The day MTV interviewed Scott Derrickson.

Now that the trailer for the new version of The Day the Earth Stood Still is out there, the MTV Movies Blog has posted a fun little interview with director Scott Derrickson.

Right off the bat, they talk about Gort, the robot who was at one point rumoured to be missing from the film but can now be seen clearly, if briefly, at the end of the new trailer:

The last shot in the trailer is a hero shot, although strangely not of Keanu Reeve’s character Klaatu, but of his trusty robot Gort. The look of the character deliberately recalls his look in the 1951 original.

“It was intentional,” Derrickson said. “I certainly took a lot of time to explore other possibilities. It wasn’t just a foregone conclusion in my mind that we would be sticking to the original. I tried looking at a lot of different possibilities, worked on a lot of different ideas with artists and just always a nagging sense that there was something right about the way the original, that there was something about this alien entity choosing a human form or being in a human form that had value even by modern standards, not by 1950 standards. I also am such a fan of the original film. You have to also just have some respect for Gort. Gort is Gort. There’s no question what we designed pays homage to the original.”

They also discuss the new film’s environmental theme:

In an interview with MTV News in March, Reeves told us that Klaatu’s message to Earth was very different from the one in the original, that he was bringing with him a warning to stop destroying the environment. Here it looks like the environment is destroying us (or Giants Stadium, at any rate) — which is it?

“It’s both and even more,” Derrickson explained. “I think that this film in some ways is an attempt to address a number of issues that are amongst the most pressing issues for the human race. The original being a Cold War film was addressing what was clearly the greatest threat for the human race at that time, mutual nuclear destruction, and that’s not the most pressing threat that we face now. It’s also man vs. man. We are destroying each other as well. Our country’s at war right now. There is certainly the issue being addressed in the movie of our treatment of one another on the planet. I think it’s a movie about human nature as much as anything else and how human nature is acting itself out in the world right now.”

Finally, they ask him about the possible religious allegory — and while they don’t mention it here, Derrickson happens to be a Christian whose previous directorial effort was The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005), so his answer on this point is particularly interesting:

The original was a not-so-subtle allegory for Christ (the alien’s human name is Carpenter, he calls for peace, he is resurrected at the end, etc.). Is Derrickson’s version as overt?

“I don’t think you can really escape that metaphor,” Derrickson said. “I think the Christ-myth stories make great stories, whether it’s ‘The Matrix’ or ‘Braveheart,’ they all are tapping into some kind of deep myth in our DNA, and by myth I don’t necessarily mean false. I mean something that has mythological power and that’s definitely part of the story and part of what attracts me to it. My approach to that was to not discard that, but to be not quite as direct as the original.”

One fascinating thing about this is that Robert Wise, who directed the original film in 1951 (my comments), claimed he had no idea about the Christological elements in his film until other people pointed them out to him after the film was finished. So he was unintentionally overt about them, whereas Derrickson, from the sound of it, will be intentionally subtler about them.

Newsbites: The sequels and remakes edition!

Glad to have these out of my system, at last!

1. MTV Movies Blog notes that Pixar may run into some difficulties on Cars 2, due to the rumoured health problems that may or may not be plaguing Paul Newman, who provided the voice of Doc Hudson in the original film.

The blog doesn’t mention it, but the series may also be affected, one way or another, by the recent death of George Carlin, who provided the voice of Fillmore, and the rumoured suicide attempt last year of Owen Wilson, who provided the voice of Lightning McQueen.

This would not be the first time a Pixar franchise has had to press on without some of its original members. Jim Varney, who provided the voice of Slinky Dog in the first two Toy Story movies (1995-1999), died eight years ago. I have no idea whether the character will appear in Toy Story 3, which is currently in production, but the actor certainly won’t.

2. The New York Times takes a look at Terminator Salvation and the producers’ determination to keep filming even though there is the possibility that an actors’ strike could start at any moment. The story includes a couple nice photos of the film’s post-apocalyptic exterior sets in New Mexico, including a ruined 7-Eleven sign.

3. The Dark Knight is such a highly anticipated film, it’s kind of nice to hear at least one person, i.e. Devin Faraci, express the view that the film isn’t as “revolutionary” as some people have been saying it is — though he says it is still very good, etc. By all means, let us keep our expectations realistic.

