Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Upcoming Science Fiction and Fantasy Movies That Aren't Remakes, Sequels or Prequels

They're rebooting Spider-Man. They're remaking Total Recall. Sometimes, when you're in the middle of summer movie craziness, it can seem like every movie is based on an already-existing movie. But that's not really true — there are actually tons of genre movies in development that are new concepts, at least as far as the movies go. Some of them have already finished filming, while others will never get made.
Is any of them the next Inception or District 9? We'll find out when you do. But here's our round-up of 50-odd science fiction and fantasy movies in the pipeline that aren't sequels, reboots, remakes or prequels of existing films. Thanks to reader Adam J. O'Donnell, who asked us on Twitter for a list of this sort.
Top image: Cloud Atlas.
There's no way this list can be exhaustive, especially for projects that are still in development hell — so please share with us in the comments anything we've forgotten!

Book/Graphic Novel Adaptations

Upcoming Science Fiction and Fantasy Movies That Aren't Remakes, Sequels or Prequels

Cloud Atlas
What it's about: An adaptation of David Mitchell's genre-blending novel featuring six different storylines, taking place in the past, the present, the future, and the far future. Starring Halle Berry, Tom Hanks, and tons of others.
Status: Coming out in October.
Prognosis: It sounds as though they've at least tried hard to do justice to the incredibly challenging source material.
Upcoming Science Fiction and Fantasy Movies That Aren't Remakes, Sequels or Prequels

Life of Pi
What it's about: Ang Lee adapts Yann Martel's magical realist novel about a boy in a lifeboat, with a handful of animals. And they visit a strange island.
Status: Coming in November.
Prognosis: Ang Lee has almost never let us down before.
Upcoming Science Fiction and Fantasy Movies That Aren't Remakes, Sequels or Prequels

World War Z
What it's about: Max Brooks' novel about the zombie apocalypse becomes a big splashy action movie starring Brad Pitt, directed by Quantum of Solace's Mark Forster.
Status: Postponed until next year because of what are reportedly huge problems with the third act. Damon Lindelof has been brought in for massive rewrites.
Prognosis: The best we can hope for is probably a fun generic zombie movie, since it apparently has little to do with the book.
Upcoming Science Fiction and Fantasy Movies That Aren't Remakes, Sequels or Prequels

Dinosaurs & Aliens
What it's about: A Grant Morrison graphic novel (in the works) about dinosaurs fighting aliens, being adapted into a movie by Men in Black's Barry Sonnenfeld.
Status: There was a sneak peek as part of Free Comic Book Day last month. Sonnenfeld told us they're about to try and sell the project in Hollywood.
Prognosis: Grant Morrison creating a whole alien culture sounds like reason enough to be interested.
Upcoming Science Fiction and Fantasy Movies That Aren't Remakes, Sequels or Prequels

The Host
What it's about: Andrew Niccol (Gattaca) adapts Stephenie Meyer's non-Twilight project, about alien parasites who rule the Earth after a successful invasion.
Status: Already done, coming out March 2013.
Prognosis: We actually kind of liked the book, despite some major problems — and this dystopian fake-happy world is right up Niccol's alley.
Upcoming Science Fiction and Fantasy Movies That Aren't Remakes, Sequels or Prequels

What it's about: Another adaptation of a comic book you probably haven't heard of. Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges are dead cops, fighting zombies.
Status: Coming out June 2013
Prognosis: It sounds pretty fun, if gimmicky — sort of like Men in Black andGhostbusters mashed together.
The Seventh Son
What it's about: An adaptation of Joseph Delaney's The Spook's Apprentice. Also featuring Jeff Bridges in a mentor role, the titular Spook.
Status: Coming October 2013.
Prognosis: Sounds sort of like the Nic Cage Sorcerer's Apprentice, but having Jeff Bridges as Master Gregory is a huge, huge boost.
Ender's Game
What it's about: The movie adaptation of Orson Scott Card's famous novel about a boy genius who goes to a very special school during a war against alien "Buggers."
Status: Coming out in March 2013.
Prognosis: The makers of the film seem to be going to crazy lengths to be true to the novel, while also making something that looks cool. So fingers crossed!
Upcoming Science Fiction and Fantasy Movies That Aren't Remakes, Sequels or Prequels

