Welcome to the intersection where Oscar bait melodrama meets Oscar bait satire. It’s the trailer for Apple TV+’s Emancipation!
First off, this near-parody is loosely based on the actual story of an enslaved man named Gordon. A photograph of his horrifically-scarred back became a just-as-indelible image of the abolitionist movement of the Civil War era, where it was passed around under the pseudonym “Whipped Peter.”
Telling of just how misguided this thing is, they just go ahead and call Will Smith’s lead “Peter.” And that iconic image? As seen in this trailer, it borders on DiCaprio’s Rick Dalton meme as a reveal.
Emancipation was written by the white guy who wrote the likes of Assassin’s Creed, Allegiant, and New York Minute, and directed by Antoine Fuqua—who, since hitting a high point with Training Day over 20 years ago, has mostly just churned out action-thrillers like the Equalizer franchise and now this ill-fated project. Will Smith turned down Django Unchained over a decade ago, and now we have to deal with this other action-oriented take on slavery escape that, instead of leaning into pulp, thinks it’s high art. It’s desaturated, so it must be dramatic!
This surely awards-worthy film hits Apple TV+ December 9.