future remains to be written".
Heres hoping its not as dire as this piece of rubbish or we really are all doomed.
Karl has been a journalist at Fairfax Media since 1999, in a variety of writing and editing roles. Karl writes about popular culture with a particular focus on film and television.
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