Father Geek reporting in with a story of cool coolness from downtown Austin, Texas. About 3pm last Thursday, August 6th, the phone here at Geek Headquarters conveyed us an interesting message from none other than Chris Roberts of Digital Anvil. "Would we like a peek at some out takes and the trailer for their new wide screen feature film, "Wing Commander"?" We leaped into the "Tick" (that's our big, blood-sucking blue van), and headed downtown. Now the appointment was for 5pm and it takes us only about 15 minutes to reach the State Capitol that rests in the shadow of the historic old building that is Digital Anvil so we hit a local salad & potato bar to fortify our bodies for what lay ahead.
We enter the lobby of antique brick and raw metal (copper, zinc, & tin) at exactly the appointed time, and the babe behind the counter informs us that Chris is out, somewhere along 5th street. We're near 4th and Congress, so we hang out, checking out the framed stills from the film hanging on these great aged brick walls. Outstanding one of a Kilrathi, and there's Maniac, cooool, and Paladin all rigged up for some sort of weightlessness shoot, and that must be Blair & Deveraux....."Hey, guys!" brings us back to Earth. We turn and there's Chris (shorts, black t-shirt and black ball cap on backwards), looks like he been biking. We ask about the Paladin shot on the wall behind us and he explains that an airlock has been blasted open and he's about to be sucked into space, buuuut......
The tour begins. We trek by a mountain of mountain bikes at the base of the stairway. AAAAAAAAhhhh, I love these new age businesses and businessmen. Chris shows us an eight foot crate of newly arrived computer hardware, mumbles something about gigawatts, and introduces us to dozens of techs, execs, and artists. It's after 5 and he's still got these guys chained to their keyboards, why? The Wing Commander feature is do out this fall, and digital artists are busy twiking the mucho mucho effects shots this galactic war epic requires. We see techs adding lights to the windows of one warship, and another artist is busy removing headlights from another ship. A group of 3 are huddled around another monitor attempting to arrive at just the right lighting for an interior, previous shot live action scene. Everywhere are models of the great warships & fighters used in the film. These are fantastic toys ranging a few inches in length to a few feet, and are they detailed, too cool. We see a wall of production art, ink and watercolors of super cool costumes and makeup. Chris informs us that the're using the same designer who created those great spacesuits for "Armageddon", outstanding. Then we turn a corner and notice that the "Dust til Dawn" and "Desperado" framed pieces have been removed from their niches in the long hallway and in their places dozens and dozens of "Wing Commander" storyboards have been erected, dogfights in space, sneak attacks, and cosmic explosions greet our geek's eyes. Our brains are in sensory overload and we haven't even seen what we came he to see yet.
Finially we arrive at the bare metal of the steel entry door to the screening & conference room, we've been here before, months ago, too see some of the early, raw effects footage from this computer game to the big screen pathfinding effort. Now we would be privy to the finished, yet to be released, trailer and a reel of nearly complete effects footage. The lights dim around the conference table electronic desk (reminds me of David Warner's in "Tron") Harry and I have chosen to sit at for this presentation of state-of-the-art digital artistry. A couple of techs sneak into the shadows. Someone in their group shouts, "turn it up loud!"
The ultra wide screen is bathed in incredible star field light, astounding nebulae spin with color, and the drums are ripped from our ears as rockets blast from behind us to tear onto the peaceful beauty of the scene before us. What "Saving Private Ryan" does for World War II imagery this does for the visuals of war in 2654 AD. Ships twist & turn, racing across a screen filled with depth and color, rockets track & seekout their prey vaporizing them above planets that mere words cannot describe. A huge asteroid slowly cruises into frame. As we drift closer we can see that this "rock" is covered with a lattice work of towers, gun emplacements, antennae and docks...huge battleships sit idle in their berths. Two monstrously large ion engines are imbedded in the "rear" of this mobile naval base. This is Vega sector fleet headquarters - Terran Confederation - Asteroid world Pegasus. From above, we see what must be the shadows of a hundred Kilrathi bombers pass over the surface of this rock, followed by the scream of strange, alien engines.The talon shaped craft dive into frame and begin their bombing run. This is what will be the opening 60 seconds of the film whose goal is to redefine space warfare in the motion pictures. The footage shown to Harry and I is nothing short of fantastic, and Chris Roberts says these scenes aren't finished, they're still fine tuning them. Whoa, I can't wait. Chris says,"reel it up again!" Yeah, thats more like it, let's make a loop and watch it all night. Fellow Geeks, I can't speak of the drama or acting in this film, we haven't seen any of it, but one thing is for sure, this ain't just a computer game any more. It's a big spralling motion picture of worlds, creatures, and war at the edge of the universe that will blast you in your seat. Like I said earlier, this is one old sci-fi geek that can't wait for November to get here.