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Comic-Con Roundtables: 'Watchmen', 'Clone Wars' and more

By Bill Desowitz

As always, the studios provided numerous press roundtable interview opportunities with directors following the presentations in Hall H.

Chief among them was a confab with Watchmen director Zack Snyder, who commented about the enormous detail that's gone into his ambitious graphic novel adaptation (he's currently making his case for a two-hour-and-45-minute cut with Warner Bros.). Snyder admitted that this is no greenscreen movie like 300, but, rather a cunning combination of in-camera work with massive amounts of CG. Other than Billy Crudup's naked blue Dr. Manhattan (he wears a MoCap suit and relied on previs for reference) and the obvious Mars sequences, it should be pretty difficult to draw the line between live and CG.

However, we've learned that the opening sequence is in fact a Forrest Gump-like tour de force of historical flashbacks that place the Watchmen in real-world history, using highly detailed CG to recreate historical events as backdrops.

Snyder said the idea is to "subvert expectations at every turn." And he reiterated that his attention to detail has resulted not only in the weaving of supplemental material from the graphic novel into the main title sequence, but also in the making of animated standalone DVDs (Tales of the Black Freighter, Under the Hood and the pirate story).

Speaking of animation, Star Wars: The Clone Wars director David Filoni admitted that George Lucas was very hands-on with shooting and editing the upcoming CG feature and TV series, which takes place between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. Lucas also provided a lot of room for intrigue and romance into the series that debuts this fall on Cartoon Network and TNT. Look for attempts to humanize Anakin Skywalker by focusing on his attachment issue, as well as ways in which the Jedi are made more vulnerable and the Clones more personalized.

Filoni said he drew on several sources for the design, including the anime-inspired Clone Wars series by Genndy Tartakovsky and Avatar: The Last Airbender (which he also directed) and the live-action Star Wars features (CG lighting was developed to emulate some of the live-action look).

In terms of the action-packed feature from Warner Bros. that opens Aug. 15, Lucas encouraged them to try a vertical mountain battle, which was harder to choreograph in CG. But Filoni's transition from 2D to 3D animation was infinitely made easier with the help of Zviz, the new Lucas interactive previs tool that helps with shot blocking.

Meanwhile, in discussing the update of The Day the Earth Stood Still (opening Dec. 12 from Fox), starring Keanu Reeves as a more sinister Klaatu, director Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) divulged that the new design would reflect a cutting-edge, organic look revolving around biotechnology and nanotechnology. This can be readily witnessed in the glimpse of Klaatu's ship in the trailer, which resembles a small planet. Weta Digital, under the supervision of Kevin Rafferty, has been in charge of this, as well as the new-look Gort robot (which captures the essence of the original), with both involving a lot of R&D.

Bill Desowitz is editor of VFXWorld.

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