WETA

Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings

We can all hoist accolades on the filmmakers found in this series, but there are few who are as transparent about their process and actively engaging when it comes to including fans on set (at least via video) than Peter Jackson. Not just a minimal-effort chore for marketing, Jackson seems to relish with childlike abandon in making the Making Of videos and taking audiences behind the scenes of movies while they’re being made. Maybe that shouldn’t be surprising for a details-oriented storyteller who has built entire worlds for us to visually visit. But he wasn’t always sitting on top of Middle-Earth. Before The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, it was more likely you’d catch him with a lawnmower in hand and a bucket of fake blood close by. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from someone who fought in the Battle of Helm’s Deep.

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UPDATE: After speaking with the head of WETA’s marketing, we can confirm that the sizzle reel mentioned below was not WETAs. Again, this IMDB posting should be taken at arm’s length, and there’s also the possibility that Rothbart got the effects company wrong, but if these scenes are real, they are not the work of WETA. Original posting follows: There was never much doubt that Man of Steel would have a comic book feel. It was only slightly less guaranteed than it looking like a Zack Snyder movie. The Warners mulligan on Clark Kent is set for theaters in June of 2013, but apparently WETA just showed two scenes as part of a sizzle reel that played at a fancy gathering with smoked salmon and a bunch of visual effects artists. Allegedly, one of those effects wizards, Jonathan Rothbart (Avatar, Priest, Iron Man), posted a description of the scenes on the film’s IMDB message board. He was pretty excited. Here’s what he (spoilerifically) had to say:

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Duncan Jones is a movie-making treasure. These days, saying that you’re going to go see a science fiction film pretty much means you’re going to watch a movie about space ships blowing up the Earth, and that’s about it. There aren’t many people making science fiction that’s based heavily on ideas rather than action, like the greats of the genre used to in pulp magazines like “Astounding Science Fiction,” these days. But with his first two directorial efforts Moon and Source Code, Jones proved himself to be a strong voice capable of making sci-fi the way it should be; full of forward thinking ideas and philosophical quandaries. The good news coming out of an interview that Jones did with DIY is that he’s currently readying his third science fiction project. The bad news is that it could potentially be his last. When talking about what will make his third film different from his first two, Jones said “Moon was done at a tiny budget and we really squeezed everything we could out of it. Source Code was a chance to work on a bigger budget with name actors, but on a project that wasn’t my own. Hopefully, this third film will be the kind of sci-fi I want to make, on a budget where I can afford to do it as I see it in my head,” he then added, “After that, I’ll change genres.” Jones paired with a hefty budget and creative freedom sounds great to me, but if […]

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One of the great challenges of telling a story about apes is that you either have to have thousands of well-trained apes for the project, or you need superior technology to bring human actors to simian life through motion capture. Really, you have to do all that without making it look silly, so it’s fortunate that WETA has had so much experience in the past few years bringing mo-cap to the heights it’s at today. This quick, informative featurette shows off WETA’s talents alongside the blinding brilliance of Andy Serkis (with side-by-side video of his performance and what it would become) and seeks to shed a bit of light on where the tech is at this point, and how they utilized the emotions of a human to build Rise of the Planet of the Apes. It’s still unclear how they’ll conquer us considering we’ve got guns and tanks, and they have sticks, but this featurette is still very, very cool.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly column just trying to keep it real, man. We begin this evening with a few new shots from The Muppets, my now most anticipated remaining 2011 film. Quite a title to bestow, I know. Anyway, the folks at Rope of Silicon have updated their gallery. This includes a few movie stills, some behind the scenes stuff and that fresh poster I showed you last night.

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In 1993, Peter Jackson was coming off Dead Alive and sitting firmly in the splatstick world of horror when he went into a theater to see Jurassic Park. The sights provided by Steven Spielberg, Stan Winston Studio and ILM had a profound effect on the freshman filmmaker from New Zealand – they propelled him practically mortgage his house in order to get a computer that could do the kinds of things he knew he wanted to do as a storyteller. The next year, he put out Heavenly Creatures. That was the first step in the road to buy dozens, then hundreds and now thousands of computers that make up WETA – the digital effects studio crafting The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn which is being directed by, of course, Steven Spielberg. The sphere of influence comes full circle here, and the footage and discussion offered up today by the two modern masters was an exciting promise that big adventure would soon be coming our way.

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Everybody knows Andy Serkis as being the man who provides the motion capture performances for the revolutionary CG characters in Peter Jackson’s films. He was responsible for Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, he was the guy that made King Kong possible, and he’s playing the super smart ape Caesar in the upcoming Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which Jackson’s company WETA did the effects work on. So news that he is being looked at to bring another computer animated character to life should come as no surprise. In the most recent issue of “Empire”, which includes a lengthy feature on Apes, they talked to the film’s director Rupert Wyatt about what he was planning on doing next. He says that he’s looking to work with Serkis again to bring a classic work of literature to the big screen. The two want to make an adaptation of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”; the story set on an English farm that details the overthrow of the farmers by the animals and the subsequent corruption of the pig Napoleon when he becomes mad with power. You see, the animals are proletariat, the farmers are bourgeoisie, and the pig is like Stalin… you know what I’m talking about, you probably read this in high school English and remember it better than I do. The potential project is a ways off still and will probably hinge largely on the success or failure of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. But as […]

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While everyone else on the web continues to lose their marbles over the new Harry Potter trailer, which I still haven’t seen, a far more surprising and interesting trailer has hit the web: a 60-second international ad for Rise of the Planet of the Apes. What’s so damn cool about this trailer is that it mostly focuses on Caesar’s perspective. You’d think Fox would stick to James Franco‘s point of view, but thankfully they’ve put out something a little more ambitious.

