The official trailer for Netflix’s Maniac features multi realities and a retro visual aesthetic. Starring Jonah Hill and Emma Stone, the limited series appears to be quite expansive in its storytelling and exploration of the human mind.
Based on Espen PA Lervaag's Norwegian series, Maniac examines the psychological effects of a three-day drug trial. Owen Milgrim (Hill) and Annie Landsberg (Stone) arrive at Neberdine Pharmaceutical and Biotech hoping to repair their minds, with the understand that absolutely nothing will go wrong during the process. Last month, Netflix released a stylized teaser clip, featuring Hill and Stone’s characters seated across from each other, along with bold, overlapping colors. As it turns out, this brief narrative moment greatly contrasts the overall chaos of Maniac’s official trailer.
Today, Netflix released Maniac's new trailer, which begins by highlighting the downtrodden demeanors of the two leads. The Leftovers’ Justin Theroux appears as Dr. James K. Mantleray, who questions his subjects about their negative self-perceptions while making the important statement that the drug trial is “not therapy, it’s science.” After the doctor’s voiceover establishes his mission statement about solving the mind and destroying pain, the subsequent visuals unveil a retro setting full of seemingly now-dated technology. But while the first half of Maniac’s trailer has a practical, 80s-like feel, the second half is purely Kubrickian with its narrative scope (and visually ambitious) as Owen and Annie transport to different dimensions and take on distinctly different looks. While there’s indeed a small bit of comedic relief - Maniac is supposedly a “black comedy” - the trailer is mostly steeped in psychological drama as the subjects’ behavior perplexes both themselves and those looking after them.
Alongside Hill and Stone, Maniac features another familiar name with its director Cary Fukunaga. In 2014, he directed the entire first season of HBO’s True Detective and later served as the co-writer for Andy Muschetti’s 2017 Stephen King reboot, IT. Maniac also has an impressive supporting cast with the veteran actress Sally Field, Jemima Kirke (Girls) and Sonoya Mizuno (Crazy Rich Asians). On Twitter, Maniac's official account is using one of the trailer’s most memorable lines to promote the Netflix series, and the "multi-reality brain magic" has sparked numerous entertaining responses to the trailer.
Given Fukunaga’s dramatic background and his leads’ reputation for comedy, it will be interesting to see how the narrative dynamics shift, and whether the comedy itself will come through the characters’ appearances rather than dialogue.
Maniac will premiere September 21 on Netflix.