In the 22nd Century,
the darkest region of space
lies in the hearts of men.
News of a huge in-development 3D SFX extravaganza from China-based production company Agog Films — with multi-national backing and creative input — has hit the cinematic zeitgeist with the announcement at Cannes that its lead cast will include Ray Park, Eriko Satô, Lisa Sa (Lisa Cheng) and Yasaki “David” Kurata. The film, Future Fighters, is described in the press release as “a relationship-charged, action-packed, mecha fest”, and features giant robots, combative spaceships, martial arts and inter-planetary spectacle.
Newly Announced Stars:
- Ray Park, Hollywood action star and self-confessed Jackie Chan-Jet Li fan, was the man under the Darth Maul mask in Star Wars: Episode 1 — The Phantom Menace. He has also featured as Toad in the first X-Men movie, Snake-Eyes in the recent G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and Edgar in the TV series Heroes.
- Eriko Satô was the titular lead in Hideaki Anno’s 2004 live-action manga-adaptation Cutie Honey, as well as featuring in many other major Japanese films, such as Nihon chinbotsu [Japan Sinks] (2006), Kuchisake-onna [The Slit-Mouthed Woman] (2007) and Goemon (2009).
- Chinese model Lisa Cheng, a championship athlete and gymnast, is new to acting, but is currently involved in a number of projects.
- Yasuaki Kurata, a Japanese martial arts actor, in a film career being with Xiao quan wang [Hands of Death] in 1971, has starred in many martial arts films, including Jing wu ying xiong [Fist of Legend] (1994) in which he sparred with Jet Li, and the 2009 live-action version of Blood: The Last Vampire, as well as Jackie Chan’s Shinjuku Incident.
- China kung-fu actor Gordon Liu (True Legend, Kill Bill 1 and 2)
Future Fighters (HK/US/Japan-[in development]; dir. TBA)
It is the 22nd Century. After bringing irreversible destruction to our planet’s habitable environment in their relentless plunder of resources, the Earth’s leading mega-conglomerates lead humanity into space to colonise the night skies and forge a new future, leaving behind the barren Earth as a ruined, radioactive wasteland, with humankind seemingly destined never to return. For the past fifty years the colonies living amongst the planets of our solar system have been at peace.
But now, out of the ashes of the scorched Earth a new evil emerges, threatening to engulf the entire free solar system into a terrible darkness. Now, never before has the fate of all humankind lain in the hands of so few — a small clutch of brave mercantile militia soldiers, and their sophisticated intrastellar fighting machines, stationed at a military garrison outpost orbiting the planet Jupiter and its moons. Pitted against impossible odds, they must fight… for the future. But they will soon unwittingly and devastatingly discover that, in space, the blackest darkness is in the hearts of men.
Sound epic enough for you?
But what exactly can we expect from Future Fighters?
Countless fighter craft explode, battleships are ripped apart, moons shatter, love is lost and found, and whole atmospheres ignite in huge planet-sized fireballs in this exciting new, big-budget, CG-heavy, sci-fi epic [...], which features never-before-imagined non-stop zero-G action stretching from the serene azure Neptune-filled skies of the exotic, geyser-filled moon Triton, to the heights of the colossal Olympus Mons on Mars, through the volcanic, hellish landscape of Jupiter’s Io and icy depths of the subterranean oceans on Europa, crashing through the rings of Saturn and methane rain and lakes of its moon Titan, and down into the ubiquitous, ravaging Giant Red Eye storm of Jupiter itself! (Facebook site)
Future Fighters is being described as “a new live-action 3D science fiction movie to ‘put the science back into science fiction’” and already boasts a cast and crew that includes, as well as those announce at Cannes:
… action director DEE DEE KU 谷軒昭 (“Matrix 2&3”, “Kill Bill 1&2”, “The Mummy 3”, “Forbidden Kingdom”, “Kungfu Hustle”, “Fearless”, “Warlords”), 3D cinematographer HENRY CHUNG (“Peony Pavilion”, “My Fair Gentleman”), orchestral movie composer, scorer and conductor ROBERT ELLIS-GEIGER (“Election 2”, “After This Our Exile”) of Vision Sonics (www.VisionSonics.net), and sound designer MARTIN CHAPPELL (“Accident”, “Sparrow”, “Turn Left Turn Right”) of Fork Media (www.Fork-Media.com). Also starring are REUBEN LANGDON (“Avatar”, “Spiderman 2”, “Pirates Of The Caribbean 3”), KAZUYA SHIMIZU 清水一哉 (“Azumi”, “Big Man Japan”, “Returner”), and actress/model/national athlete LISA SA. (From the Press Release)
Though the film itself doesn’t have a director yet (something that co-producer and creator Guy Orlebar says is in train and will be announced before Comic Con 2011), it does have a mock teaser trailer, shot with Hong Kong television channel TVB actress, Coffee Lam, in late 2009 and intended to provide a glimpse of the movie’s original mecha designs and to “reinforce its 3D credentials”.
2D Teaser Trailer:
3D version available here (recommended). Check the 3D button near the resolution button for a menu that gives you various options.
The divergent focal strength of my eyes simply doesn’t effectively render 3D, so I can’t comment on the quality (no, I haven’t seen Avatar in 3D either and probably never will). You will have a different experience of it, I hope.
