Saturday, October 29, 2011

Simon West's THUNDER RUN Attaches Worthington, Butler And McConaughey

I love following projects through their life cycle to fruition but some stand out more than most. Simon West (THE EXPENDABLES 2, THE MECHANIC, CON AIR) has the credentials to get almost anything off the ground and this new project he has percolating is certainly pushing the threshold of what is possible forward.

Motion and performance capture has taken off in amazing ways thanks to a number of visionary individuals and companies, like James Cameron, Peter Jackson, Robert Zemeckis, Steven Spielberg, Weta and Giant Studios to name a few.

Now you can add Simon West to that growing list.

A new production company known as Freedom Films is actively pursuing financing /distribution for a film adaption of David Zucchino's book entitled THUNDER RUN: THE ARMORED STRIKE TO CAPTURE BAGHDAD. Freedom has impressively secured Sam Worthington, Gerard Butler and Matthew McConaughy to mocap and perfcap their characters along with supplying their voices for the actioner.

Here's West on 3D itself: “You know the thing I like is the ability to go to the places that you can’t normally go. That’s why the first half of Avatar is so magical to me, because there’s no way that you could physically build that world in the same way. To float around in 3D on a new planet was really mesmerizing, so I definitely want to do 3D and CGI. I’ve got like three CGI films in my company at the moment. I’m going to direct one and produce two others.”

On THUNDER RUN: "It’s a tank battle in the Iraq war, which is a phenomenal story that you just couldn’t physically shoot. There wouldn’t be enough money in the world to shoot it so we can do it CGI and 3D with photo-realistic motion-capture. It’s the only way to do it, because there would be no way to do it for real."

"When I first read Zucchino's book, I realized immediately it was one of the great accounts of modern warfare: heroic, exciting, tragic and ultimately political. I had the same feeling when I found and
developed 'Black Hawk Down' with Jerry Bruckheimer."

Here's the book's description:
In one of the boldest gambles in modern military history, just three battalions and fewer than a thousand men launched a violent thrust of tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles into the heart of a city of 5 million people and, in three bloody days of combat, ended the Iraqi war. Thunder Run is the story of the surprise assault on Baghdad—one of the most decisive battles in American combat history—by the Spartan Brigade, the Second Brigade of the Third Infantry Division (Mechanized).

Facing Iraqi forces dug into bunkers and firing from rooftops, the brigade punched a hole through the heart of Baghdad with a high-speed charge to Saddam Hussein’s presidential palace and military parade grounds. Many Iraqi soldiers fled or surrendered during the onslaught, but thousands of Republican Guards, Fedayeen militiamen, and Arab mercenaries stood and fought, challenging seventy-ton Abrams tanks in Toyota pickup trucks, school buses, taxicabs, Chevrolet Caprices, ambulances, and garbage trucks.

Iraqi forces destroyed the brigade’s command center, cutting off communications and burning a fleet of signal vehicles. The Iraqis also ambushed the brigade’s resupply column, killing two sergeants and setting fuel and ammunition tankers ablaze in an attack that nearly cut off the main assault column. And even as it appeared that the brigade was seizing control of the capital on the battle’s third day, a fierce counterattack across the Tigris River trapped an American tank company under withering fire and forced a retreat. With the shadow of Mogadishu hanging over every member of the Spartan Brigade, the capture of Baghdad was a brutal and terrifying three days of urban warfare.

Ken Nolan and Robert Port are adapting and The Graphic Film Company (Another Simon West company) will be tackling the motion and performance capturing; they will be using the same tech that they are employing for NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD: ORIGINS 3-D. Oh and GFC is hiring too: Artists and Painters mainly.

I am kinda nervous about how the quality of the performance capture will turn out (mocap less so). I have taken a look at what GFC has for demo reels and the facial capture looks to be a little lacking. One thing that pops out immediately with me is the very few data capture points on the actors face. Compare this with Weta's work and you get the idea. Hopefully they are augmenting this data with some sort of additional mapping technology. Their motion capture volume and data capture suits look fine to me however.

It does bother me that they present their 3D conversion technology in anaglyph - I can't stand seeing that, but that's a personal view. I know there is no other way to show an end result on the Internet currently, but I would rather not see anything at all. ALL of this is mitigated though by the fact that Simon West's name is marbled all through this production. His brand is enough for me to be excited and to waylay fears of something going wrong.

There was actually more than just one Thunder Run undertaken (see the map images) so perhaps this movie will bring them all together (along with an Iraqi counterattack) as the book describes as "3 bloody days of combat". More when I get it...

Sources: Screenrant | THR | Global Security

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