While we are currently between major trailer seasons – not quite close enough to summer blockbusters, too far away from the holidays – and in the midst of awards, the Super Bowl always yields a new crop of audiovisual advertising to pour over. Leading this draft comes Shaft, a remake/sequel of the 1971 film of the same name and its 2000 reboot.

This free-spirited creative direction extends to the choice of music, as well. Rakim’s 1997 track “Guess Who’s Back” offers a lyrical nod to the long-awaited return of Shaft as a character. The musical arrangement, sampling the 1982 Bob James hit “Shamboozie,” harkens back to the 70s original with wah pedal guitar and trumpet calls. “He thinks he’s the black James Bond,” the dialogue deadpans, verbalizing what we’re all thinking. Notice the assertive synch between the music and visual at 0:25, 0:27, and 0:39.

By 0:45 it’s clear the Shaft franchise has taken a mild left turn into comedy, with the music pausing for the delivery of a punchline, as many a comedic trailer do. 

At 1:13 the original theme from Shaft (1971) arrives with the title card for the date (summer), a brilliantly unapologetic return to the aesthetics and style of the original. It’s part of what has always been a strategy in Hollywood filmmaking: successful films and franchises from yesteryear are sometimes (as in A Star is Born) updated for a new generation, and sometimes (as in Halloween) they live within some aesthetic continuity.

The moment at 1:24 definitely plays on the retro vibe even further as we hear the sound of a film reel slowly coming up to speed – an artefact we don’t get anymore in an age of digital editing. The score by Issac Hayes, whose “Theme from Shaft” won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1972, is wisely leaned upon for the remainder of the trailer.

Overall, Shaft (2019) promises to be a subtle re-envisioning, with a deft mix of a lack of particular concern for franchise continuity while bringing back the series’ aesthetic strengths.

– Curtis Perry