Jack the Giant-Killer
What it's about: Bryan Singer's long-delayed film about a boy (Nicholas Hoult) who unwittingly opens a portal and unleashes a race of giants, who want to reclaim the Earth. Loosely an adaptation of the fairy tale.
Status: It was supposed to come out this summer, but was delayed until Spring 2013.
Prognosis: A movie being delayed — especially from the summer to the spring — is never a terribly good sign.
Upcoming Science Fiction and Fantasy Movies That Aren't Remakes, Sequels or Prequels

Hansel and Gretl: Witch Hunters
What it's about: Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton are the stars of the classic fairy tale, now grown up and killing witches.
Status: Like Jack the Giant Killer, it was delayed until next year, in this case January.
Prognosis: It's Jeremy Renner in black leather. Sorry, were you asking something about the potential quality or lack thereof of this film?
Upcoming Science Fiction and Fantasy Movies That Aren't Remakes, Sequels or Prequels

Warm Bodies
What it's about: An adaptation of Isaac Marion's novel about a zombie (Hoult, again) who falls in love with the girlfriend of one of his victims.
Status: Coming February 2013.
Prognosis: Directed by 50/50director Jonathan Levine, so at least it should be pretty stylin.

John Dies at the End
What it's about: The gonzo novel by's David Wong about a weird dug called "soy sauce" gets a movie adaptation starring Paul Giamatti. Thanks to everyone who reminded me of this one in comments!
Status: It's done the festival circuit, no release date yet.
Prognosis: The buzz from Sundance and other festivals was really strong.
What it's about: Steven Spielberg adapts Daniel H. Wilson's novel about a robot uprising, complete with lavish battle scenes.
Status: Coming in 2014, but filming hasn't happened yet — so anything could happen.
Prognosis: If it actually happens, the robot carnage should at least look amazingly sweet.
Upcoming Science Fiction and Fantasy Movies That Aren't Remakes, Sequels or Prequels

What it's about: Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, The Fountain) adapts the Biblical story of Noah's Ark, with Russell Crowe and a cast that might include Emma Watson and Jennifer Connelly. Aronofsky also co-wrote aNoah graphic novel (at left.)
Status: Currently in the casting stage, with lots of announcements coming fast and furious.
Prognosis: Aronofsky reportedly wants this film to portray Noah as "the first environmentalist." At the very least, the scenes of global flooding could be fascinating.
Odd Thomas
What it's about: Anton Yelchin stars in the adaptation of Dean Koontz's book series about a guy who can talk to the dead, and who has an instinct for trouble.
Status: Totally done, although there's no release date yet.
Prognosis: We talked to Koontz recently, and he said it was the first time he'd been happy with the movie version of one of his books.
What it's about: Splice director Vincenzo Natali was officially attached to adapt William Gibson's ground-breaking novel about the sprawl, artificial intelligence, hackers and intrigue.
Status: There hasn't been much news lately and Natali is busy directing the horror film Haunter (see below.) But sometimes it just takes a while to get a script everyone is happy with.
Prognosis: If it actually gets made, it would probably be a fantastic ride. Fingers crossed.
Snow Crash
What it's about: Joe Cornish (Attack the Block) will adapt Neal Stephenson's novel set in a corporate-dominated near future, in which Hiro Protagonist investigates a potent new drug that infects users with a computer virus.
Status: Cornish's signing was just announced, so it's way too early to tell yet.
Prognosis: After Attack the Block, we're excited to see Cornish do something more ambitious.
Ready Player One
What it's about: Warner Bros. won an auction to adapt Ernie Cline's novel about a video game nerd who goes on a quest through a 1980s-themed virtual world in the future.
Status: There's lots of speculation about director and casting, but no real news yet. The film might come out in 2014.
Prognosis: Cline has talked a lot about wanting the movie version to embrace some of the wild visuals of the virtual world, sort of like Inception.
We Mortals Are
What it's about: The movie version of the acclaimed Japanese novel All You Need is Kill, about a soldier fighting aliens who keeps getting brought back from the dead over and over. Starring Tom Cruise.
Status: It's cast and everything, but filming doesn't seem to have started yet.
Prognosis: Director Doug Liman had a decent track record with the Bourne movies, before Jumper. And more alien-fighting is never a bad thing.
Mortal Instruments
What it's about: Lily Collins (Mirror Mirror) stars in the movie adaptation of Cassandra Clare's novel about Clary Fray, a teenager who discovers she's the descendant of a demon-hunting clan. Jamie Campbell Bower plays Jace Wayland, a half-man, half-angel.
Status: Filming hasn't started yet, but it's already scheduled to come out in August 2013.
Prognosis: It was originally going to be helmed by Scott Stewart, director ofLegion and Priest, but then Stewart dropped out and was replaced by Harald Zwart (Agent Cody Banks, The Karate Kid). So it's probably gone from brooding action to something a bit more zippy. It also sounds like they're rushing to meet a release date that was set ages ago.

