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Comic Con '08 - 20th Century Fox: The Day the Earth Stood Still, Max Payne, Wolverine

Comic Con '08 officially started Wednesday Night, but the real "first" first of the Con is the 20th Century Fox panel this Thursday morning with The Day the Earth Stood Still, Max Payne, and a surprise guest. The day goes off schedule at first because a curtain in Hall H fell on top of the back row and they had to shut the hall down while they fixed it, but 30 minutes later things finally go underway.

The Day the Earth Stood Still

Keanu Reeves walked out onstage first, introducing the rest of the panel: co-star Jenifer Connelly, director Scott Derrickson, and producer Erwin Stoff. Derrickson started off by commenting on how he met Robert Wise, the director of the original The Day the Earth Stood Still and asked him for advice. The late Wise, who died in 2005, told Derrickson while he was still in film school to make his first movie a horror movie because it's a popular genre. Derrickson—who claims that his favorite movies were The Day the Earth Stood Still and The Haunting—followed Wise's advise and made The Exorcism of Emily Rose.

Erwin Stoff then commented on the beginning of the project 15 years ago. He was Keanu's manager and they were just finishing Speed when he walked into a meeting with a producer and saw a poster of the original. Stoff tried to pitch the idea of Keanu playing Klaatu but the project never had the chance to go anywhere. Fast-forward 15 years later where a screenplay draft of a remake lands on Stoff's desk.

Derrickson then noted the fact that the original was so embedded with the social going-ons at the time, so updating for our current time with our own issues make sense. He also said that a lot of people have told him how they've never seen the original, so he wants to reintroduce this great story for the current generation.

The first clip they showed was an interrogation scene where Klaatu (Keanu) is wheeled in by government agents, restrained, into an ominous room where he undergoes a polygraph test, but Klaatu warns the interrogator that he should let him go. When it's ignored, Klaatu uses his alien powers to shock the interrogator and asks him questions in turn, before wirelessly knocking all the agents out through their earpiece. Klaatu then steals the interrogator's suit and walks out the door all badass-like.

Keanu discussed the new take on Klaatu right after, saying that he's an alien contained in a human body, looking out objectifyingly at us. He's also not going to be very nice at first. “In the original, Klaatu was warm and fuzzy. More human than human. I’m not that guy.”

The remake has vast differences from the original, but the one thing from it that's most influental to Derrickson was the relationship between Klaatu and Jacob (Jaden Smith), the stepson of Jennifer Connely's character. With that, they rolled a second clip, a quiet scene between the two in the back of a pick-up. “You don’t even look like an alien. How come you look so human?” Jacob asked Klaatu. “So I can talk to you,” he answered matter-of-factly. Jacob apologizes for suggesting earlier that they go kill Klaatu, but insists that he doesn’t anymore. Jacob never said why, but it’s implied that it’s because they got to know each other, recalling that age-old idea of people fearing what they don’t know.

Derrickson addressed the special effects in the movie, stating that the advanced alien technology in this remake is more biological than mechanical—“Not hard spacecraft laser blaster stuff.” In sci-fi literature, this idea is not new, but we haven’t seen it in movies a lot. As seen in the trailer, the ship is not a flying saucer but a cloudy ball or some sort. We’ll also see Klaatu using biological powers rather than any weapons, as such a culture wouldn’t be into industrial stuff. The director, however, put to rest the internet rumor that the robot Gort wouldn’t be in the movie (and the subsequent trailer confirmed this). They looked at hundreds of designs to see how they could update Gort, but ended up coming back to the simplistic original design. WETA is currently still working on Gort’s finishing touches.

The panel ended with them showing an exclusive Comic Con trailer. Though the effects are incomplete, they look impressive already. The trailer shows cities being destroyed and mysterious lights engulfing famous landscapes (like the Great Wall of China). Klaatu tells Connelly that “If the earth dies, you die. If you die, the earth survives.” The trailer then ends with a silhouette shot of Gort walking out of the spaceship and blasting surrounding soldiers with his eye-beam.

