The Hobbit, Lovely Bones, Tintin, Dambusters and more.
Christopher Monfette from IGN reports on the goings on at San Diego Comic Con 2009.
IGN was part of a very select group of people invited to attend an intimate conversation with filmmaker Peter Jackson in the aftermath of a screening of the absolutely stunning District 9. For a whopping 90 minutes, Jackson filled us in on his latest batch of projects, including The Hobbit, The Lovely Bones, Tintin, Temeraire and Dambusters. Look for a more robust report on the conversation later during the Con, but for the moment, check out the updates below:
With The Hobbit, I didn’t want to be too involved with looking over the shoulder of the director. Part of the reason I wanted to produce the films and not direct them was not to compete against myself… Guillermo is there because I thought he’d do a terrific job with that movie. It wasn’t the job for a novice filmmaker.
We’re about three weeks from turning over the script for the first Hobbit movie to the studio. We wrote a treatment for the two films which we pitched to the studio. There was talk about doing The Hobbit as one movie and then doing a bridge movie to Lord of the Rings. We worked through the storyline and thought that we could squeeze The Hobbit into one movie, but even with a three hour movie, you’d be amazed with how much of that story you’d have to lose. We included all the events that we’d like to see, plus the fact that we wanted to embellish a few things and put a couple extra narratives in for Gandalf and the Necromancer. So we decided that the two movies should be The Hobbit, Part One and Part Two.
The Lovely Bones
I had done four of those big blockbuster effects movies and I just felt like trying something that was going to be hard and difficult and very different. Like anyone we know, you just want to keep trying things that you aren’t sure that you can do. So this seemed like a very interesting challenge. I loved the book. I cried when I read the book. I think how you take that book when you read it is very much based on your own life experience – if you had loved ones that you’d lost, you’d take a very different direction. And the film is equally personal. It was a very, very difficult book to adapt. It doesn’t lend itself to a film structure. We haven’t slavishly followed the book. There are big sections of the book that we didn’t use; we elaborated on other bits. It’s certainly a personal adaptation rather than a copy.
It’s not my vision of the afterlife; it’s Susie’s. She’s a little girl in 1973 when she dies, so we had a very ’70s idea of the afterlife. People refer to it as Heaven, but you never actually see Heaven in the story. The idea, which is in the book, is that each person experiences it based upon what their life experience is, so what Susie experiences in her afterlife is based upon being a 14 year old in 1973 and the pop culture she’s grown up with and the life experience she’s had. But she’s also wonderfully funny, too. We didn’t want to make a tear-jerky film. The great thing about Susie is that she doesn’t feel any self pity. She’s got these wonderfully ironic, wry observations. She watches her family deal with her death; she watches her killer; she watches the police bungle their investigation, which drives her crazy in a very humorous way. And she comes up with a very bad idea of trying to use her father as a weapon against the killer.
You have this degree of freedom to create a slightly hallucinogenic experience, but that’s fleeting in the sense that she also witnesses what’s happening. She can see what happens, but she can’t be heard.So she’s very frustrated, and even though there’s this crazy fun that she has for awhile, I would say that the tone of the movie is very much like a thriller.
The Temeraire Series
The Temeraire are a series of books we’ve optioned. I think it’s going to be six books soon. I love the idea of the Napoleonic times, when there was a Navy and an Army, but there’s also an air force, which are these dragon-like creatures. So the British have an air brigade, but the French do, too. You have these great, Napoleonic battles with flying dragons and ships.
I’m thinking about whether it should be some form of miniseries. With six books, I really don’t like the idea of making a big-budget movie of the first book and it not doing well at the box office and suddenly that’s the end of the series. Six books makes such a compelling story that I like the idea of adapting that as a series.
Steven Spielberg has just finished his first cut. I’m actually going to see it when I get home. He did the motion capture for that and directed it, which he was doing for six weeks. Then it comes down to New Zealand, to WETA, because our company is doing the shots. So Steven and I are collaborating on the production of the film and I’m going to keep an eye on the effects shots.