Short Films Turned Full-Length

Upcoming Science Fiction and Fantasy Movies That Aren't Remakes, Sequels or Prequels

What it's about: Tim Burton makes a full-length version of his early short, about a boy who brings his dog back to life, with hilariously spooky consequences. Watch the trailer here.
Status: Coming October 2012.
Prognosis: It's a labor of love, and Burton returning to his roots. So, you know, could be great.

The Gift
What it's about: Carl Rinsch's film about a robotic servant who flees the police caused a huge firestorm when it came out online a few years ago.
Status: The film launched a small bidding war in 2010, with studios vying to turn it into a full-length movie. Or, according to some accounts, it was over a full-length movie called Small, for which The Gift is a prequel. But there hasn't been any news in a long time.
Prognosis: The short is amazing — look for yourself.

What it's about: Another short that caused a stir online, this film is about 1980s video game characters (8-bit graphics and all) invading New York.
Status: Adam Sandler's production company Happy Madison picked this film up to develop it into a full-length movie, and it's coming in May 2013.
Prognosis: Donkey Kong trashing New York! Again, there is the Sandler Factor. But it looks cute, in any case.
Upcoming Science Fiction and Fantasy Movies That Aren't Remakes, Sequels or Prequels

What it's about: This Sundance-winning short film is about a man trapped on an ice planet with an emergency helper robot called Tomo, or friend.
Status: It was reported back in 2008 that this film was being turned into a full-length movie, but there hasn't been much news since then. So we're not sure if it's still happening, but we hope so.
Prognosis: The original short film still looks hella cool.

The Gate
What it's about: The redundant genes in your body get activated, and mutant freaks roam the streets, thanks to pharmaceutical companies, in this weird and alarming short movie.
Status: As we reported recently, Wayfare Entertainment picked this film up for a full theatrical version, with the same director on board.
Prognosis: Just watch the original short for yourself. It's pretty nuts.
Upcoming Science Fiction and Fantasy Movies That Aren't Remakes, Sequels or Prequels

End of the World
What it's about: Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg adapt their short Jay and Seth Versus the Apocalypse. A bunch of celebrities, playing themselves, are at James Franco's house when the apocalypse happens.
Status: Coming in June 2013.
Prognosis: Decide for yourself whether "James Franco, Seth Rogen and Rihanna play themselves in an apocalyptic comedy" sounds like a good thing.

Animated Films

Upcoming Science Fiction and Fantasy Movies That Aren't Remakes, Sequels or Prequels

What it's about: A comedy about a boy who can speak to the dead, taking on zombies, ghosts and other supernatural menaces.
Status: Coming August 2012.
Prognosis: It's from the same studio as Coraline, and co-written/directed by Coraline's script supervisor.
Upcoming Science Fiction and Fantasy Movies That Aren't Remakes, Sequels or Prequels

Hotel Transylvania
What it's about: Adam Sandler stars in this animated film about a resort where Dracula and other movie monsters can hang out — until a random human backpacker shows up.
Status: Coming in September.
Prognosis: Directed by Genndy Tartakovsky (Samurai Jack), which may be enough to make up for the Sandler factor. Maybe. Probably not. But maybe.
Upcoming Science Fiction and Fantasy Movies That Aren't Remakes, Sequels or Prequels

Wreck-It Ralph
What it's about: The villain of a 1980s arcade video game gets sick of always being a bad guy and goes on the run, visiting other games and trying to prove he can be a hero. Trailer is here.
Status: Coming in November.
Prognosis: We weren't that jazzed about the gimmicky concept, until we saw the fun trailer. John C. Reilly is in full effect, and the cast is generally pretty great. (Jane Lynch, Sarah Silverman, etc.)

