Bringing in Roland Emmerich, filmdom’s foremost chronicler of our CGI doom, to direct a film about William Shakespeare seems like a total mismatch, one that leaves you wondering whether some cosmic body-swapping scenario left Mike Leigh helming a movie about Earth being destroyed by giant sea worms or something. But as Emmerich sees it, the contentious conspiracy theory that Shakespeare didn’t actually write any of his plays—that they were instead the suppressed work of the Earl of Oxford—makes for a fine backdrop for a historical thriller about the power struggle that arose to see who would succeed Queen Elizabeth.
And thus we have Anonymous, where what could have been a quiet, drawing-room drama is Emmeriched to include cannon blasts and battle scenes more in line with his work on The Patriot. As silly as that sounds on paper, it all looks fairly compelling, if a tad overwrought—and for a movie about Shakespeare, the trailer is noticeably light on words, letting its Radiohead soundtrack provide most of the mood as it intercuts plenty of Emmerich’s signature, sweeping helicopter shots and people looking ominously to the sky, as though the Globe Theatre is going to be vaporized by laser fire or earthquake at any second. It never is, but maybe they’re saving that money shot for the actual movie.