Overall Impression: Looks strangely flashy and action-oriented for this film, with the social commentary barely showing through. It has potential, but could end up being very Independence Day-ish.

Max Payne

While the light was darkened for the first clip, the cast of Max Payne sneaked into position onstage. The clip showed Max Payne (Mark Wahlberg) sneaking into an apartment looking for someone—they presented the scene in a horror-esque fashion, with a broken lamp on the floor glowing on and off—when suddenly an unseen assailant jumps Max and starts brutally kicking the crap out of him. It ends with Max grabbing his ankle and shooting his attacker with his back-up weapon, still in holster.

As soon as the lights went back up, the girls in the crowd went nuts for Wahlberg. He laughed about how great it is to be at Comic Con because it reminds him of doing concerts in Japan. “You don’t even have to do anything, the girls just go crazy,” he joked. “Now I know why the New Kids wanna go back. This makes you all warm in the pants.”

Director John Moore (The Omen remake) came up with a cheesy but appropriate motto for his movie. “It’s not Minimum Payne, it’s not Medium Payne… It’s Max Payne.” He admitted that if the movie turns out great it’s not because of them, but because the original game had a great story. “The challenge is [to] not screw it up.” From the beating in the first clip, though it was nothing bloody, it felt brutal because of the way it was shot and edited. Moore explained how the game was exciting because players got to play as the badass Max Payne, and that the main task of the movie adaptation was to figure out how to give the same thrill after taking the controller away. His solution was to shoot it subjectively—“Let’s kick the shit out of the camera and make you feel like Max Payne in the movie.” Wahlberg added that audiences are going to understand why Max Payne is so driven to rid the world of scum, because “He was the happiest man in the world with a beautiful wife and kid, and then they took that away from him. He gave up on hope and humanity.” They made it sound very Punisher. Wahlberg took the job, apparently, because after doing roles like The Happening he wanted to kick some ass again, more so than he did in The Departed or Four Brothers, and he found that in Max Payne.

The second clip rolled and showed Max Payne walking through a subway station, deliberately showing off his gold Rolex in front of thee junkies. They follow him to the men’s room, where they stick him up, but Max flashes him his badge. “You a cop?” the junkie with a gun asks him. “Not tonight,” says Max as he plucks his badge from his belt and pockets it. He then kicks the armed junkie’s ass and pulls out a big damn gun. One junkie bolts out the door while the other hides in a stall. Max starts blowing away the stall doors with his gun as the last junkie crawls on the floor. Finally, in the last stall, Max sticks the gun in the guy’s mouth and asks him about Max’s slain wife.

Mila Kunis and Ludacris were on the panel as well, though they didn’t get as much attention from the audience (obviously). Mila said she got to do weapons training and speak Russian as Mona Sax, and that she enjoyed doing the scene where she beats up Mark Wahlberg. Wahlberg retaliated—and got the biggest laughs—by speaking the only Russian sentences he knew (which were… naughty). Meanwhile, the panel all applauded Ludacris for his performance. His role (an Internal Affairs agent who’s sympathetic for the tragedy that happened to Payne’s family, but still follows his obligation to hunt and stop Max Payne’s crusade) was originally written for a 60-year-old white man, but Ludacris took it and did an outstanding job. Wahlberg referenced his own music background by saying that he’s always wary of musicians-turned-actors because usually they’re only doing movies to boost album sales, but insisted that  Ludacris is the real deal and that he’s “the next big shining star out of hip hop.”

With Max Payne, of course the biggest question is how they’ll handle the Bullet Time effect prominently featured in the games. John Moore quickly and modestly pointed out that he’s neither John Woo nor the Wachowskis, so the fact that those people have done slow-motion gunfights so perfectly means there’s no way that he was going to try and imitate them. Instead, they used a new technology called the Phantom Camera which was able to shoot at 1000 frames per second, giving a really slow but still amazingly crisp picture. It also meant that they didn’t have to use any wires at all for the jumping-in-midair-while-firing-two-guns schtick, because they could just have Mark Wahlberg jump at normal speed and they’d still get a good midair floating shot.