Rise of the Guardians
What it's about: Another "random supernatural people hang out together" movie — this time, it's about Santa Claus teaming up with the Easter Bunny, the Sandman and the Tooth Fairy to stop the Boogeyman. Oh, and Jack Frost (Chris Pine) also joins the heroes. Based on a children's book, The Guardians of Childhood by William Joyce — so this could have been under book adaptations. (And Joyce is co-directing.)
Status: Coming in November.
Prognosis: It's another holiday-themed animated film for kids. It looks perfectly serviceable, but nothing too exciting — check out the first trailer above.

Escape from Planet Earth
What it's about: Brendan Fraser is Scorch Supernova, a heroic astronaut from the planet Baab, who explores with the help of his nerdy brother Gary (Rob Corddry). When Scorch gets trapped in Area 51 by his nemesis Shanker (James Gandolfini), it's up to Gary to save the day.
Status: Coming February 2013.
Prognosis: It sounds cute enough, but probably pretty forgettable. Check out a trailer above.
Upcoming Science Fiction and Fantasy Movies That Aren't Remakes, Sequels or Prequels

What it's about: A magical film about the battle between good and evil, starring Beyonce Knowles and Colin Farrell. We just posted the first trailer yesterday.
Status: It comes out May 24, 2013
Prognosis: Fairies ride on hummingbirds, and hang out with cute mice. And Beyonce is a fairy queen. We're in.
Untitled Henry Sellick Film
What it's about: We're guessing this will get a new title at some point? The director of Coraline and Nightmare Before Christmas is hard at work on a new film, about which nothing is known.
Status: Already has a release date set: October 4, 2013.
Prognosis: Without knowing anything but "Untitled Henry Sellick Film," we're already pretty stoked.
Upcoming Science Fiction and Fantasy Movies That Aren't Remakes, Sequels or Prequels

What it's about: A new Disney movie, formerly called The Snow Queen. It's an adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen fable, so this is another one that could have gone under book adaptations. Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel head up the voice cast.
Status: Coming in November, 2013.
Prognosis: The early artwork (at left) looks neat. Way too soon to tell, really.
The Good Dinosaur
What it's about: Pixar film about which relatively little is known, but it will show you what it's like to be a dinosaur.
Status: Coming out in May 2014
Prognosis: Is anybody not stoked for Pixar and dinosaurs?

Horror Movies

Upcoming Science Fiction and Fantasy Movies That Aren't Remakes, Sequels or Prequels

The Possession
What it's about: Formerly titled Dybbuk Box, this is an example of that rare breed: the Jewish horror film. A couple buys a box at a yard sale, not realizing it contains something... horrifying. Jeffrey Dean Morgan stars.Watch the trailer here.
Status: Coming in August.
Prognosis: The release date for this one has kept getting pushed back, and it's ended up in August. On the other hand, the trailer looked actually scary.
Upcoming Science Fiction and Fantasy Movies That Aren't Remakes, Sequels or Prequels

What it's about: Ryan Kwanten is on an airplane that gets haunted by an evil spirit. The latest film from the director of the Grudgemovies, Takashi Shimizu.
Status: Coming out in 2013, on an unspecified date.
Prognosis: Release date was pushed back from August 2012, pretty much at the last minute. But ghosts on a plane are always a recipe for good times. Watch the trailer and decide for yourself.
What it's about: Splice director Vincenzo Natali directs a ghost movie, in which Abigail Breslin is a ghost who died in 1986 and is trapped in a house, trying to help save a living girl from suffering the same fate. Also co-starring David Hewlett, aka Rodney McKay!
Status: Filming started back in April. It comes out sometime in 2013.
Prognosis: Natali said the script by Brian King "constructs a Borgian Labyrinth out of the most mundane settings and shows us how even in our everyday lives, we are spirits living in the material world."
Upcoming Science Fiction and Fantasy Movies That Aren't Remakes, Sequels or Prequels

The Bay
What it's about: Barry "The Sphere" Levinson directs a low-budget horror movie about horrifying parasites — check out some concept art we posted yesterday.
Status: Filming ended quite some time ago, and it's probably coming in 2013.
Prognosis: It's reportedly in the same low-budget wheelhouse as Insidious and Paranormal Activity, but with parasites that can eat your tongue.

Medium-to-Big-Budget Films

The Watch
What it's about: Formerly known as Neighborhood Watch, this is the film about surburban dads who form a neighborhood watch and then confront an alien invasion. The cast includes Richard Ayoade from The IT Crowd.
Status: It comes out July 27, 2012, when it will no doubt knock The Dark Knight Rises right off the box office charts.
Prognosis: Probably depends on whether "Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill" sounds like a dream come true to you.

