A MONSTER CALLS: trailer and featurette
Ready for some fantasy?
Spanish filmmaker J.A. Bayona (The Impossible, The Orphanage) worked on adapting Patrick Ness’ fantasy novel, A Monster Calls and by the looks of these two new clips - a trailer and a featurette -, we're in for a treat. The film tells the story about a boy named Conor (Lewis MacDougall) who imagines a gigantic, storytelling tree-monster (voiced by Liam Neeson) as a way of coping with the illness of his mother (Felicity Jones).
“It’s a film about a boy finding his way as an adult,” says the director.
The official synopsis reads:
A visually spectacular and unabashedly emotional drama from director J.A. Bayona (“The Impossible”). 12-year-old Conor (Lewis MacDougall) is dealing with far more than other boys his age. His beloved and devoted mother (Felicity Jones) is ill. He has little in common with his imperious grandmother (Sigourney Weaver). His father (Toby Kebbell) has resettled thousands of miles away. But Conor finds a most unlikely ally when the Monster (portrayed by Liam Neeson in performance-capture and voiceover) appears at his bedroom window one night. Ancient, wild, and relentless, the Monster guides Conor on a journey of courage, faith, and truth that powerfully fuses imagination and reality.
Check out the trailer below:
Inspired by Jim Kay’s illustrations, the monster was created with a mix of CGI and animatronics, with textures from the animatronics used to develop the digital version of the monster. For the physical version, artists built a hydraulic head and shoulders, arms, hands, and feet. (Variety)
“I was concerned with the last scene of the film,” says Bayona. “It’s a very intimate moment between the mother and her son with very complicated visual effects. The life-sized replicas gave something for the actors to play against. We didn’t want the CGI to be distracting. Every time Conor was touching the monster, he was touching something real.”
Here's the featurette:
The creature’s visual details were a major challenge for the effects team. “It has character and is expressive but it’s made of wood, which is a contradiction,” VFX supervisor Félix Bergés explains. “If you made him flexible it would be very strange. We spent a lot of time working on the correct expressions for the monster. When it moves, the pieces never bend like rubber; they are always moving and sliding. It was important to make something believable. The rigging of the character became the language we used to create his movement.”
“We were able to make the movie in a classic way,” adds the VFX supervisor. “This team has been working together for many years. We’re good friends, and J.A. is a very visual director with a lot of references in his mind to guide our work. It makes it easy to work with him because he knows what he wants.” (Variety)
"To “overstuffed” you could also add “overblown.” Yes, children can have vivid imaginations, but Conor’s visions seem almost too big for his preteen head, an inner kiddie landscape as dreamed up by a special-effects studio.
That said, the film, directed by J. A. Bayona, certainly dares to be darker and more substantial than the average family movie. The monster, who Conor soon realizes is there to help, not harm him, tells the boy three stories, none of them delivering pat messages or answers. It’s a short course in the complexities and contradictions of life.
“There is not always a good guy, Conor O’Malley,” the tree tells him at one point, “nor is there always a bad one.”
The goal is to induce Conor to tell his own story — that is, to admit to himself what he really feels and wants. When he finally does — Mr. MacDougall is quite good, by the way — a climactic scene more frightening than all the ones before brings the boy some closure, or at least some understanding of how to cope with a world that can be harsh." (New York Times)
"If you’re in the mood for emotional catharsis, A Monster Calls is one of the weepiest experiences I’ve had at the theater this year. Bring tissues, more than you think you’ll need. Bring some extra for your neighbor in case they forget. Then sit back and let the waterworks flow." (TIFF)
"You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll cry some more, but A Monster Calls pulls off an impressive feat creating an intensely moving fairy tale for today." (USA Today)
Focus Features will release the film in the U.S. on January 6.
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