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WonderCon: ‘Godzilla’ director Gareth Edwards shares monster secrets

Sat, 04/19/2014 - 19:46
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Aaron Taylor-Johnson, center, as Ford Brody on the set of "Godzilla." (Kimberley French / Warner Bros./Legendary)

A scene from "Godzilla." (Warner Bros./Legendary)

Elizabeth Olsen as Elle Brody in "Godzilla." (Legendary/Warner Bros.)

Director Gareth Edwards, left, and Bryan Cranston on the set of "Godzilla." (Kimberley French / Warner Bros./Legendary)

Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Ford Brody in "Godzilla." (Legendary/Warner Bros.)

Bryan Cranston, left, as Joe Brody and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Ford Brody in "Godzilla." (Warner Bros./Legendary)

Director Gareth Edwards appeared at the Warner Bros. presentation at WonderCon in Anaheim on Saturday to unveil footage from his upcoming “Godzilla” remake, due in theaters May 16. The glimpse fans saw provoked a wild reaction.

“And that’s why we make movies,” he said as the lights came up after the screening of the footage.

What drove the fans into a frenzy? It wasn’t just the glimpses of Godzilla rising from the Pacific to lay waste to Honolulu, although the footage, even with incomplete visual effects, was impressive.

It was the presence of a creature that, until now, has not been seen in any of the film’s marketing. In the new film, fans will get to see their Godzilla fight Mothra, or at least a giant winged creature that bears a vague resemblance to a moth. Edwards did not utter the M word during his appearance.

Edwards spoke of his adoration of Steven Spielberg’s films, and the influence was apparent in the scene showed to the WonderCon crowd, which paid homage to the famous shot in “Jaws” that revealed the outline of the giant shark swimming beneath Quint’s boat. Replace Quint’s boat with an aircraft carrier and the shark with Godzilla, and the scope of Edwards’ film becomes clear.

“I grew up watching Spielberg movies,” he said. “What they did so well — as well as having epic, fantastic spectacle — they made the characters feel real and human. We were trying to do the same thing here.”

The clip climaxed with Godzilla confronting the Mothra-like creature on the tarmac at Honolulu’s airport. For the first time, fans got to see the new Godzilla facing the camera directly and letting loose with its distinctive roar.

Edwards said that going into the film, he thought designing Godzilla’s new look would be the easiest thing to do, since everyone already has an idea of what Godzilla looks like. But that turned out to make designing Godzilla one of the trickiest tasks for the film’s crew.

“I feel the best designs are strongest when they work in silhouette,” Edwards said. “We built him in 3-D and designed him in black and rotated him. If you saw a sign warning ‘Godzilla crossing,’ you’d know right away it was not a deer or a bear.”

Creating the monster’s new look took the better part of a year, Edwards said. It was a puzzle, but “it’s not a Rubik’s Cube,” he said. “You can’t cheat and pull off the stickers.”

The film sees Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson leading an ensemble cast, but Edwards said he specifically told the performers not to approach the film as a big, commercial blockbuster.

“Forget the giant monsters,” he told them. “If this really happened, it would be a life-changing experience. You have to take it seriously.”

Edwards said he couldn’t describe the film the way most other directors discuss their big-budget remakes, talking about how they were making things gritty and grounded. He said the original 1954 film was as real as it gets, with its direct and sustained metaphor for the nuclear horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Edwards didn’t reveal exactly what Godzilla’s motivation throughout the film would be, but he definitely hinted that the movie would include more than one creature.

“The other thing, whatever it is, is very much related to the life cycle of Godzilla,” he said. “Everything Godzilla does in the film feels animalistic and natural.”

Many of “Godzilla’s” secrets were divulged at the panel, but one that Edwards is keeping to himself, at least for now, is how the monster’s distinctive roar was created.

According to film lore, the original roar came about by rubbing a hand in a leather glove over the resin-coated strings of a double bass. But when sound designer Eric Aadahl tried that, he couldn’t re-create the effect. Eventually, he hit on a method, but he refused to tell Edwards what it was until the final week of work on the film.

“It’s as crazy as the double bass thing,” was all he would say.

– Patrick Kevin Day

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‘Star Wars Rebels’: Composer Kevin Kiner channels John Williams for new series

Sat, 04/19/2014 - 18:00
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Character sheet for Kanan, the "cowboy Jedi." (Lucasfilm)

Computer graphic model of Kanan's head. (Lucasfilm)

Computer rendering of Kanan, the "cowboy Jedi," as he will appear in "Star Wars Rebels." (Lucasfilm)

Kanan, hero of the new "Star Wars Rebels" series, encounters the villainous Inquisitor. (Lucasfilm)

When “Star Wars Rebels” debuts this fall, fans will hear some very familiar sounds. Yes, the ever-present “Star Wars” fanfare will be there, but for the first time in a “Star Wars” TV series, the beloved John Williams themes featured throughout the original trilogy will be back — in slightly different form.

“I’m using a lot more of John’s themes, but more importantly I’m using the little motifs he had,” says Kevin Kiner, the man picked to score the new series. Fans are already familiar with his work as the longtime composer of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” but for “Rebels” he’s digging back into the Lucasfilm audio vaults, using bits of music that will instantly conjure images of Han, Luke, the Death Star and more.

