If I were to take a guess as to what the next big fad in movies might be, I think I’d put my money on space. Last week saw the debut of two new trailers for films set in space, one which looks good, and one which looks extraordinary.
The first is Ender’s Game, based on the 1985 novel by Orson Scott Card, which tells the story of Ender Wiggin and his journey to become Earth’s last hope. From Wikipedia:
Set in Earth’s future, the novel presents an imperiled humankind that has barely survived two conflicts with the “Buggers”, an insectoid alien species. In preparation for an anticipated third invasion, an international fleet maintains a school to find and train future fleet commanders. The world’s most talented children, including the novel’s protagonist, Ender Wiggin, are taken at a very young age to a training center known as the Battle School. There, teachers train them in the arts of war through increasingly difficult games including ones undertaken in zero gravity in the Battle Room, where Ender’s tactical genius is revealed.
I think the trailer looks really fun, but as a lot of you know I’m a huge sci-fi nerd, so this is very up my alley. The special effects seem well done, the lighting and zero G scenes feel seamless and believable. I think Asa Butterfield is a good choice for role of Ender as he’s got a very unique look, as well as an innocent face that can eventually become battle hardened. We’ll see how the acting overall will be, though I’m not expecting Academy Award level performances, despite the trailer telling you the film is filled with Academy Award winners and nominees.
Ender’s Game comes out November 1, right in time for the holidays.
The second trailer is for Gravity, a film directed, written, and produced by Alfonso Cuarón. I’m a huge Cuarón fan, having been introduced first to his 1995 film A Little Princess (which does amazing things with color), and 2006’s Children of Men is hands down one of my favorite sci-fi films. Gravity seems to have quite a simple plot, two astronauts trapped in space, but it looks absolutely nail-biting. From Wikipedia:
Dr. Ryan Stone (Bullock) is a medical engineer on her first Space Shuttle mission and is accompanied by veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky (Clooney), who is in command of the shuttle flight, due to be his last. During a spacewalk, the space shuttle is destroyed, and Stone and Kowalsky are stranded in space with no communications with Earth.
I think this film is going to be incredible. It seems like Cuarón has made something akin to a video game as most of this film must have been shot digitally. But I think that’s a line we’re beginning to cross, as video games become more like films, and now potentially vice versa. The films executive producer Chris DeFaria mentions something almost exactly in line with this idea.
“Instead of trying to create real people and what they’re doing, let’s turn it around and create almost an entirely animated film and then backwards engineer the people into that film,” he explained. “As a matter of fact, let’s not even engineer the people into the film, let’s engineer their faces. So you’ve got these little faces inside these little helmets.”
From a special effects standpoint everything in the trailer looks seamless. There are so many elements to a film like this that have to be just right. There’s the earth, which I’m sure will be a huge backdrop the entire film. There’s all of the debris and flying detritus that goes everywhere once the incident happens. It all has to be lit correctly, and more than anything, in an exciting way. I particularly enjoyed the shot that’s done from a first person perspective, with you feeling like you’re trying to keep Sandra Bullock’s character from floating off into the nothingness. The first time I watched it I was slightly horrified as I felt a tinge of responsibility to keep Bullock’s character safe.
Cuarón did some fantastic work in Children of Men with long single-shots that keep you focused and in the scene, not distracted by cuts. Funny enough, I did some digging and found this video by Refocused Media which takes all of the shots from Children of Men and splices them together into one video, to illustrate this technique.
AS it turns out, Refocused Media mentions that the opening of Gravity will be a 17+ minute scene, and an average shot length of 45 seconds. This is pretty much unheard of thanks to the music video approach of many directors who love an orgy of cuts (think of Michael Bay’s Transformer movies). Over a 2 hour period, I’m guessing most people will feel like they’re really floating up there in space.
The final critical part of Gravity will be the sound design. You need to watch the trailer in full screen with headphones on to appreciate the nuance, but it’s immediate. George Clooney’s voice starts in your left ear, Bullock’s in your right. The music is used only in the first part of the trailer, but after everything goes to hell the music cuts out and the only sounds you hear are the strange sounds of destruction in space and the panicked voices of the actors. Another good example is when Bullock is spinning you hear Clooney’s voice spinning around your headphones as well. Cuarón, who I would put on the same level as David Fincher, is a perfectionist and a strategist when it comes to filmmaking, and this film is going to be a work of art.
Gravity will be released October 4, and I can’t wait.