For the second film, I’m keeping my options open at the moment, but I am very partial to the Seven Crystal Balls. I’m going to read them all again. I’ve read them about three times in the past two years, so I’ll do it again and see which one… Everybody who’s working on Tintin is a fan of the story. It was huge in England; it was huge in New Zealand. I grew up with these books. Everyone who’s working on the movie, to some degree, grew up with Tintin. And in Steven’s case, he got turned on to Tintin after Raiders of the Lost Ark, which is a very Tintin-esque kind of story.
One of things I’m thinking of is possibly shooting Dambusters in 3-D. I wanted to get my head around the technology, so we got the equipment and shot some material to see how it looked.
Well, actually, you can. Unless they kill you first.
Ever since Patty McCormack’s sickeningly sweet murderess Rhoda Penmark in “The Bad Seed” in the mid-’50s, the horror movie subgenre featuring inherently wicked children has been scaring people no matter their age.
Now along comes “Orphan,” starring Isabelle Fuhrman as Esther, who would be a formidable foe for Damien from “The Omen” movies, those shiny-eyed towheads from “Village of the Damned” or glowering little Billy from “The Twilight Zone,” who controls everyone with his telepathic wishes.
Esther comes across as the near perfect child, with her politeness, painting and piano playing — until she smashes a bird’s head with a rock and forces a nun to drive off a snowy road, just for starters.
The most recent film in the Harry Potter series, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” invokes the evil-child theme as well. It features flashbacks to the childhood of young Tom Riddle, who would go on to become the dark Lord Voldemort; even when Tom was a student at Hogwarts, it was obvious to his professors that he was powerful in a potentially dangerous way.
Evil-kid movies are revered enough that they’ve received the highest form of flattery: being sent up by other movies and TV shows, including “The Simpsons.” And “Family Guy” offers up a regular character: matricidal little Stewie, who wanted to kill Lois for the longest time.
Besides their imitators, such films have their antecedents as well, Seton Hall University film professor Christopher Sharrett points out. All of them build on the “increasing disbelief in the idea of innocence,” he says.
“You see the idea in `Angels with Dirty Faces,’ the Dead End Kids, and in the postwar years, the teenpic or `juvenile delinquent’ film of the Cold War that poses the teenager as internal threat to adult values,” Sharrett explains.
Wheeler Winston Dixon, a University of Nebraska film professor who’s written about evil children in film, says the enduring appeal of demon children in horror films is the fear of the unknown.
“Children are seen as `blank slates’ to a degree, and also as essentially `unknowable,’ because they live in a world very different from the adult world, in which fantasy and reality intermingle,” he says. “Parents wonder what their children will become, and while they wish the best for them, they often feel as if they have no control over them. It is this essential lack of knowledge, and the fear that the children have a secret world which adults can’t enter, which drives our fear of childhood as a separate domain.”
Josh Heuman of Texas A&M University suggests that the movies play “on the dirty little secret that kids aren’t sweet and innocent, and the anxiety that it provokes.”
“They’re little monsters, and not necessarily in the affectionate sense,” Heuman says. “I’m thinking of my wonderful 2-year-old’s outlandish force of will, and then the `It’s a Good Life’ episode of `The Twilight Zone.’ Billy is hyperbole, but not unrealism or irony!”
Yes, even in real life, the little dickens can frighten you.
Dixon notes that Rhoda in “The Bad Seed” was the first mainstream demon child, but the trope really took off with the 1960 British science fiction film “Village of the Damned” and the sequel “Children of the Damned,” in which a mysterious force impregnates all the women villagers simultaneously.
“They simply want to dominate adults, and destroy them if they thwart their plans,” he says. “In a way, this can be seen as a reaction to the nascent rise of juvenile delinquency in the late 1950s — when American youth culture was first firmly established, along with the rise of rock ‘n’ roll, as a perceived threat to then normative postwar values.”
Children were easier to control before the advent of television, which exposed them to “the secret playbook of the adult world,” says Glenn Sparks, a professor of communication at Purdue University, citing a 1986 analysis by Joshua Meyrowitz in the book “No Sense of Place.”
Before television, society was relatively well-defined by widely shared social boundaries, Meyrowitz argued. But when TV took hold in the 1950s, one of the medium’s most profound effects was to break down those well-established boundaries.
The playbook was no longer effective.
“Orphan” screenwriter David Leslie Johnson says he loved the evil-child horror subgenre ever since he saw “The Bad Seed” — which did seem like a revelation in the mid-20th century.