The Odd Life of Timothy Green
What it's about: From an idea by Frank Zappa's son Ahmet. A couple who can't have a child of their own bury a box in the back yard, with all their wishes for a child. And then a 10-year-old appears and claims to be their son — but he's even more unusual than they realize. Trailer at left.
Status: Comes out August 15.
Prognosis: Dirt baby! You should probably have some sort of drinking game, involving shots every time the kid lifts his arms to the skies or Jennifer Garner does that frowny-smiley face that she used to do when the plot twists on Aliasmade no sense.

What it's about: Director Rian Johnson reunites with his Brick star Joseph Gordon-Levitt for a movie about hitmen and time-travel. Bruce Willis plays Gordon-Levitt's older self from the future.
Status: Coming out September 28.
Prognosis: If this can live up to Brick, it should be one of our favorite movies this year.
What it's about: Alfonso Cuaron set a new high-water mark in dystopias with Children of Men, and now he's making a space movie, in which Sandra Bullock plays an astronaut who's lost in space.
Status: Delayed from this November to some time in 2013.
Prognosis: The first test screening yielded mixed reports. Some people say it's gorgeous but not that thrilling — but others say Bullock gives the performance of her career.
Upcoming Science Fiction and Fantasy Movies That Aren't Remakes, Sequels or Prequels

What it's about: District 9director Neill Blomkamp returns with another super-political movie, in which the rich live on a space station, ruled by Secretary Rhodes (Jodie Foster). Matt Damon is a cyborg who's backed into a tough corner.
Status: Coming in March 2013.
Prognosis: It sounds very much like another film in the same super-political mold as District 9.
Upcoming Science Fiction and Fantasy Movies That Aren't Remakes, Sequels or Prequels

What it's about: Joseph Kosinski (Tron Legacy) gets to direct an original project. Tom Cruise plays a soldier who's one of the few humans patrolling a desolate planet (which may be Earth), and he's fighting off warlike aliens.
Status: Coming sometime in 2013.
Prognosis: Between this and We Mortals Are, Tom Cruise is going to be our alien-killing mastermind next year. What little we know sounds sort of great, but it's too early to say much.
Upcoming Science Fiction and Fantasy Movies That Aren't Remakes, Sequels or Prequels

After Earth
What it's about: M. Night Shyamalan directs a post-post-apocalyptic film starring Will Smith and his son Jaden Smith. It's been 1,000 years since humans abandoned Earth, but a father and his son crashland here, and the father is injured — leaving the son to fend for himself.
Status: Coming June 2013.
Prognosis: It sounds like it's mostly a vehicle for Jaden Smith, with Will Smith getting injured and thus sidelined. The screenplay is byThe Book of Eli's Gary Whitta and Shyamalan himself, although Stephen Gaghan (Trafficpolished it. It really depends on whether you want to give Shyamalan one more chance.
Upcoming Science Fiction and Fantasy Movies That Aren't Remakes, Sequels or Prequels

Pacific Rim
What it's about: Guillermo del Toro makes a movie about giant robots fighting giant monsters, with Idris Elba. (What accent do you think Elba will have this time?)
Status: Coming in July 2013.
Prognosis: Last year at Comic Con, del Toro was very effusive about saying this would have the finest fucking monsters and the greatest fucking robots ever.
What it's about: Roland Emmerich (2012) changes gears a bit, from disaster movies to something that's arguably the opposite of a disaster: The Singularity. A nanotech pioneer saves his injured son by transferring the son's consciousness into a swarm of nanobots — but then an evil corporation wants to do evil things with them.
Status: Bumped from May 2013 to November, 2013, at least in part because ofscript problems.
Prognosis: Ray Kurzweil, author of The Singularity is Near, has been consulting on the script. So this should be interesting, in any case.
Jupiter Rising
What it's about: The Wachowskis direct their first original project since The Matrix. According to a plot synopsis, Mila Kunis is an immigrant who's scrubbing toilets but doesn't realize she shares the same DNA as the Queen of the Universe. A super-evolved bounty hunter is sent to get rid of her, but they fall in love.
Status: Hasn't started filming yet, possibly coming in 2014.
Prognosis: Let's just hope that plot synopsis was garbled in translation.

