May 28, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

Bill S. Preston, Esquire was wise beyond his years.
He knew just what Socrates (So-Crates) Johnson meant when he said:
“Like sands of the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.”

Bill But Bill was from a more innocent time – a time when talented animators like Kathleen Quaife animated complex water effects and the electricity generated by his (and Ted “Theodore” Logan’s) Excellent Adventures by hand.
Today, that sand is not like the days of our lives. It’s like those lives themselves.

Whoa Massive is a software package developed by Stephen Regelous. allowing Weta Digital to create incredibly detailed and complex battle sequences for the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) The ability to quickly and easily create millions of individuals and enable every one to respond individually to its surroundings (including other fully rendered and “intelligent” beings) was important to finishing these epic films, and it was astonishing to see. Ranks of assembled armies, doing (with the help of massively Massive creatures) what massive armies always do ~ kill other massive armies.

It was a well-defined fantasy milieu that had, over 3 films, built to this rousing crescendo of all out War. It was mostly realistic (insofar as such a fantasy can be “realistic”), and it worked ~  Well, with the exception of the ghost army coming in like so many green scrubbing bubbles to save Minas Tirith anyway. That just looked silly.
The people of Weta had seen a need and they had met that need with cutting-edge digital aplomb, and they were amply rewarded.

I didn’t really give the issue a lot of thought thereafter.
But I should have. Heaven knows other filmmakers did.

I was in Winnipeg last week for Keycon, and before the convention started, the Con committee kindly took several of its American guests (including author Steven Barnes and actor/author Richard Hatch) to see Star Trek: Into Darkness. I’ve found that if I want to remain surprised by a film or other pop cultural event its always better to see it before spending a long weekend with passionate people who beat me to the punch….

Before that film started, we saw a couple trailers – one for World War Z and one for Ender’s Game. And then, Into Darkness – a film dedicated to post-9/11 veterans.
So, thematically, we were dealing with genocide, genocide and…. well, not quite genocide (despite the antagonist’s best efforts in San Francisco).

WorldWarZ The trailer for World War Z was a shock to me for several reasons:

First, I’ve never read it and had no idea what film was being advertised.
Secondly, because I had no notion that Brad Pitt was IN WWZ.
But lastly – and this is is really the main point – because it was probably the single most revolting thing I’ve ever seen.
It was a genocidal snuff film where bodies flew about like the sawdust in a lumber mill. It was chaos for its own sake – a swarming anthill of the grotesque that seemed to defy the laws of physics even as it defied good taste. By comparison, The Lord of the Rings films looks like light escapist fun – the sort of thing Miss Manners were heartily recommend.
Michael Bay films look like Arsenic and Old Lace by comparison (though without the wit or performances, natch).
Nyarlathotep – the “Crawling Chaos” of the Cthulhu Mythos – has got nothing on WWZ.

WWZ From the top of a Ferris Wheel in postwar Vienna, Harry Lime once said “Victims? Don’t be melodramatic. Look down there. Tell me. Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever? If I offered you twenty thousand pounds for every dot that stopped, would you really, old man, tell me to keep my money, or would you calculate how many dots you could afford to spare? Free of income tax, old man. Free of income tax – the only way you can save money nowadays.”

But even Harry would have stopped counting his money looking at the thousands of seemingly unaligned dots of WWZ.
“Massive profits are one thing, but like the fellow said, best to have a Swiss bank left to store them in. So long Hollywood.”

The stills above don’t convey the sheer numbing inhumanity of this trailer and I’m glad they can’t. I try not to be utterly inhumane – even if the zeitgeist is.

Until Hollywood comes to deal with its new money shot somehow, I’ll be joined Harry Lime in Switzerland, old man.



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