“If you look at the other movies that were coming out at that time, it’s like the movie came from outer space. There was nothing out there like it.”
And it was so horrifying, that the filmmakers — forced somewhat by the Hollywood code that crime should never pay — gave it a deus ex machina ending so Rhoda doesn’t get away with murder. (In the original book and Broadway play, she does.) To further reassure the audience, they even went so far as to break down the fourth wall with the closing credits with a spanking played for laughs.
In many of these films, the father is absent or bamboozled by his precious prince or princess; it’s left to the mother to come to the slow, horrifying realization about her offspring.
“Orphan” is similar: Vera Farmiga’s character — troubled by alcoholism, a miscarriage and guilt over the near death of her deaf daughter — figures out there’s something wrong with Esther. Peter Sarsgaard as the father doubts his wife because of her past unreliability and is quite taken in by his newly adopted child. (Even before its release, “Orphan” has provoked anger from adoption advocates.)
“There’s just something really primal in that mother-child relationship,” Johnson says, “so I felt like that was really the best relationship to exploit and corrupt, to take what should be the most natural bond in the world and turn them into enemies.”
Maria Pramaggiore, a professor of film studies at North Carolina State University, has an explanation. Invoking “Rosemary’s Baby,” and the “Alien” franchise, she says: “In our culture, women in films are sexual or maternal. I wish we had moved beyond this dichotomy, but I can’t say we have.”
And then, Pramaggiore says, there’s the “child as replica issue.”
“They are born having inherited things from others and yet they are their own people,” she says.
Johnson can relate to Pramaggiore’s point. The screenwriter’s wife is pregnant with their first child, and he’s reading various books to prepare. The tomes impart a sense of mortality, he says, adding:
“It’s a little bit of `Body Snatchers.’ They look somewhat like you and even act a bit like you and eventually, they come to replace you.”
Synopsis: Producer Jerry Bruckheimer brings his first 3-D film to the big screen with “G-Force,” a comedy adventure about the latest evolution of a covert government program to train animals to work in espionage. Armed with the latest high-tech spy equipment, these highly trained guinea pigs discover that the fate of the world is in their paws. Tapped for the G-Force are guinea pigs Darwin (voice of Sam Rockwell), the squad leader determined to succeed at all costs; Blaster (voice of Tracy Morgan), an outrageous weapons expert with tons of attitude and a love for all things extreme; and Juarez (voice of Penelope Cruz), a sexy martial arts pro; plus the literal fly-on-the-wall reconnaissance expert, Mooch, and a star-nosed mole, Speckles (voice of Nicolas Cage), the computer and information specialist.
Directed by two-time Oscar®-winning visual effects master Hoyt Yeatman—”G-Force” takes audiences on a high-octane thrill ride, proving once and for all that size really doesn’t matter.
Cast: The Wibberleys, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Tim Firth Nicolas Cage, Steve Buscemi, Tracy Morgan, Bill Nighy, Will Arnett, Zach Galifianakis, Kelli Garner, Gabriel Casseus, Jack Conley, Penelope Cruz, Tyler Patrick Jones; Directed By: Hoyt Yeatman
Synopsis: A husband and wife who recently lost their baby adopt a 9-year-old girl who is not nearly as innocent as she claims to be.
Cast: Peter Sarsgaard, Vera Farmiga, Isabelle Fuhrman, Jimmy Bennett, Lorry Ayers; Directed By: Jaume Collet-Serra
The Ugly Truth
The battle of the sexes heats up in Columbia Pictures’ comedy ‘The Ugly Truth.’ Abby Richter (Katherine Heigl) is a romantically challenged morning show producer whose search for Mr. Perfect has left her hopelessly single. She’s in for a rude awakening when her bosses team her with Mike Chadway (Gerard Butler), a hardcore TV personality who promises to spill the ugly truth on what makes men and women tick.
The boy robot zooms into the 21st century with a new film.
The boy robot known as Astro Boy is readying for his return to the spotlight this coming October when Imagi Studios and Summit Entertainment will release the 3-D animated film of the same name. A revival of the classic Japanese anime character, Astro Boy was directed by David Bowers (Flushed Away) and stars the voice talents of Kristen Bell, Freddie Highmore, Nicolas Cage, Donald Sutherland, and Bill Nighy. IGN and some other media outlets recently got the chance at a sneak peek of some footage from the film, presented by Bowers himself.