Smaller/Indie Projects

Ruby Sparks
What it's about: A famous young writer who's struggling with writers' block starts imagining his ideal woman — and when he writes about her, she becomes real. But can he have a meaningful relationship with his own fictional creation?
Status: Comes out July 25.
Prognosis: It's sort of like Weird Science crossed with Stranger Than Fiction.

Robot and Frank
What it's about: A retired jewel thief gets given a robot companion, and uses its help to court a local librarian and also resume his criminal career.
Status: Comes out August 24.
Prognosis: We really, really loved this one at Sundance. Jordan Hoffman wrote, "Robot and Frank not only nails all the heartwarming family scenes expected of a Sundance dramedy, but also has great insight into the ethical implications of artificial intelligence and the fractured lucidity of memory."

What it's about: A dystopian movie about a world where advertising is really controlling our minds, for real. Starring Ed Stoppard, Jeffrey Tambor, Max von Sydow, Leelee Sobieski and others.
Status: Coming out September 7.
Prognosis: We've barely heard anything about this film, but it could be a sleeper hit. The trailer looks a bit, umm, on the nose with the "evil corporations are evil" stuff, but maybe it'll be our new They Live.

Storage 24
What it's about: Doctor Who's Noel Clarke plays Charlie, a guy who gets trapped inside a storage warehouse with a huge carnivorous alien.
Status: Comes out this week in the U.K. — no clue when the U.S. release date is.
Prognosis: It's Mickey vs. aliens, in an enclosed space! The trailer looks pleasingly claustrophobic, and the soundtrack is great.

Knights of Badassdom
What it's about: A group of LARPing nerds, including Danny Pudi, Summer Glau and Peter Dinklage, accidentally unleash a deadly supernatural force — so it's up to them to stop it. Thanks to everyone who reminded me of this in comments!
Status: It's in the can, and it got a lot of hype at Comic Con a year ago, but apparently there are no plans to release it any time soon.
Prognosis: The trailer is amazing, but nobody's seen the whole movie yet.

The Prototype
What it's about: A humanoid robot escapes from a containment facility and goes on the run, while defending itself by killing lots of government stooges. And along the way, the movie looks like it'll explore questions of humanity, personhood and the Singularity. Confusingly, there's also another science fiction movie called The Prototype listed as coming out next year.
Status: Coming sometime in 2013 — the first trailer just came out the other day.
Prognosis: When we posted the trailer the other day, comments ranged from "this looks horrible" to "impressive robot design."
The Girl From Mars
What it's about: A lonely geek's life is transformed when he meets a girl who claims to be from Mars. Featuring Max Brooks in a supporting role!
Status: Supposedly coming out in November 2013, according to IMDB.
Prognosis: Way too soon to tell much about it, at this point. It sounds quirky.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


Brave shows how to create a brand new fairy tale from scratch

Pop culture is obsessed with fairy tales right now. But it's all retreads of the same few stories from the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen — and not even the original, dark-as-hell stories, but rather the warmed-over Disneyfied versions. Where are the people creating brand new fairy tales from scratch? And why don't these endless retellings of old fairy tales keep the emotional and moral core of these stories intact?
If you want to see how to create a new fairy tale, with all the psychological and emotional intensity of an Andersen classic — and the lesson, too — then you should check out Pixar's Brave.
I'm going to try hard to keep any plot spoilers super vague — but if you're the sort of person who wants to avoid even the merest hint about a story, including stuff that's in the trailer, then here's your spoiler warning.
First off: Brave is by no means as mind-blowing as the Toy Story films, or The Incredibles, or Monsters, Inc. But if this film had come out from Dreamworks or Vanilla Disney, or some other studio, you would be left completely perplexed as to how they managed to pull off something this great.
For one thing, Brave feels like a simpler, smaller film than some of Pixar's all-time classics. It's not that Brave is simpler than those other films — at their core, every single one of those stories is a small story about a handful of characters. But rather, Brave doesn't quite muster the same level of sensory overload. There's nothing like the "huge factory full of moving doors" from Monsters Inc., or the frenetic junkyard squence that ends Toy Story 3. If Pixar was about making formulaic movies that all had the same climax, then this movie would be a bad example of the formula. Luckily, that's not the only way to look at it.
Brave shows how to create a brand new fairy tale from scratch