Meanwhile, Variety looks at the age-old issue of how the makers of the Batman films need to toe a fine line between edginess and family-friendliness, while the MTV Movies Blog asks whether any future film in the Chris Nolan – Christian Bale series of Batman films should even think about bringing Robin the Boy Wonder into the storyline. Reportedly, Bale himself has said that he will refuse to be involved with any film that features the character.

4. Cinematical reports that Mark Millar, author of the comic-book mini-series that inspired Wanted, has said that he and an anonymous “very well known American action director” are pitching a reboot of the Superman franchise to Warner Brothers. This is interesting, as Bryan Singer and Brandon Routh have both been talking as though they were still working on a sequel to Superman Returns (2006). Paul Christian Glenn ponders what should and shouldn’t be salvaged from Singer’s previous film, regardless of who makes the next one.

5. Variety reports that The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is moving from New Zealand to Mexico, to take advantage of the water tanks there that were used for Titanic (1997) and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003).

6. The Hobbit director Guillermo Del Toro tells MTV Movie News:

But it is the second movie that is the treasure trove of possibilities. I believe the second movie will be present as an opportunity of enthusiasm and creation. I frankly look forward to that one so much. I really want us to prove that we have a solid concept for that, but the promise of that land is absolutely mind-boggling! I can’t wait to mount on the horse and ride, and I hate horses!

Meanwhile, he tells Defamer:

“We believe there is a second movie,” del Toro said during a discussion at the Majestic Crest. “If there isn’t, there will not be. If we find it, we will shoot it, but by God, if we do not find it, we will not shoot it. I am anxious to shoot the book, and I’m willing and able to dedicate myself to shooting the [second film].”

Not very reassuring, we don’t think — especially for MGM, which needs the prestige and profit of a Hobbit two-fer, like, yesterday. It’s trickier than it sounds, though; the second film, which would apparently bridge the gap between The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring, can only draw on the novels to which Jackson holds the rights. The rest of the background or ancillary literature (and there’s a lot) is off-limits. “In the four books that are in the domain of the copyright, there are appendices and ideas and things that can be traced without risk,” del Toro said. “But I have to be careful not to overstep. We believe there is a way to create this film and make it interesting, but it’s too early.”

So, does it sound like the second film will happen, or won’t happen? Who knows. But don’t count on the Tolkien estate making it even remotely easy for the filmmakers to use any of that other ancillary literature. The Los Angeles Times has an update on the Tolkien estate’s lawsuit against the filmmakers, which isn’t scheduled to be heard in court until October 2009.

7. The New York Times takes a look at Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the seventh big-screen Star Wars movie and the first to be completely animated, and the upcoming TV series to which it is connected.

Speaking of George Lucas’s ongoing milking of this franchise, a few weeks ago my priest referred me to Michael Kaminski’s The Secret History of Star Wars, an in-depth, 532-page PDF file on the creation of the franchise and Lucas’s almost Stalinist efforts to revise the history of how the franchise came to be.

Example: Lucas likes to give the impression nowadays that he had the prequels in mind all along, but Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker’s father were two different people until Lucas wrote the second draft of The Empire Strikes Back, which was then known as Episode II and not as Episode V, in March or April 1978.

I’ve only had time to read bits and pieces of Kaminski’s book, so far, but much of it seems plausible and fits with my own memory of how the original trilogy was promoted back in the day. Check it out.

8. Eddie Murphy tells the MTV Movies Blog that Beverly Hills Cop III (1994) was “a crock of sh-t” and he wants the currently-in-development Beverly Hills Cop IV to be “special”. Meanwhile, director Brett Ratner tells Latino Review that the rumours of the new film being PG-13 are false: “Believe me, this is going to be a hard core ‘R’ Beverly Hills Cop.”

9. Variety reported last week that Robert Rodriguez was going to remake Red Sonja (1985) with his current main squeeze Rose McGowan, who he met on the set of Grindhouse (2007). Then reports surfaced that they had broken up. Now People assures us that they are still together and their plans for making this movie are ticking along just nicely. Thank goodness for that.

10. Variety says Lord of the Rings (2001-2003) star Ian McKellen will play Number Two and Passion of the Christ (2004) star Jim Caviezel will play Number Six in a new series based on The Prisoner (1967-1968).

