It's impressive how much of a difference Real Steel has had on people's opinion of Shawn Levy. Before his surprisingly good movie about robot boxing and deadbeat dads, films like Night at the Museum and Date Night meant Levy was viewed as another McG or Brett Ratner: a technically competent director who makes the kind of generic, four quadrant-friendly films that are commercially loved and critically indifferent. After Real Steel, though, people are starting to take his career a bit more seriously, the movies he's attached to made suddenly a bit more appealing.
And that's great, because apparently Real Steel hasn't just changed how film geeks view the director, but how Levy actually approaches directing. Collider recently sat down with the increasingly busy filmmaker to talk about a few titles on his docket and in the process they got some interesting tidbits about the technical side of his two biggest films. The first is Frankenstein, written by Chronicle screenwriter (and Superman mocker) Max Landis. Collider asked about his approach to the film's monster, and not only did they learn that it will involve multiple monsters, but that the titular creation will be created using motion capture:
"In the case of Frankenstein, my whole approach is based on a mo-cap SimulCam playback so that it’s not a dude with scars on his face. It’s not just kind of latex and a costume; it would be a motion-capture performance of the monster—I can give away maybe not too much by saying there’s more than one in our version—and then I would go to Europe, shoot the movie, do scenes with the real actors and I would be able to see the motion-captured monster in real time due to SimulCam, so yes that is our technological VFX paradigm for Frankenstein.”
That revelation does have the Frankenstein purist in us a little disappointed. After all it's been great to see the unique ways several generations of actors bring the undead character to life under physical make-up, but as Rise of the Planet of the Apes reaffirmed last year, live-action MoCap is starting to push hard on the boundaries on not only the spectacle side of things, but the performance side as well. We're certainly curious to see what this new take on 'ole Frank will look like, but as of right now there's no cast or production start date in place, though Collider does have a few more details as to why that's the case.
Now as for his Fantastic Voyage remake, that's even more interesting. When the project was first announced, it was a gut assumption that the film's story involving scientists shrinking down and exploring the human body would be told with a heavy use of CGI and digital sets. And while it will no doubt employ a ton of digital work, Levy tells Collider that after the lessons he learned on Real Steel, which used a ton of real robots for reference (read our interview with the effects master behind those here), he won't make another VFX-heavy film that doesn't involve physical components as well. To that end, he and producer James Cameron actually plan on building real sets to mimic the interior of the human body.
"My whole thing with Jim Cameron who’s the producer on that movie is like, let’s get out of the boat; let’s be tactile and hands-on. Part of the reason why the budget for my Fantastic Voyage is not small is that we’re talking about free dives in the body with real full-scale underwater sets, so it’s not just looking at the s*it, maybe it’s climbing up the f**king spine. It’s real, full-scale underwater 3D practical sets,"
That's a very reassuring approach, no? For more info about both of these projects, and plenty more about some of the films Levy is producing but not directing, please do give Collider's full interview a watch.