“It’s a classic superhero origin story, really,” says the helmer of Astro Boy. “You find out what Astro Boy is and where he comes from in the story. And it’s hard. It’s a very emotional story. … It’s the first big-screen incarnation of the character.”
Created by the legendary Osamu Tezuka, Astro Boy began life as a manga in 1952. The first anime series followed in 1963, and a variety of permutations have followed over the years, though modern mainstream audiences in the United States remain largely unaware of the character. That is something that Bowers thinks could change very soon. Certainly the character’s origins make for an appealing story.
Created by a scientist (Cage) who wants to replace his deceased son, Astro Boy (Highmore) proves to be more than the bereaved egghead bargained for.
“The movie explores all the problems that come with attempting something like that,” says Bowers.
The first clip screened for the press plays directly to those themes, as Cage’s Dr. Tenma works nonstop on his Pinocchio-like robot. Combining his dead son’s DNA with pieces of missiles, the scientist is half-mad in his attempts to revive the boy — or a semblance of him anyway.
We see the robot’s interior parts even as lasers create a semblance of Tenma’s son around the construct. Nighy’s Dr. Elefun appears in order to provide Tenma with the power supply for the robot, a blue energy source. As the energy is fed into the robot, a bluish lightshow erupts — the robot boy then crashes to the ground. For a moment, silence, and then the machine begins to move its hand. It stands, eyes glowing, and it speaks!
And Dr. Tenma carries his son home.
“After [he] takes Astro home they go through a sort of normal day, but it doesn’t work out quite the way he expected,” Bowers told us. “Astro’s a bit different from [the dead son] Toby. The doctor’s disappointed. He ends up eventually breaking the truth to Toby that he’s not his son; he’s a robot who looks like his son and he doesn’t want him anymore. Toby is heartbroken and flies out of the apartment.”
After Astro Boy leaves his father/creator, he attempts to come to terms with the truth he has learned. He also takes to mastering his powers, including his ability to fly, but this has resulted in his showing up on the government’s sensors. And the president wants the power source behind the robot for his own nefarious purposes. This leads to the next clip we watched, where Astro Boy is surrounded by a bunch of Yellow Jackets — a type of attack aircraft.
President Stone (Sutherland) wants the robot at any cost. The Yellow Jackets pursue him, shooting green wire-like cables at Astro. But he races away through the air, navigating around the city. Eventually the planes get stuck in part of a building and a pilot falls out of his cockpit — but Astro Boy’s natural heroism kicks in and he saves him. Finally, Stone sends the Spirit of Freedom after the robot — a huge vessel that blows Astro Boy away, causing the mechanical boy to fall to the streets below.
“He runs into a bunch of kids who befriend him,” says Bowers. “He meets a guy called Hamegg [voiced by Nathan Lane], who he thinks could be another father for him. But eventually he has to make a choice … whether to help the people of Metro City or just fly away from the people who haven’t treated him so well.”
The clip that followed comes after Astro makes that choice. President Stone orders a Peacekeeper robot to go after our hero. It’s an eight-foot-tall monster that has the power to absorb everything around it. If it’s around guns, it would take the guns and be able to use them, for example. And it grows from absorbing things — and those things include the President, who has merged with the ‘bot.
As Astro faces the Peacekeeper, it is now voiced by Sutherland and huge in scale, having also absorbed buildings and even the Spirit of Freedom. It’s a classic superhero battle, with the robots firing on one another and Astro Boy utilizing his butt-cannons!
Some of this footage will also be screened at Comic-Con this weekend, so stay tuned for more coverage on the film as we have it!
A high-definition stop-motion animated feature – the first to be originally filmed in 3-D – with spectacular CG effects, based on Neil Gaiman’s international best-selling book. A young girl (Dakota Fanning) walks through a secret door in her new home and discovers an alternate version of her life. On the surface, this parallel reality is eerily similar to her real life – only much better. But when this wondrously off-kilter, fantastical adventure turns dangerous, and her counterfeit parents (including Other Mother [Teri Hatcher]) try to keep her forever, Coraline must count on her resourcefulness, determination, and bravery to get back home – and save her family.