And like I said, Brave feels like a classic fairy tale that you've just somehow never heard of before. It works on all the levels that you'd want a fairy tale to work on — the basic level of spectacle and wonder, the gut-punching emotional level of confronting something really terrible, and the deeper level of looking at our capacity to screw everything up.
Brave shows how to create a brand new fairy tale from scratch

And Brave's simplicity is its huge strength — there's pretty much nothing in this film that doesn't wind up feeding into the main storyline, either directly or thematically. There are no wasted lines or purely random bits in the film — it's all feeding into the main story, and it all comes together neatly at the end. Without seeming at all pat.
Brave shows how to create a brand new fairy tale from scratch

And now, a brief synopsis, without any major spoilers:Brave follows the Princess Merida, the red-haired rebellious daughter of King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson!) She's basically Arya Stark, without all the terrible things that happen to Arya. Merida doesn't want to be a lady, she wants to ride her horse and shoot her bow and arrow, and be bad-ass, and her dad indulges her just like Ned Stark indulges Arya. Until, suddenly, it's time for Merida to become betrothed to the son of one of the other chieftains, and become a Proper Lady. Merida doesn't want to give up her freedom, or marry one of these losers, and thus she goes full-on rebellious. But what if there was a way Merida could have everything she wants?
So here are the ingredients of a great made-from-scratch fairy tale, judging fromBrave:
Brave shows how to create a brand new fairy tale from scratch

Build a sense of place and history
This is something Brave does pretty well — you get a sense of exactly how King Fergus got to be a King, and what the stakes are, with the chieftains whose sons are vying to wed Merida. And the movie does a really nice job of making it feel like a world where magic exists, and people are sort of aware of it, but it's not a magical kingdom where fantasy shit is happening every other day. There's one monster out there, but people aren't sure if it's magical or just a really bitchin animal.
Brave shows how to create a brand new fairy tale from scratch

Focus on the relationships
This being a Pixar movie, the relationships are really well drawn — and there's really one central relationship that dominates the film: the troubled bond between Merida and her ultra-controlling mother. If the audience doesn't buy into that relationship, then nothing else will matter, and the characters will feel just like plastic action figures. Luckily, Brave really makes the mother-daughter bond work, in a way few kids' movies have before.
Brave shows how to create a brand new fairy tale from scratch

Give the hero a selfish desire, that we can relate to.
The best fairy tales aren't about purely virtuous protagonists — the hero always does something stupid, even when she probably knows it's the wrong thing to do. Most classic fairy tales actually feature someone being told "whatever you do, don't do _____," and then you know that's what the hero will wind up doing. And a lot of classic fairy tales are sort of conservative, deep down — the protagonist brings doom on everybody by rocking the boat and choosing to reject his/her assigned role. (Think the fable of the sausage, the mouse and the bird.) Brave walks a really tough line — as feminists, we want Merida to be free to be herself and we admire her wild-child spirit, but the film also shows how her desire to do her own thing instead of fulfilling her responsibilities is a bit selfish. And the way she goes about trying to get her freedom is definitely a bit of a mistake. Which brings us to...
Brave shows how to create a brand new fairy tale from scratch

The darkness the hero confronts is at least partly inner darkness
Yes, the Luke Skywalker lesson. A feckless adventurer facing terrible stuff is compelling — but watching someone confront their own inner horridness is always more interesting. Merida faces the absolute worst thing you can imagine, and the absolute worst thing about it is the light it casts on her and the choice she's made.
The moral lesson isn't simple or spelled out
You can spend a fair bit of time debating the ending of the movie, and just what the film is saying about Merida and Elinor — and I have a feeling there are going to be some pretty interesting conversations pulling apart just what happens in the final act. Oh, and you should expect to get majorly choked up at the movie's tear-jerking climax.
Brave shows how to create a brand new fairy tale from scratch

The fairy tale is at least partly a coming of age story
Everybody's changed at the end of this movie, and Merida winds up taking a huge step towards adulthood, with everything that goes with it. To some extent, Merida's rebellion against her betrothal is always a rejection of having to grow up, and by the end of the film she's done that "journeying into darkness and embracing adult concerns" thing — although it's not in any way as angsty as a YA novel, or anything. This is one of those films that kids, teens, and adults will probably all view in very different ways. Because the best fairy tales speak to everyone in a different way.
So to sum up — Brave is a lovely film, which stays focused on one central relationship instead of exploring multiple axes the way some other Pixar films have. And even though it's often funny as hell, it never gets that "million tops spinning" feeling that some other Pixar films have gotten. But it's a really well-told story that keeps a strong focus on character — and in an era where we're getting endless retellings of the same old fairy tales in slightly different flavors ("Dark Snow White!" "Campy Snow White!" "Snow White Riding on a Dolphin!") it's immensely refreshing to see someone creating a brand new fairy tale that manages to feel like a new classic of the genre.