The last clip they showed demonstrated this. It was a promo reel with minimal dialogue (mostly shootouts, explosions and fight scenes) that started off with the underwater shot seen in the trailer but with Payne’s extended gritty narration. After a series of chaotic shootouts, it ends with a shot of Max Payne doing a backflip really, really, really slowly. Technical-wise, it looked mighty impressive.

Overall Impression: Though it has copious amounts of guns, it doesn’t look like a John Woo movie. The only homage to the action maestro is the fact that Max Payne never runs out of bullets. When I first heard that Marky Mark is going to be Max Payne, it didn’t sound like a good fit at all, but he nailed that opening narration. It was low, coarse and rough—like the way Payne’s supposed to sound like. Too bad he’s still the same snarky Wahlberg in the dialogue scenes they showed.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

As some people were leaving Hall H, thinking the Fox panel was over, there was suddenly an announcement from Qantas Airlines pertaining a surprise guest. He just finished filming in Australia, they said, and just got off the plane before arriving at the ‘Con. Sure enough, it was Hugh Jackman, dropping by to promote X-Men Origins: Wolverine by himself.

Jackman said that they had literally just wrapped the movie and that he grabbed a bunch of footage on a workprint crudely glued together and stuffed it in his bag, before taking off on the plane. Before he started showing it, though, he humbly thanked the fans for their support and made it known that without us he wouldn’t have his successful career (probably not true) and that there wouldn’t be this comic book craze in Hollywood (probably true). Jackman regretted how he never got to go to Comic Con for all three X-Men films (though he did always shoot intro videos apologizing for not being here), so when Wolverine wrapped just in the nick of time, he decided that “No way am I gonna miss this.” The crowd certainly appreciated his enthusiasm. And yes, you could tell it was genuine. Jackman looked like he wanted to hug everyone in the audience.

He said he always listens to what the fans have to say, and assures them that there will be plenty of Berserker Rages in the movie.

Even more classy and drew big applause from the crowd was when he asked Wolverine creator Len Wein—who was sitting two rows in front of me in the reserved seating section—to stand up and wave his hand. Jackman then jumped off-stage and personally shook his hand. “Thank you, it’s the best comic book character ever made.”

The clip he brought was a trailer (kind of) that starts with Wolverine and Sabertooth holed up as POWs together. They survive a firing squad, with Wolverine smirking “It tickles.” Then a younger William Stryker (Danny Huston) recruits them into Weapon X, where they meet the new group of mutants. There’s Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds), swinging his two katanas; there’s Gambit (Taylor Kitsch), fighting with a staff and blowing shit up with playing cards; and then there’s The Blob (Kevin Durand) sparring with Logan in a boxing ring.

The last bits of the trailer involved Wolverine riding a motorcycle on an open road, leaning low enough to scratch his claws on the pavement. He claws a humvee and sends it tumbling, then uses it to launch his bike into the air and propels him onto a helicopter. After the Wolverine title flashes, there’s a confrontation scene between Logan and Sabertooth. “I want to cut your goddamn head off,” Logan snarls. Sabertooth just smiles.

Overall Impression: Mostly awesome. Looks better than expected, despite some pretty cheesy shots (can we please ban all shots of heroes walking slow-motion away from a fireball?). Definitely "badass" is the word to describe it, especially the scene where Logan tries to escape from Weapon X and goes berserk.

More photos from the Fox panel

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All photos by Tracy Tosta

Jul
24
2008
Arya Ponto • Contributor

As former Editor of JPP, Arya likes to entertain peeps with his thoughts on pop culture, when he's not busy watching Battle Royale for the 200th time. He lives in Brooklyn with a comic book collection that's always the most daunting thing to move with, and writes for Artboiled.com.

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