Cast: Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Ian McShane, Keith David, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French; Directed by: Henry Selick
The Making of Coraline
Voicing the Characters
Feature Commentary with Director Henry Selick
Creepy Coraline (Blu-ray)
Watch an Exclusive DVD Bonus Feature:
A complex, multi-layered mystery adventure, Watchmen is set in an alternate 1985 America in which costumed superheroes are part of the fabric of everyday society, and the “Doomsday Clock”—which charts the USA’s tension with the Soviet Union—is permanently set at five minutes to midnight.
When one of his former colleagues is murdered, the washed up but no less determined masked vigilante Rorschach sets out to uncover a plot to kill and discredit all past and present superheroes. As he reconnects with his former crime-fighting legion—a ragtag group of retired superheroes, only one of whom has true powers—Rorschach glimpses a wide-ranging and disturbing conspiracy with links to their shared past and catastrophic consequences for the future. Their mission is to watch over humanity… but who is watching the Watchmen?
Cast: Patrick Wilson, Billy Crudup, Jackie Earle Haley, Malin Akerman, Jeffrey Dean Morgan; Directed by: Zack Snyder
Director’s Cut (additional 25 minutes)
The Phenomenon: The Comic That Changed Comics
Warner Bros. Maximum Movie Mode (Blu-ray)
Real Superheroes, Real Vigilantes (Blu-ray)
Watch an Exclusive DVD Bonus Feature:
How many superheroes does it take to save the world? The creators of The Naked Gun and Scary Movie answer this question in hysterical “David Zucker” fashion with the uproarious comedy Superhero Movie.
Meet Rick Riker. He’s young, he’s cool and he’s got superpowers. Now, if he only knew how to use them… but the world is in danger and no one is safe when Zucker and the gang — headed by the hilarious cast of Drake Bell, Leslie Nielsen, Tracy Morgan, Pamela Anderson, Regina Hall and many others — take aim at some of the biggest blockbusters of our time including Spider-Man, Batman, X-Men, and Fantastic Four, to name a few. On March 28th, learning to fly, spinning a web and busting a gut has never been this much fun.
Cast: Leslie Nielsen, Pamela Anderson, Christopher McDonald, Tracy Morgan, Regina Hall, Craig Bierko, Marion Ross, Brent Spiner; Directed by: Craig Mazin
Audio Commentary by Writer/Director Craig Mazin and Producers David Zucker and Robert K. Weiss – Extended Version Only
Check the new interview with Gerard Butler (Mike Chadway) and Katharine Heigle (Abby Richter).
Plot Summary: A romantically challenged morning show producer (Katherine Heigl) readily agrees to a series of outrageous tests by her male chauvinist correspondent (Gerard Butler) to prove his theories on relationships and allow her to find love. His clever ploys, however, lead to the totally expected result—she finds love at the same time that he falls in love with her.
IGN is giving away tickets to Peter Jackson’s new sci-fi film.
District 9, from producer Peter Jackson and director Neill Blomkamp, looks to be one of the coolest movies coming this summer. The tale of mysterious aliens who have landed on Earth and are forced to live in an internment camp has been piquing audiences’ curiosity ever since we first started seeing signs of the viral campaign for the film at last year’s San Diego Comic-Con.
Now, at Comic-Con 2009, some fortunate IGN readers are going to get the chance to see the film weeks before its release.
We’re giving away 14 pairs of tickets to a special District 9 screening via IGN’s Twitter following — one ticket for the IGN reader and one for his/her guest per pair. Both attendees must be 17 years old or over and will need to show a valid ID at the theater, so don’t bother trying to get tickets if you can’t meet those criteria!
A couple of other things to keep in mind: The ticketholders must be in San Diego already at the time of the screening as IGN is not responsible for anyone’s travel to the event. However, they do not need to be attending Comic-Con in order to see the film as the screening will take place at a theater outside of the convention center.
Speaking of which, the screening itself is happening at the United Artists Horton Plaza 14 at 475 Horton Plaza, San Diego, CA at 7pm PST on July 23. You must check-in at the theater no later than 6:30pm PST.
The giveaway will be happening at random times between now and Sunday, so keep following IGN’s Twitter at http://twitter.com/igncom for your chance to see District 9 early!