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Monday 18 March 2019

Bowled over by a cocktail of overkill - highs and lows of Super Bowl 2018

From Pink's national anthem to Justin Timberlake and the 'Selfie Kid', Ed Power reflects on the highs and lows of Super Bowl 2018

Oh deer: Justin Timberlake in that suit. Photo: Getty Images
Oh deer: Justin Timberlake in that suit. Photo: Getty Images

Ed Power

Only the Super Bowl could bring together Justin Timberlake in a bandana, dinosaurs chased by lava, Martin Luther King narrating a jeep commercial and Pink spitting out a lozenge seconds before belting out the US National Anthem.

Nobody does razzmatazz as terrifically/terrifyingly as America and, as is traditional, the Super Bowl was where that singular blend of sentimentality, commercialism, hokeyness and spectacle came together in a cocktail of overkill.

On the field, the Philadelphia Eagles overcame the New England Patriots. But even if you couldn't tell a running line-back from a running tap, the Super Bowl was a spectacle to savour: a slow-motion explosion of cheese, patriotism and viral moments born in real time. Here are the highlights.

1: The Selfie Kid

Not since one of Katy Perry's dancing sharks went rogue has a Super Bowl half-time show yielded such a meme-worthy moment. Plunging into the crowd at the end of his divisive performance, Justin Timberlake sidled up to teenager Ryan McKenna and started dancing. Poor Ryan looked simultaneously baffled, terrified and thrilled - though he wasn't so overcome as to forget to snap a selfie with Timberlake. The internet duly melted down, many joking the reason the 13-year-old started tapping on his phone straight after the photo-op was in order to Google "Who is Justin Timberlake?"

2: Justin's Purple Patch

Fourteen years after the humiliation of Janet Jackson, there was no repeat of the wardrobe malfunction that blighted Timberlake's last Super Bowl performance. That's not to say his half time spot was universally beloved. A tribute to Prince in the singer's home town of Minneapolis was divisive, with many decrying the projection of an image of the Purple One on to a flapping curtain. It could have been worse - Prince friend and collaborator Sheila E revealed she'd talked Timberlake out of his original plan to duet with a hologram of the late funk icon.

By that point, Timberlake had already put in a deeply dubious shift. The show started in the bowels of the stadium, where the now 37-year-old star belted out his new single 'Filthy' from a mocked-up nightclub stage. The most striking aspect of the performance wasn't the song (an agreeable attempt to fuse thinking person's soul to backwoods Americana), but Timberlake's haute couture hillbilly outfit, custom-made by designer Stella McCartney. A camo-splattered check suit paired with a shirt bearing a landscape scene of two deer was unnerving enough - but he could surely have shaved.

Justin with the selfie kid Ryan McKenna
Justin with the selfie kid Ryan McKenna

3: Pink faces down the flu

Moments before belting out the 'Star Spangled Banner', Pink could be seen spitting out a lozenge. She'd come down with flu - yet despite the ravages upon her throat was deemed to have delivered a stirring rendition. When someone on Twitter told her she "sucked", the response was: "Yeah but at least I suck while singing our country's national anthem, and you just suck by yourself on a dirty couch."

4: Tom Brady arrives looking like a villain from Zoolander

The New England Patriots star turned up for this epic sporting encounter wearing a long sci-fi coat that led some on Twitter to speculate that he was in fact two kids pretending to be an adult and others suggesting he looked like a bonkers Bond villain. Brady is married to supermodel Gisele Bündchen so presumably knows a thing or three about fashion. Prompting the question: who let him go out dressed like that?

5: Netflix surprise-releases The Cloverfield Paradox

The streaming service used last year's Super Bowl to screen the first footage from Stranger Things season two. It went one better this year, debuting the trailer for the third entry in JJ Abrams' sci-fi Cloverfield series - and then announcing, that, actually, the movie would be on Netflix straight after the game. It's sub-Alien balderdash - although a big hand must go to Chris O'Dowd for playing an astronaut named "Mundy", who speaks in a midlands accent and walks around with a whacking huge tricolour stitched to his shoulder.

6: Dodge co-opts MLK

It's just what the leader of the 60s Civil Rights Moment would have wanted: a commercial for the Dodge Ram - one of those vast picks-ups Americans use for transporting their fully-licensed semi-automatic weaponry - soundtracked by a Martin Luther King speech about the true meaning of greatness.

Pink sings the US National Anthem before the start of Super Bowl LII. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Pink sings the US National Anthem before the start of Super Bowl LII. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

7: All the other ads

The big Superbowl movie trailers were deemed a tad ho-hum. A spot for HBO's returning Westworld confirmed that it will indeed feature homicidal robots. There was also the shocking reveal that Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom will see Chris Pratt bonding with his pet Velociraptor and that the Han Solo Stars Wars movie will be mostly about Han Solo. One of the best commercials, meanwhile, found Game of Thrones' Peter Dinklage and "Voice of God" Morgan Freeman facing off in a rap battle.

8: Celebrity invasion

Jessica Biel was there to support her husband JT, while Sean "Diddy" Combs (in brown fur coat), Philadelphia native Bradley Cooper, Gwen Stefani, Jennifer Lopez, and former vice-president Joe Biden were among the A-listers in attendance. Janet Jackson was absent - but very much present in spirit with 250,000 Twitter posts using the hashtag #janetjacksonappreciationday.

Tom Brady with his wife Gisele
Tom Brady with his wife Gisele
Jessica Biel
Jessica Biel

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