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Terrence Malick's THE TREE OF LIFE To Go IMAX? With Dinosaurs?

Beaks here...

It appears that our friends at Empire have hidden a TREE OF LIFE scoop in their latest issue (it's the one with McTERMINATOR on the cover). The tantalizing tidbit is buried in a piece about the future of visual f/x, and it was passed along to Hollywood Elsewhere's Jeffrey Wells. The Empire article is not currently online, but it is 100% legit. Here's the comment from Oscar-winning visual f/x supervisor Mike Fink (THE GOLDEN COMPASS, X2, CONTACT) that's sending some of us into a tizzy:
"We're just starting work on a project for Terrence Malick, animating dinosaurs. The film is The Tree of Life, starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn. It'll be showing in IMAX - so the dinosaurs will actually be life size - and the shots of the creatures will be long and lingering."
Until now, it sounded like THE TREE OF LIFE was going to be a small, character-based drama about a man (Brad Pitt) coming to terms with a difficult childhood (check out the official plot summary on the film's Wikipedia page). But Hollywood Elsewhere commenter "TheJeff" couldn't help but notice that the presence of dinosaurs recalled a previously scuttled Malick epic known as Q. According to this 1995 Los Angeles Magazine article by Joe Gillis, former Gulf & Western honcho Charlie Bluhdorn basically commissioned Q in 1978 when, after being wowed by DAYS OF HEAVEN, he blindly committed $1 million to Malick's next project. Malick responded by getting lost in a "mulitcharacter drama set in the Middle East during World War I, with a prologue set in prehistoric times." Within a year's time, Malick had junked the Middle East setting and trained his focus on the prehistoric element. Here's what might've been:
"Imagine this surrealistic reptilian world," says Richard Taylor, a special-effects consultant Malick hired. "There is this creature, a Minotaur, sleeping in the water, and he dreams about the evolution of the universe, seeing the earth change from a sea of magma to the earliest vegetation, to the dinosaurs, and then to man. It would be this metaphorical story that moves you through time."
Now, THE TREE OF LIFE mostly takes place in the American Midwest of the 1950s (i.e. Malick's formative years), so it's obviously not a complete resurrection of Q. But the presence of the prehistoric (and IMAX-sized dinosaurs) makes it sound like Malick is scratching the same itch that flummoxed Paramount executives - and the filmmaker himself - thirty years ago. That's very cool. Throw in Emmanuel Lubezki as DP and Jack Fisk as the production designer, and THE TREE OF LIFE is unquestionably my most anticipated movie of 2009. Sorry, AVATAR. Speaking of which, I hope Summit Entertainment isn't holding THE TREE OF LIFE as a year-end release. If so, they'll lose every IMAX screen to AVATAR, guaranteed. There's been talk of the Malick's film being ready for Cannes*, but if Fink was just starting to work on the dinosaurs a month or so ago, a May premiere would seem to be out of the question. Not that I want Malick to rush. Not that he would ever rush. BTW, I'm sure it's just a coincidence that the scrapped Q featured a minotaur and that the current plot summary for THE TREE OF LIFE contains the following: "The world, once a thing of glory, becomes a labyrinth."

*Forget it. The film is still shooting in Austin.

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