Bill Desowitz previews some of the top movies that VFXWorld will be covering this year.
What VFX-filled movies will dominate 2008? How's this for starters? The introduction of Iron Man and Speed Racer along with the return of The Dark Knight, Indiana Jones, The Incredible Hulk, The Mummy, Hellboy, Harry Potter, Narnia, James Bond and Star Trek. Plus a couple sci-fi remakes, an animated leap into sci-fi and a few curiosities. VFXWorld offers a glimpse of the most anticipated movies we'll be covering this year, so mark your calendars.
1. Cloverfield (Paramount Pictures, Jan. 18)The mysterious J.J. Abrams-produced horror film finally surfaces (Godzilla meets Blair Witch?). Five young New Yorkers run for their lives as they elude and document on video a monster the size of a skyscraper. Directed by Matt Reeves (Felicity) with overall vfx supervision by Kevin Blank (Lost, Alias, M:i:III). Double Negative and Tippett Studio are the lead vendors. The biggest vfx revelation, of course, is the much-anticipated "monster" that was designed by Neville Page and modeled/created by Tippett.
2. The Spiderwick Chronicles (Paramount Pictures/Nickelodeon Movies, Feb. 14)The world of Spiderwick, adapted from the books by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black, is filled with CG goblins, boggarts, fairies and sprites from Industrial Light & Magic and Tippett Studio. Director Mark Waters says, "These creatures are combinations of creatures that could've lived here. We raise the jeopardy and excitement because of CGI." Legendary animation and VFX pioneer Phil Tippett served as Creature Supervisor, overseeing the design and development of Hogsqual, the Troll, Red Cap and the army of goblins and bull goblins. ILM, under the vfx supervision of Tim Alexander, worked on Mulgarath, Thimbletack and his alter ego, the ill-tempered Boggart, the majestic Griffin, a rapacious Raven, the Snake, Sylph and a host of magical and elaborately detailed sprites.
3. 10,000 BC (Warner Bros. Pictures, March 7)Will lightning strike twice after the success of 300? That's the big question with this prehistoric epic by Roland Emmerich about a young mammoth hunter's quest through uncharted territory to secure the future of his tribe. Karen Goulekas (The Day After Tomorrow) reunites with Emmerich as overall vfx supervisor, with seamless work shared by Double Negative, MPC, The Senate VFX and Machine VFX.
4. Doomsday (Universal Pictures, March 14)The Reaper Virus has broken out in the UK, killing hundreds of thousands, with the British government building a wall in desperation, and then having to deal with another sudden outbreak 30 years later. Neil Marshall (The Descent) tackles this post-apocalyptic actioner as a gritty, throwback to oldstyle filmmaking. However, theres still plenty of vfx from Framestore CFC, Double Negative, The Senate VFX and Machine FX.
5. Iron Man (Paramount Pictures, May 2)Director Jon Favreau brings the legendary Marvel superhero to the screen, with the idiosyncratic Robert Downey Jr. starring as the billionaire industrialist/genius inventor who dons the high-tech suit of armor to save the world. John Nelson is the overall vfx supervisor, with ILM as the lead studio under the vfx supervision of Ben Snow and animation supervision of Hal Hickel. Word has it there's more Imocap and hard surface innovation in store. Stan Winston Studio, The Orphanage, Embassy VFX and Gray Matter FX also lend support.
6. Speed Racer (Warner Bros. Pictures, May 9)Go Speed Racer! The Wachowskis return to directing after The Matrix trilogy, and tackle a next-gen version of the famed anime series, with Emile Hirsch as Speed, Christina Ricci as Trixie, Matthew Fox as Racer X and Scott Porter as Rex Racer. Digital Domain gets top vfx honors, as John Gaeta supervises along with Dan Glass. Judging by the teaser trailer, we expect the anime universe to get a whole new stylized look, and anticipate a genuine creative exploration using cutting edge HD production process techniques and everything else learned from The Matrix experience. Also contributing are Cafe FX, ILM, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Evil Eye and Buf.
7. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (Walt Disney Pictures, May 16)Dean Wright (who shares vfx supervision with Wendy Rogers) admits the bar has been raised in this second installment of the Narnia franchise. There is not only more action, but also more complex models from Creature Supervisor Howard Berger. "There are huge battles in this film, so we've got a lot more character integration," Wright says. Since this time they shot primarily in the Czech republic, it made financial sense to use London-based MPC and Framestore CFC along with Weta Digital. Framestore is doing Aslan, Trufflehunter, the badger, the River-god sequence, kids entering and leaving Narnia; MPC is mainly doing the battles; and Weta is focusing on: a werewolf, a wild bear and all of the environments for the castle.
8. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Paramount Pictures, May 22)Harrison Ford dons the fedora and whip one last time in the fourth installment of the Indiana Jones franchise under the direction of Steven Spielberg. It's the 1950s and the Red Scare and this time out Indy goes after the mysterious Crystal Skull with Shia LaBeouf tagging along (presumably as his son) and Karen Allen returning as old flame Marion Ravenwood. ILM handles vfx chores, of course, with Pablo Helman (War of the Worlds) supervising.