Number Six was originally played by Patrick McGoohan, who reportedly turned down the part of James Bond for moral reasons related to his Catholicism, and Caviezel is a well-known Catholic who has also refused to do love scenes — coincidence?

McGoohan was also reportedly offered the part of Gandalf, but turned it down for health reasons; in the end it went to McKellen, of course.

McKellen, for his part, is an atheist, so I wonder what kind of conversations he and Caviezel might have on the set? Could be interesting. At any rate, they have both played prophetic wonder-workers who died and came back to life!

Newsbites: The heretics! heretics! edition!

I jest, of course. I’ve got many other news bits stockpiled at the moment, but let’s get these ones out of the way, for now.

1. The Hollywood Reporter says Jesse Bradford, Steven Weber, Bob Odenkirk and Edward Herrmann have joined the cast of Son of Morning, the indie satire starring Joseph Cross as a dissatisfied ad copywriter who, because of some sort of environmental crisis, is somehow mistaken for the Messiah.

The Reporter notes that the title has been slightly modified from what it was before, and Matt Page notes that changing a single letter in the title could have huge implications for the tone of the overall film. As he puts it:

Originally this film was due to be called Son of Mourning which has connotations of “Man of Sorrows”, but now it seems that the title has changed to Son of Morning – a possible reference to Isaiah 14:12 which many interpret as being about Satan. I’m curious to see how [great a] shift in the filmmakers’ thinking this represents.

2. Matt Page also notes that Abel Ferrara’s Mary (2005), starring Juliette Binoche as an actress who loses herself in the role of Mary Magdalene, has just come out on DVD in Germany, and he compares and contrasts the packaging of the German disc with the packaging of the French disc. There is still no word on when the film will come to North America, though, as far as I can tell.

3. CT Movies links to a couple of stories in MovieMaker and the Jewish Daily Forward that look at how Bill Maher’s anti-religious docu-satire Religulous is being marketed.

A few thoughts on the twins’ first Disney movies.

The twins have really fallen in love with The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977) over the last few weeks. They sing along to the movie, they raise and lower their arms along with Pooh’s exercise regimen at the beginning of the film, and Thomas in particular even recites the dialogue along with the film, sort of; he doesn’t know most of the words yet, but he does make phonetic sounds that approximate the words spoken by the characters, and he does this in near-perfect sync with the rhythms and cadences of the film.

So familiar have they become with the film, in fact, and so often do they watch it, that the wife and I have begun to itch for opportunities to introduce them to other films. Among other things, we are seriously considering getting some of the sequels to Winnie the Pooh — the theatrical ones, not the straight-to-DVD ones — so that we can stick with these characters while introducing some fresher stories into the mix. Have we given into Disney’s evil scheme, whereby the studio makes a quick buck by churning out cheap knock-offs of its proven hits? Well, maybe, but I do think at least a few of those sequels are interesting in their own right; click here for a glimpse of the theological hay I made of The Tigger Movie (2000) way back when.

But we haven’t actually acquired any of those sequels yet. First, we turned to our existing library — and we settled on Peter Pan (1953). I’m not a particularly big fan of this film myself, but I thought it would be relatively innocent, compared to some of the darker and more intense Disney movies, so we popped it in the player — and then came all the stuff about the Native Americans, who are depicted in somewhat broad and unflattering caricature, even more so than the pirates and the mermaids. Now, I have never thought of myself as a particularly politically correct kind of guy, but seeing my kids watch this film as the characters sang ‘What Makes the Red Man Red?‘, I did get qualms.

Of course, at least two of the Indians escape racial caricature, at least of the more extreme sort. One of them is Tiger Lily, the sexy young thing who is one of the many girls and women competing for Peter Pan’s attention. The other is a girl, briefly seen, who is virtually identical to Tiger Lily but is apparently attached to a different man — and she has a mother who happens to fit the stereotype of the ugly and overbearing mother-in-law that was a staple of 1950s humour. So that’s another thing that rubs my modern sensibilities the wrong way.

So now my kids are equally addicted to Pooh and Pan, and I’m hoping I can wean them off of Pan in the near future, so that they can get used to other kinds of stories and images for a while, and then, down the road somewhere, when they’re older and have more of a “context” for this sort of thing, maybe we can reintroduce them to Peter Pan.