Monday, June 18, 2012


Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello gives us the scoop on Orchid, his dystopian science fiction comic

Tom Morello has famously lent his axe-slinging skills to such acts as Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave, and his one-man band The Nightwatchman.
But for his Dark Horse Comics series Orchid, Morello has traded pyrotechnics on a Fender Bassman for a simple pen. The guitarist told io9 his plans for this post-apocalyptic rebellion tale, which sees a prostitute-warrior named Orchid rising up against the mutants and dictatorial rule of the warlord Tomo Wolfe.
Where do readers find Orchid in the upcoming issues?
The story from the first issue builds small. The idea was to take it to a very humble place, that is a common teenage prostitute scrambling for a living. She begins to discovers the limits of the society has imposed upon her.
The tattoo on her collarbone says "Property" and the brand on her arm says "Know Your Role." You might mistake these for being the same thing, but they end up being very, very different. She discovers that her role is one far greater than the one she was born into.
Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello gives us the scoop on Orchid, his dystopian science fiction comic

As far as where we are in issue #9, there's a major development in issue #8 that sets the tone for the story. Tomo Wolfe's forces have decided to exterminate the Bridge People. The mysterious masked man has eluded his possession and that throws him into a paranoid rage. This haunts his reign, so he believes it's going to be a cakewalk to eliminate them.
How are you finding the monthly schedule of penning comics?
My esteemed editor Sierra Hahn is constantly cracking the whip for [series artist] Scott Hepburn and I to make deadlines. I love writing Orchid — it's a passion project of mine, and it provides an intellectual outlet as well. For me, it's about exploring a completely different art form. In my rock life, stuff gets done when it gets done. I like the work ethic that Orchid imposes on me. And when we're done talking, I'll march up to my studio to polish the ninth and tenth issues! I immersed myself in comics as a teenager, and it's a welcome return. The fans have been great.
What sort of real-world events and political movements inspired the story of Orchid?
My favorite fictional characters have their grounding in some historical or fictional precedent. In Orchid, it's the naming of places — the town of Gath is named after the birthplace of Goliath. Fortress Panuel is named after the Biblical spot where Jacob wrestled the angel.
Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello gives us the scoop on Orchid, his dystopian science fiction comic

The character Orchid is a composite of some of the drug addicts and prostitutes I met when I first moved to Los Angeles. I felt a lot of personal and professional rejection from the Sunset Strip heavy metal scene. It was only when I became friends with fans off the beaten track that I met this fascinating group of people. I shared my stigma with them and was surprised by their intellect, caring, and kindess. These women were both damaged and beautiful, so there's a lot of personal history there.
As for a character like Tomo Wolfe, he's a composite of Nietzsche, Goebbels, and George W. Bush. [Laughs] With regards to the politics, the four revolutionary characters — Orchid, Simon, Opal, and Anzio — have their roots in real history.
Anzio represents the liberation theologist, someone who has a strong faith and belief in helping the poor and oppressed, but is willing to pick up a sword to do it. Opal is the prototypical idealist freedom fighter. Simon is weak in military background but provides the ideological underpinnings. He's like a Lenin or Trotsky meets C-3PO. Orchid — the Spartacus of Whores — has the drive and bent that you might refer to more as a terrorist than a freedom fighter. It'll be interesting to see how her anger fuels her desire to fight back.
You've been recording a soundtrack to accompany the comic. What sort of musical cues are informing these songs?
I wanted to be able to create a beautiful, desolate soundscape for this. Two of the inspirations were Peter Gabriel's Passion from The Last Temptation of Christ andAshes and Snow, a beautiful art show I attended several years ago that combined music and photography. That got me thinking that mediums other than film could have a soundtrack.
Orchid #8 hits stands June 27; Orchid #9 hits stores September 12. The first volume of the collected Orchid hits stands July 11; Tom will be on deck that evening at the San Diego Comic-Con for a Q&A and signing. Interior artwork in this article by Scott Hepburn; covers by Massimo Carnevale.