9. The Incredible Hulk (Universal Pictures, June 13)The Hulk returns more in line in the Marvel mold, with Edward Norton stepping in as Bruce Banner and fighting his nemesis Abomination, and Louis Leterrier (Transporter 2) directing. Rhythm & Hues (in collaboration with R&H India) is the lead studio, under the supervision of Betsy Paterson.
10. WALL•E (Disney/Pixar, June 27)After traveling underwater in Finding Nemo, Andrew Stanton takes Pixar into outer space for the first time with this poignant tale of a lonely robot. Stanton says his inspiration is the great live-action sci-fi films of the '60s and '70s, and confirmed at Comic-Con that there will be a first-time live-action sequence of some kind. Oscar winner Ben Burtt of Skywalker Sound provides innovative sound design, which is integral to the movie. Should offer lots of eye-popping animated vfx, too, with advancements in virtual lenses and set design at Pixar.
11. Wanted (Universal Pictures, June 27)Opening opposite WALLE is this actioner starring Angelina Jolie as Wesley Gibson, "the most disaffected, cube-dwelling drone the planet had ever known." Russian director Timur Bekmambetov (Night Watch and Day Watch) makes his Hollywood debut, with overall vfx supervised by Jon Farhat (Doom).
12. Hellboy II: The Golden Army (Universal Pictures, July 11)Ron Perlman returns as Hellboy to save the Earth once again with his band of misfits in Guillermo del Toro's sequel to his cult hit from Dark Horse and creator Mike Mignola. Double Negative is the lead house and Mike Wassel is the overall supervisor.
13. The Dark Knight (Warner Bros. Pictures, July 18)Director Christopher Nolan delves deeper into the Caped Crusader: Batman (Christian Bale) and detective James Gordon (Gary Oldman) team up with Gotham's new District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) to battle The Joker (Heath Ledger). Not surprisingly, this is no Cesar Romero or Jack Nicholson. Nick Davis is the overall vfx supervisor with Framestore CFC and Double Negative sharing lead duties, with support from Buf and New Deal Studios. We anticipate more virtual set design wonders.
14. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (Universal Pictures, Aug. 1)In this third outing, directed by Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furious), Brendan Fraser is joined by his son (Luke Ford) as they unearth a shape-shifting mummy (Jet Li) who was cursed long ago by a wizard (Michelle Yeoh). Digital Domain and Rhythm & Hues share vfx duties this time out.
15. Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D (New Line, Aug. 8)Brendan Fraser is back again this summer in a stereoscopic remake of Journey to the Center of the Earth, directed by Eric Brevig, former ILM vfx supervisor (Pearl Harbor, The Day After Tomorrow). Vfx duties are divided between Hybride, Meteor Studios, Frantic Films and MOKKO Studio.
16. Quantum of Solace (Sony, Nov. 7)Daniel Craig returns as 007 in the first direct sequel in the Bond franchise, as he goes after the leaders of the terrorist organization introduced in Casino Royale. Marc Forster (The Kite Runner) directs with the aim of delving deeper into Bond's psyche. Mathieu Amalric (The Diving Bell and The Butterfly) plays the lead villain and Ukranian actress Olga Kurylenko (Paris, Je T'aime) comes aboard as 007's leading lady. Kevin Tod Haug, who has collaborated previously with Forster on The Kite Runner, Stranger Than Fiction and Finding Neverland, serves as visual effects designer.
17. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Warner Bros Pictures., Nov. 21)Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) begins his sixth year at Hogwarts and discovers a mysterious old book that helps him learn more about Lord Voldemort's dark past. Director David Yates returns from The Order of the Phoenix. Double Negative and MPC share vfx duties this time out with lots of support as well, including ILM.
18. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount Pictures, Nov. 26)Director David Fincher (Zodiac) ventures into new emotional territory with this adaptation of a fanciful story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Brad Pitt stars as an unusual man born in his 80s and ages backward, spanning the end of World War I in New Orleans of 1918 and following into the 21st century. Digital Domain handles lead duties here and we anticipate some cutting edge virtual human technology.
19. The Day the Earth Stood Still (Fox, Dec. 12)Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) directs the remake of this legendary sci-fi classic about an alien visitor and his giant robot that visit Earth with a stern warning about universal peace. Keanu Reeves steps out of the Matrix and into the iconic role of Klaatu made famous by Michael Rennie. We expect some noteworthy vfx.
20. Star Trek (Paramount Pictures, Dec. 25)What better way to spend Christmas Day than with the crew of the Starship Enterprise in this origin story from J.J. Abrams? Chris Pine is Kirk, Zachary Quinto is Spock and Karl Urban is Bones. ILM is handling vfx duties under the supervision of Roger Guyett.
Bill Desowitz is editor of VFXWorld.