SDCC Exclusive: Paul W.S. Anderson on Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D

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The man behind the film franchise talks about the move to 3D

As the man behind every single Resident Evil movie to date, Paul W.S. Anderson knows his way around a zombie apocalypse.

In addition to three previous blockbusters, the franchise has also brought Anderson a wife and child in form of lead actress Milla Jovovich and their nearly-three year old son, Ever Gabo Anderson. More than any of the previous films, Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D is a family affair.

Continuing straight from the end of Resident Evil: Extinction, the latest film sees Alice and Claire (Ali Larter) traveling across the world in search of a cure to the T-virus that has nearly wiped out humanity. Joining the cast is Wentworth Miller as Claire’s brother, Chris Redfield.

Anderson also ups the ante with this fourth film by adding a new dimension. Afterlife is shot in full 3D, the first film since Avatar to use the PACE camera technology to do so.

Just before his big Hall H presentation at Comic-Con, Anderson chatted briefly with Shock Till You Drop about the film, his 3D approach and about bringing new characters from the video game into the series.

Shock: You mentioned that you watched a lot of 3D films in preparation for “Afterlife”. What was that process like?

Paul W.S. Anderson: I went to all the studios and just said, “I want to see all of your 3D movies”. Everyone was very nice. I saw all of the movies that had been made in the last ten years, basically. I took my mum to see a lot of them. I don’t think she had ever seen a 3D movie. Just me and my mum sitting in a cinema watching the 3D.

Shock: Were you looking particularly at 3D for a certain genre or were you just pulling from everything?

Anderson: I was looking for, basically, what 3D can look like and for 3D film making techniques. I watched horror movies like “My Bloody Valentine” and things like that, but I also watched “Beowulf” and other computer animated movies. I watched “Coraline” with stop motion. I saw everything… What I was interested in was finding the right 3D. [James] Cameron had streamed a chunk of “Avatar” for us and it was just fantastic. This was over a year ago. It was obvious that he was just making an incredibly groundbreaking movie. For us, what was really, really interesting, was how the 3D imagery was just above and beyond anything we had ever seen before. I always loved the idea of 3D and went to see all the movies in the 80’s and 90’s. But I always felt like it was an idea that was waiting for the technology to catch up with it. It never really worked. Then I saw what Cameron had shot with his PACE camera rigs and thought, “Wow. Finally, this is what 3D should look like.” Finally, the technology has caught up with the idea. But Cameron kind of has a theory that it’s a window into a world beyond the screen. He likes the depth but doesn’t like things breaking the screen’s surface. So I watched all the movies and I have to say that, in terms of use of 3D, the one that I really liked was “Coraline”. Because “Coraline” has a lot of depth in it but, every so often, they break the screen’s surface. It’s always in action, but it’s justified by the story as well. So it’s not like old school 3D where they poke something out and they stick it out there. Where they’re just doing it for effect. “Coraline” is always driven by the action and, because of that, I thought that it’s a way to make use of the positive space out in the audience if it’s driven by the action or dictated by the story. That’s the approach we tried to take. We don’t just use it as a window into a world. We have things coming out. But when it’s justified, hopefully. We tried to be restrained with it, but we also tried to have fun with it.

Shock: Tell me about the 3D effects, monsters or otherwise. Since they’re made in the computer, is it a different approach to making them 3D?

Anderson: Well, we are primarily a live-action movie with visual effects. So we are different than, say, “Avatar” which is a 70 percent animated movie. There are full-on CG images where everything in the frame is CG in this movie, but there are only about 15 of them in the whole film. The rest is a hybrid between live action with visual effects and just straight live action. Which is why I felt we really had to shoot it 3D. Because it is primarily a practical movie. A lot of creatures are really there on the set. The executioner, for example. Sometimes he’s enhanced with 3D, but primarily he’s just a big-ass dude with nails driven through his head. He’s really there. When he’s smashing through things, he’s really smashing through things. That’s all practical effects. I felt we really had to shoot in 3D to capture that, probably.

Shock: Where are we coming into the story in this one?

Anderson: I’ve always meant for the movies that, hopefully, if you’re a fan of the franchise, it’s a satisfying continuation. If you’re a fan of the video game, you can see where it ties in and where it pays homage to the world of the video game. But if you don’t know the video game and you don’t know the movies, you can still watch the film as a standalone film. I think it’s important to approach the films like that. For a fan of the franchise, this is a continuation from the last movie. When we last saw Milla’s character, she was heading to Tokyo to take vengeance on Umbrella and on Wesker and that’s exactly where we pick it up. So the first act of the movie is all in Tokyo. It’s like a three months later kind of deal. Then we switch to Alaska, which is where we saw Claire and the others headed to. Then the movie moves down the western sea coast of America and moves to Los Angeles.

Shock: And Claire’s brother joins the action this time around? How does he come into the story.

Anderson: They meet him in LA. I was thinking about how to introduce Chris because he’s such a huge character from the games. There’s an inherent difficulty in that because I think the movies have always walked a fine line. Hopefully we’re doing it well and clearly we’re doing something right because we’re on to our fourth movie. You walk a fine line between pleasing the hardcore fans of the game who have a huge amount of knowledge and people who go to see the movies who know nothing about the game. Chris Redfield, they don’t have any idea who he is. But, obviously, when he and Claire get in the same room together, they’re thinking, “Hey, who are you? How do you do?” But for people who have just seen the movies, it’s kind of weird. They’re saying, “I didn’t know she had a brother. She never mentioned him in the last movie.” So it’s kind of handled quite carefully and the way we do it is using a device we have from earlier in the franchise of memory loss. Claire has this memory loss and you discover why it has been induced later in the movie. When she meets her brother, she’s not quite sure whether he’s telling the truth. And neither is the audience, incidentally. You’re not quite sure whether this guy is her brother or not.

Shock: This is your fourth Resident Evil and you’ve talked about what a family affair it is working with your wife. Is that familiarity carrying over to “Three Musketeers”?

Anderson: Yeah, Milla and I are very similar in that we just love what we do. We’re both very fortunate that our childhood fantasies of making movies came true. For that reason, we don’t really have a separation between work and our personal lives. Our personal lives are our work and vice versa. The lines definitely blur. We discuss “Resident Evil” and other movies all the time. It’s fun to talk about movies. When we’re not working or playing or looking after baby, we go to the movies. It’s a true pleasure to make films, especially with my wife. But it’s pleasure to just talk about them as well.

Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D hits theaters September 10th.


Source: Silas Lesnick