In the meantime, and jumping topics somewhat, I have found myself thinking lately that the characters in Winnie the Pooh don’t have the most creative or imaginative of names. Winnie and Eeyore at least sound like proper names, but Rabbit, Piglet and Owl seem to be mere labels, rather than names; Kanga and Roo are in a similar though not quite identical situation, and Tigger is saved from mere-label-ness simply because of an error in spelling.

I don’t necessarily mind all this, but I do find myself wondering if my children will be confused when they read other stories with rabbits named Rabbit and owls named Owl, etc. Are these the same characters? Is it possible for different people in different imaginative worlds to have the same name? Can the same name signify different people and thus different personalities and maybe even different meanings? What if one story’s Piglet is good while the other story’s Piglet is evil? And so on, and so on.

In the midst of these musings, I came across this item by David Robinson on the “meta-ness” of Bolt, a Disney cartoon formerly known as American Dog that is coming out later this year. And he tells a fascinating anecdote about Sesame Street and Big Bird that kind of ties into what I’ve been pondering:

If you’ve read The Tipping Point (and you have… c’mon…. admit it), you may recall a related vignette about a certain episode of Sesame Street, in which Big Bird searches for a new name. The plot of the episode was fun for adults—-Big Bird, in a moment of existential ennui, concludes that his name is oddly functional and lacking in character, and spends the rest of the episode looking for a new one. But the story was confusing to young children, who speed up their learning about the world by assuming (usually correctly) that the things they encounter have one consistent name apiece. The layering was overkill. It makes for an interesting vignette because most of us have long since forgotten what it would be like to lack layers, to view the world as a simple place where the distance between things-as-they-are and things-as-described doesn’t hold a lot of inherent interest.

The rest of Robinson’s thoughts, on Bolt etc., are interesting too. But I like what he has to say here about the world having and lacking layers, depending on one’s age. In this context, I guess it’s not such a bad thing after all if the rabbits are named Rabbit, and so on. They need to learn what a rabbit is, period, before they can start telling rabbits apart — just as they need to learn that not all bears are named Pooh, no matter how many times my daughter might say “Pooh!” while pointing to one of her teddy bears.

The Day the Earth Stood Still — the trailer!

A few months ago, I got to visit the set of the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, which was being shot here in the Vancouver area. Not for the first time, I marvelled at how it took hours and hours to produce maybe a few seconds of actual movie. A few of those seconds — showing military vehicles moving into position, in what I think is supposed to be Central Park — appear in the trailer below, which is reportedly playing before Hancock in some theatres right now, at least on the American side of the border:

Click here if the video file above doesn’t play properly.

JUL 4 UPDATE: The trailer has now been officially posted here.

Gods, Titans, and hundreds of Greek warriors.

Some interesting developments on the ancient-Greek movie front.

Variety and the Hollywood Reporter say Gianni Nunnari and Mark Canton, the producers of 300 (2006), are now collaborating on War of Gods, “a mythological tale set in war-torn ancient Greece, as the young warrior prince Theseus leads his men in a battle against evil that will see the gods fighting with soldiers against demons and titans.” The film will be directed by Tarsem Singh, director of The Cell (2000), The Fall (2006) and the music video for R.E.M.’s ‘Losing My Religion’ (1991).

As it happens, there is another Greek-mythological epic in the works right now, over at Warner Brothers, namely the remake of Clash of the Titans (1981) — and, thankfully, I think, this film has a new director since I last mentioned it here. The old director was Stephen Norrington, who brought Sean Connery’s career to a less-than-glorious end with League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003); the new director is Louis Leterrier, whose last job was this summer’s okay but basically unremarkable reboot of The Incredible Hulk. This Greek-mythic movie concerns Perseus, who “must overcome a series of obstacles to save his beloved Princess Andromeda, including cutting off the serpent-tressed head of Medusa, who can turn a man to stone with a single glance.”

Meanwhile, the folks at Collider got the producers of 300 to reveal last week that they are actually talking to writer Frank Miller and director Zack Snyder about making a sequel, or prequel, or something, to that movie. This could be difficult, since nearly everybody who mattered was dead by the end of that film, but who knows. My friend Paul Christian Glenn has some fun thoughts on the possible directions a sequel might take.