“I never used John’s music before on ‘Clone Wars’ under specific instructions from George [Lucas],” says Kiner, whose participation in the series was announced at “Rebels’” Wondercon panel Saturday in Anaheim. “He wanted ‘Clone Wars’ to break new ground. In fact we had to beg him a few times to use John’s themes.”

The music of “Rebels” will be a mixture of the Williams themes fans know and love, and Kiner’s original work. Though it’s something Kiner has never tried before now, he says the melding of styles has become nearly seamless.

Kevin Kiner will be the composer for “Star Wars Rebels.” (Lucasfilm)

“I could play any part of the score of the first two ['Star Wars'] films in my sleep at any time of the day,” Kiner says. “I don’t want to be a mini-me John Williams, but this project needs to sound like ‘A New Hope,’ I need to have that in my bloodstream.” And the merging has had some pleasant surprises for Kiner. “There was an incident where I thought I was using one of John’s melodies, but I couldn’t place where it was from. But everyone tells me, no, it’s my melody. It really sounds like John.” The music in question is the theme for Ezra, the Force-sensitive human character in the new series.

Kiner, whose nearly 30-year composing career includes such credits as the AMC drama “Hell on Wheels,” the original “Leprechaun” film and the “Star” trifecta of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” “Star Trek: Enterprise” and “Stargate SG-1,” will use a smaller ensemble for the “Rebels” score than Williams had for the films, but at 30 musicians, it’s still larger than many all-electronic scores on TV today. “I’m using a similar size orchestra to what John used on ‘Lost in Space’,” he says.

“Star Wars Rebels” is set about five years before the beginning of “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope,” and follows the adventures of a group of heroes desperately trying to combat the all-consuming might of the Empire, the fascistic government arisen from the ashes of the Old Republic in “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.”

The series, overseen by supervising director and executive producer Dave Filoni, whose work on “The Clone Wars” has made him well known in “Star Wars” fan circles, will premiere on the Disney Channel in the fall before it shifts to Disney X D for the rest of the episodes.

Concept art for “Star Wars Rebels” shows an Empire Star Destroyer and TIE Fighters. (Lucasfilm)

Filoni has said the look and feel of the series will recall the original trilogy of films, hewing to more action-oriented stories and a lighter, more fast-paced feel.

Williams’ music has long been an integral part of the “Star Wars” series, and Kiner plans to return the music to the classic feel, which he describes as being reminiscent of Korngold. But Kiner says he’s influenced by a whole different roster of composers, including Stravinsky, Ravel, Tchaikovsky and even Led Zeppelin. But though he’s a self-professed rock guy, even he would feel intimidated by the idea of composing something like the Mos Eisley Cantina music from “A New Hope.”

“It was such a great call,” he says. “It’s a great challenge, but it would take awhile to come figure out something new.”

But for anyone worried that “Rebels” will be nothing but a nostalgia trip, the classic sound (and story) of the new series will only last so long. As Kiner describes it, the music will become very experimental at the end of the first season and into the second season, if it gets renewed.

He says this isn’t just his personal taste, there’s a very real story reason why the music will go that way. But don’t expect any details yet. He’ll only laugh.

“It’s going to be really cool,” he says.

– Patrick Kevin Day | @patrickkevinday

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Categories: Newspapers

WonderCon 2014: Cosplayers congregate for Anaheim genre celebration

Sat, 04/19/2014 - 17:34
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Joseph Lepore, left, and Sarah Eowell as Marko and Alana from the comic book "Saga" on the opening day of WonderCon. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Todd Schmidt, in his "300" Spartan get-up, poses for a visitor. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Hundreds of visitors in different characters and costume thronged the Anaheim Convention Center on the opening day of comic book and movie convention WonderCon. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Jelly Lee, 14, left, poses with Nana Rump as Black Cat and Christine Pesch as Mario character Princess Peach. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Jeff Campbell, 33, as Batman and his 8-year-old daughter Phoenix as Robin. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

A view of the WonderCon crowd. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

WonderCon 2014 is underway at the Anaheim Convention Center, with cosplayers, comic book enthusiasts and genre fans flocking to the city’s convention center to check out a range of booths, panels and special programming.

Smaller in scale than July’s massive San Diego confab, Comic-Con International, WonderCon still draws movie studios and television networks eager to showcase their upcoming titles.

Saturday’s schedule included arena presentations devoted to such upcoming blockbusters as “Godzilla,” “X-Men: Days of Future Past” and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” while Friday night brought the premiere of the new animated movie, “Son of Batman,” which was followed by a Q&A with actors Jason O’ Mara, Sean Maher, Xander Berkeley and others.

COMIC-CON PHOTOS: Cosplay costumes, in all their crazy glory

Cosplay, of course, is always a big part of the scene at the annual pop culture expo that runs through Sunday, with serious cosplayers often spending months and sometimes thousands of dollars creating elaborate costumes, often more than one per convention.

Spotted at WonderCon on Saturday — Batman and Robin, Princess Peach and a Spartan warrior from “300.”

Click through the gallery above for a detailed look at the cosplayers, and check back throughout the weekend for more WonderCon coverage.

– Gina McIntyre

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Categories: Newspapers