You can also watch a video looking Behind the Scenes of the making of the 3D Teaser video (see pictures of Coffee Lam, Guy Orlebar and 3D cinematographer Henry Chung below), as well us the teaser trailer in Japanese or Chinese and using several different 3D methods, on Guy Orlebar’s YouTube Channel.
According to Orlebar, the idea to do Future Fighters came in the aftermath of the success of his first directorial effort, Kong Hong: Lost in Love, while on his honeymoon on a tropical island.
We were sitting by the hotel pool and my wife had already reached for her blackberry; I had a pen and small notebook in front of me and I remember thinking to myself “Okay, Guy. You’ve proven you could make your first movie and go through all the ropes. Now what? If you could make just one more movie, your dream film, where budget or any other constraints weren’t an issue, what would it be?”
His choice was to go live-action mecha!
I’m an Eighties kid, and a huge fan of the animated Transformers show and all the fantastic mecha, particularly giant robot, shows that were being shown in Japan at that time. Shows like Macross (known as Robotech in the US), Patlabor, GUNDAM, of course — loads more. But we’d never really seen any of these types of stories coming out of Hollywood before. Okay there’d been a few. I’m not sure how many people remember Robot Jox [directed by Stuart Gordon] or the English language live‐action Gundam G‐Saviour. But it wasn’t until Steven Spielberg, against all conventional Hollywood wisdom, decided to big‐up his live action Transformers with director Michael Bay, that Hollywood finally sat up and took notice, especially because as we all know Transformers as well as Transformers 2 did phenomenally well. Personally, I preferred Korean director Nelson Shin’s 1986 animated theatrical version of Transformers in terms of style and emotion and coolness… but I was only 8 at the time which probably helped! (laughs)
Anyway, I totally respect Misters Spielberg and Bay for reviving the franchise and making Transformers go mainstream. It may not be the Transformers I grew up with, but it’s great that it’s going strong, and has ushered in an entire new generation of Transformer fans. So Future Fighters is our contribution to expanding the giant robot genre. Other examples that this genre is now taking off include Spiderman Tobey Maguire’s recently announced Robotech live‐action adaptation, and the live‐action adaptation of Voltron, another Eighties anime shown also in the West.
As well as those works mentioned above, Orlebar cites great SF author Arthur C. Clarke as another major influence on Future Fighters.
In my teens I read Arthur C. Clarke’s sequels to 2001: A Space Odyssey: 2010, 2061 and, er, what was the most recent one? 3001. In 2010, or maybe 2061, Clarke writes about some of the fantastic moons around Jupiter. I don’t want to give too much away here, but anyway they’re not just rocks, and they definitely both feature in some of the key visuals for Future Fighters. And there’s a whole bunch of other stuff out there too which I learned about and which have been discovered only in the past few years. Really fascinating.
… One of the great things about [Clarke's] novels is they are all steeped in science and realism. That’s also something I want to achieve with Future Fighters: bringing the science back to science fiction. Honestly, there’s no sound in space, and (unless you’re spinning around) there’s no such thing as artificial gravity in a spaceship. The challenge, and what we’re aiming to achieve with Future Fighters, is to keep it real without losing any of the great action, pace and excitement of a fabulous sci‐fi adventure. Imagine like a cross between the first Star Wars film and Stanley Kubrik’s seminal 2001: A Space Odyssey. That’s what we’re aiming for.
In terms of the mecha aspects he commented:
One of the strongest influences to the story of Future Fighters is the original Japanese animated TV show, Macross (see image below), which as I mentioned earlier US readers will probably know as the first Robotech installment. And which Transformers fans will know from the original Jet Fire toy, which I did have as a kid. This Macross story is basically a love‐triangle between the main three characters set against a war between humans and big green aliens who battle in these fantastic robotic fighters. The robots, or mecha — the Japanese word for mechanical designs — are treated as little more than part of the background, and instead it’s the human drama between the three characters that takes centre stage — something which is also very similar to the Japanese TV show, and two of Mamoru Oshii’s animated feature films, Patlabor, where the robots in that show are really nothing more than fancy police patrol cars but still looked so cool and made the show so distinctive.
So, apart from the big green aliens in Macross, I really liked this concept of putting human relationships first and keeping the mecha secondary. But, and this is true for all Japanese mecha shows, the mechanical designs have to be unique and original, and utterly distinctive. I read in an article by Spielberg how all his best characters are instantly recognizable from their silhouette only… just think of Jaws, ET, Indiana Jones. Very good advice for designing memorable characters or imagery.
All pretty ambitious! But Orlebar means business. Apart from enthusiasm, he’s looking at a large budget, under the multi-national umbrella of Agog Films in Hong Kong. And he has so far managed to get commitments from a great cast and crew of high-level players.
Conceptual art by Pat Lee (Click on images to enlarge)
See the Gallery below for more posters.
- Sources: Unpublished interview with Adam Garrett from September 2009; Cannes Press Release; Official website; Facebook page; YouTube Channel
- Writing: Robert Hood | Research: Avery Guerra
Apparently high-profile SF writer Alan Dean Foster is set to write the novelisation of Future Fighters. Below he’s pictured (in the middle) with producer Mike Leeder (left) and Guy Orlebar, at AFM 2009 in Los Angeles.