Friday, August 8, 2008

Digital daydream

Today, I can't help seeing visions of a movie that was never made -- or hasn't been made yet. I saw BEOWULF last night (for the first time; I'd missed it at the theatres), and was very impressed by the gulf of difference, and development, over the FINAL FANTASY movie which was done about ten years ago. The evolution of digitals is phenomenal. FINAL FANASY: The Spirit Within was amazing back in 2000. I was as impressed, then, as I am with BEOWULF now.

Nostrakeeganus, he going back into the prediction business ... I'll give you five more years, and you won't be able to tell who's real and who's a digitoid, in the movies. They tell me, computer power is doubling or quadrupling every year. We're on the brink, right now, of a line beyond which we'll be in a digital reality from which there is no turning back. ('Digitoid' is a phrase a coined for one of the HELLGATE books. I like it ... it actually respects the digital entity ... and they're getting extremely, uh, respectable. Scroll down.)

Picture Credits: pics on this post are publicity stills, with all interests reverting to the company, no rights contested, no wrongs to be revenged! (Click pick for the larger version.

The character of Beowulf seems to be a composite of several actors. Ray Winstone voiced him, but that ain't Ray Winstone's face, much less his bod. They had a professional athlete model for the body, for sure, and the face is a cross between the young Sean Bean (see him in the SHARPE movie series), and elements of Ray Winstone himself, and a touch of someone else whom I just can't place.

(This is how digital face design goes: DreamCraft's cover artist, Jade, will slog through this every time we create a new face, or faces, for the book covers. I'll say something ridiculous like, mix up Brad Pitt, Charles Bronson, Percy Montgomery (the kicker for the South African Springboks national rugby team) and Gary Bailey (used to keep goal for Manchester United in 1980). Out of this ridiculous mish-mash will appear a face which is something new, yet has elements of all the contributors.)

And now the daydream, the visions I can't help seeing...

Imagine this: THE NARC MOVIE. Seriously. The whole thing is 100% digital, so you can be as outrageous as you like. One bunch of mime artists comes into the studio and does the motion capture ("mocap") work to set the body language for the characters. They go home. Another bunch of people comes in ... voice artists this time. They voice the characters and go home. They're unknowns, and brilliant (most voice artists are; ADR specialists only get into the news when they're celebs ... say, Ian McKellen is dubbing Iorik the polar bear, so it's big news in the media (and incidentally, he did a fantastic job of it). So now you have the athletic body shapes and fine-tuned body language mapped into the computer for Jarrat and Stone, Gable and Cronin and Ramos. Then they're voiced -- probably by artists who look nothing like these guys. Short, rotund, bald, 62, all of the above ... but he's got the Stoney timbre and cadence. Woah. Meanwhile, a team of digital designers has been designing the faces, which are then slapped over the erased-faces of the mocap artists.

Oh, boy. It'd cost upwards of a hundred million bucks ... if you're going to daydream, do it big. The cities would look like Syd Mead designed them. The spacecraft look like something out of one of the ALIEN movies. The riot armor has something in common with the suit Tony builds in IRON MAN. And so on.

Sigh. Hey, you can dream, right? And five years from now, the digital realism is going to be such that you won't tell any difference between the digitoid and the human. Speaking of which: if you missed BEOWULF at the movies, rent it on DVD. It's probably still way over-priced (upwards of thirty bucks in this country), but renting it is always an option. We use Quick Flix, which I believe is the same as Net Flix (spelling??) in the US.

The plot of BEOWULF will remind you of many facets of THIRTREENTH WARRIOR, which shouldn't surprise you, since they're both reworkings of the same legend. (I spotted that instantly, as soon as the Antonio Banderas movie got underway ... I was in Fairbanks, Alaska, at the time.) The opening scenes are rambunctious indeed: digital drama is getting ribald and sexy. The movie violence (and design hideousness) is gruesome to the max that I personally care for. Anything else is wasted on me ... they could save themselves several million bucks on their budget, because I'm not even looking when people's heads get chewed in two and their brains leak out. The musical score is very fine, and the animation is astounding.

Behind the animation are the performances of Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Brendan Gleeson and Angelina Jolie. Of them all, it's Hopkins (as usual) who is the stand-out actor. He has a presence, a voice, a manner about him, which consistently set him apart. He was equally as good, in BEOWULF, as in the first Zorro movie, and THE EDGE, and (my personal favotite) THE WORLD'S FASTEST INDIAN. Brendan Gleeson is one of the most recognizable faces in movies like this: you saw him in TROY, playing Helen's hopeless, hapless husband (forgive the alliteration: it wasn't intentional!) ... in BEOWULF he's a far nicer character than in TROY. In fact, he's more likeable than the central hero, Beowulf himself, whose arrogance is essential to the character, but hardly endearing.

Hats off to all concerned on BEOWULF: I'm impressed. Very.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm about to drift off into some more NARC movie fantasies!

No comments:

Post a Comment