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Even with a single teaser trailer, director Rupert Wyatt has already laid further waste to Tim Burton’s abomination. While that’s not exactly a tough thing to do, Wyatt looks to have made a genuine Planet of the Apes film. Burton and co. missed out on what made the Apes series interesting: social commentary. Rise of the Planet of the Apes seems to be another man abusing science fable, and it fits perfectly into the Apes mold. With further hating on Burton’s Apes “film” out of my system, Rise of the Planet of the Apes looks to be what the fans want. Judging by the trailer, it isn’t about explosions, it has a doom-ridden atmosphere, and looks to be one of those films that builds up to a real bang of a climax like the other (good) installments. I recently had the chance to discuss all this with director Rupert Wyatt, along with the trailer reaction, getting to make an inherently dark studio film, returning to social commentary, the hopefulness in the film, and how Justin Bieber is lending a helping hand to the end of cinema:

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“This is wrong, Will.” Stunning commentary on the state of medical testing? Seething critique of prequel/rebooting a beloved sci-fi franchise? Straightforward reaction to the new title of the movie? It’s probably all of the above, but it’s also one of two lines Freida Pinto has in the first trailer for Rise of the Planet of the Apes. It looks like a throwback to Robin Cook-style science thrillers. A modern-day Frankenstein tale where the patched-together man comes in the form of hundreds of primates swinging in the tree tops of your neighborhood. Seriously, it feels like The Birds for a second, but much, much hairier. Check out the trailer for yourself:

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Here’s a fun April Fool’s Day prank you can pull (that will be even more effective now that it’s not April Fool’s Day). Take this four-second-long clip that showcases an ape from Rise of the Planet of the Apes (and, yes, I know I called it a monkey in the headline, and I know they’re vastly different species), and tell your friend that it’s a real ape filmed in a zoo. I’d bet money that a solid amount of people would buy that it’s real. That solid amount will probably let loose some pant juices because of it. That’s how scary WETA is. Take a look at this CGI, and think in the back of your mind about the original films and the apes from Tim Burton’s go at it.

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Like most films, The Home has had a rocky road to getting made, but it looks like the sailing through Cthulu-infested waters will be smoother now that Dimension Films has agreed to release the film. As reported before, the film puts Ed Asner, Cloris Leachman, Brian Cox, Fionnula Flanagan, Louise Fletcher and Louis Gossett, Jr (and whatever young leads are announced) into an old folks home and tortures them with KNB-designed practical monsters until their screams and uneaten no-sugar-added apple sauce cups are used for the building’s fuel. Calls to filmmaker Kristoffer Aaron Morgan went unanswered, which I’ll assume means, “we want to have the film done by Fantastic Fest.” Morgan most recently had his short, yet hilariously nutritious, take on zombies hit said fest as one of the infamous bumpers. You can watch it after the jump.

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When we posted the WETA test footage for a possible Darkchylde movie, it was exciting. Why? Because even in the midst of comic book adaptation mania, “Darkchylde” is one of the titles that really, truly lends itself to film. There’s a strong female lead with a nearly unlimited amount of monsters that she becomes and unleashes onto the world. It’s high concept with a dash of character development and a metric ton of effects make up. Keep that last element in mind because horror icon John Carpenter has chosen the adaptation as his next project. Putting it simply, the man who directed The Thing is teaming with WETA to make a movie about a young girl who transforms into and battles demons. It doesn’t get much better than that. [STYD]

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The sweet story about Frog and Toad laughing at Toad Hall, riding around hilariously in a car, and generally being ridiculous must have been thrown right out the window into the bog. RG Entertainment (powered by WETA) plan on delivering what looks like the tale of when Toad had terminal cancer and decided to test the people around him who didn’t appreciate life with elaborate traps. The poster gives off a truly creepy vibe. If the new take on the film is this dark, will everybody still love Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride?

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Andy Serkis

Andy Serkis might have one of the most unique and sought after talents in the world of film today. But it has nothing to do with his live-action persona. It’s all about his ability to be expressive with performance capture. With roles as Gollum in Lord of the Rings and Kong in King Kong, it’s no surprise that Fox has tapped him to play Caesar, the chimp who leads the simian revolt in Rise of the Apes.

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James Franco is everywhere this week. First he joins the Summit Entertainment produced comedy Ricky Stanicky, and now he’s adding something quite big to his upcoming slate, Fox’s Planet of the Apes franchise reboot.

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Hopefully Fox will finally tell us what Soylent Green is, too.

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What’s the bare amount of news that’s fit to print? A rumored start date and title for a District 9 sequel!

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ff-underthemountain

Twins! Psychic powers! Sam Neill! Alien neighbors! Gingers! How will they put them all together into one film?

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TheHomeWETA

I really want to see dolls gnawing on an old woman as she goes insane, so obviously I’m stoked to see Elijah Wood anxious to get cameras rolling on the forthcoming horror flick The Home.

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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