Fan­tasy films have uni­ver­sal ap­peal all around world

Con­cept artist speaks about global suc­cess of ‘Aqua­man’

The Korea Times - - CULTURE - By Kang Aa-young [email protected]­re­atimes.co.kr

Su­per­hero smash-hit “Aqua­man” has been a huge suc­cess with movie­go­ers. Be­tween the su­per­hero film’s Ko­rea de­but on Dec. 19 last year and Sun­day, Jan. 6, the box-of­fice hit at­tracted nearly 5 mil­lion view­ers.

Chris­tian Scheurer, a Swiss con­cept artist who had been part of the film­mak­ing process for a year by cre­at­ing crea­tures, said the fan­tasy film has uni­ver­sal, cross-cul­tural el­e­ments that can ap­peal to a broad spec­trum of fans, cit­ing this as one of the crit­i­cal rea­sons be­hind its global suc­cess.

“’Aqua­man’ is a big fan­tasy. It is a big re­lief for peo­ple,” Scheuer said dur­ing a re­cent Ko­rea Times in­ter­view in Seoul.

Scheuer, who has worked on over 32 fea­ture films that have won in to­tal 32 Academy Awards, vis­ited South Ko­rea last week for a con­fer­ence held by the Ko­rea Cre­ative Con­tent Agency (KOCCA) to share his pow­er­ful story and pro­vide in­spi­ra­tion to young starters in the in­dus­try. The KOCCA, a cul­ture min­istry-af­fil­i­ated or­ga­ni­za­tion, has been train­ing and help­ing Korean cre­ators to en­ter the in­dus­try, to start con­tents busi­ness or find job.

Q Why do you think “Aqua­man” has been so suc­cess­ful in Ko­rea?

A I think it’s ac­tu­ally a global suc­cess. I’m su­per happy. I was in­volved with it for al­most a year and a half as an il­lus­tra­tor. I do think it’s all about James Wan (the film’s direc­tor). I think he’s very em­pa­thetic to his char­ac­ters. He loves these char­ac­ters. All the char­ac­ters, even in the end there is cer­tain friend­li­ness to it, or cer­tain hu­man­ity to it. Whereas the pre­vi­ous DC movies, ex­cept for “Won­der Woman,” took place in pretty cold, very bru­tal, very dark world. Our world has be­come dark enough, in Amer­ica es­pe­cially. And we have enough prob­lems, and peo­ple have enough fear all the time. Q Can you ex­plain its suc­cess more specif­i­cally? A “Aqua­man,” is a big fan­tasy. It is a big re­lief for peo­ple. They can es­cape into these roles. It also ap­peals to many peo­ple. It ap­peals to young boys who want to be Ja­son Mo­moa. Grand­mas like it be­cause Nicole Kid­man’s char­ac­ter is very im­por­tant in the end. It gives women a lot of power. Mera (Am­ber Heard) and Nicole Kid­man both have amaz­ing parts and so it al­lows (view­ers) to em­pathize to all the dif­fer­ent charac- ters. So the grandma is im­por­tant. The mama is im­por­tant. The dad is im­por­tant. As a child it’s im­por­tant.

So ev­ery­body gets some­thing to iden­tify with and be­cause of all those iden­ti­fiers we have, it works for a very broad spec­trum. And I might say, I know that James Wan is Aus­tralian, but I think he also has an Asian cin­ema idea of epic­ness.

Q How would you com­pare “Aqua­man” with other su­per­hero films?

A In a typ­i­cal Hol­ly­wood movie, for ex­am­ple in “Robin Hood,” he shoots an ar­row. He shoots one ar­row, maybe 10. But in a Chi­nese movie or a Korean movie, the whole sky goes black with ar­rows. When he (Wan) brings that sort of sen­si­bil­ity to “Aqua­man,” it’s not five sharks, it’s 10,000 sharks which come out of that movie. This no­tion of im­men­sity is, I think, very at­trac­tive to ev­ery­body.

Q What about the visual parts that you worked on for “Aqua­man”? Some said they felt like they had spent two hours in the aquar­ium.

A I was in­volved with a lot of the vi­su­als. I was im­me­di­ately in­volved with At­lantis. Vis­ually I knew it will be very dif­fer­ent from day 1. Bill Brzeski (the film’s pro­duc­tion de­signer) was sort of my boss and I was part of a team. Not a big team, but a team of about seven, eight il­lus­tra­tors, in­clud­ing crea­ture guy, ve­hi­cle guy, and I was one of the main en­vi­ron­ment guys.

Bill Brzeski gave us an enor­mous amount of free­dom to de­sign, to come up with things and all of us have done how many movies, so my col­leagues have worked on things from the “Ma­trix” to “Star Wars.” It was a very strong team and that’s why we got a lot more free­dom than usual.

Q What are some fac­tors that you con­sider im­por­tant when you con­verge your skills from movies to games?

A I ac­tu­ally like the idea of chang­ing tech­niques and tech­nol­ogy. That can help. So I used to only draw by hand and then Pho­to­shop came along. I did a lot of Pho­to­shop and then I still love 3D, so I do it.You can see a lot of 3D now. And I think tech­nol­ogy and art, if it’s well com­bined, it can be very re­fresh­ing. It opens new av­enues and new per­spec­tives and so I have been al­ways try­ing to do that. And also there are new types of projects. A phone game is very dif­fer­ent from a movie, but it’s also chal­leng­ing. It’s just these learn­ing mo­ments, where you still learn some­thing, and ev­ery time when there is a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, it’s ex­cit­ing.

Q You said you started off in Hol­ly­wood on your own, without any help. Could you give some ad­vice for as­pir­ing con­cept artists?

A First of all, Hol­ly­wood is not what it used to be in the 1990s. There are less movies in Hol­ly­wood than be­fore. There are many mar­kets now to en­ter. I think Lon­don has an enor­mous amount of visual ef­fects, amaz­ing stu­dios. A lot hap­pens also in Canada. So I think there’s a big­ger chance where you can en­ter things. To be on a big movie like “Aqua­man,” is not easy. Be­cause firstly, there are unions which pro­tect the work and then there’s just so much re­la­tion­ship in or­der to be trusted. To be on the fran­chise which makes a bil­lion dol­lars and to be the first five peo­ple to come up with it, they need to be trust­ful staffs.

So for the young peo­ple, they should just get on su­per-ex­cit­ing movies. What­ever they find in Ko­rea, wher­ever they can make some­thing. If you work on “Snow Piercer” or if you work on “Old­boy” or if you work on some­thing or even if you cre­ate your own con­tent, you’re prob­a­bly bet­ter off than just cre­at­ing a port­fo­lio which looks like ev­ery­body else’s.

So if you cre­ate your own pro­ject and aug­mented re­al­ity (AR) or vir­tual re­al­ity (VR), it’s yours. It’s ex­cit­ing to bring that out into the world. It can be Hol­ly­wood or Lon­don or Seoul, or wher­ever; I think they have a big­ger chance to get recog­ni­tion.

Cour­tesy of Ko­rea Cre­ative Con­tent Agency

Chris­tian Scheurer, a Swiss con­cept artist, speaks dur­ing an in­ter­view with The Ko­rea Times in Seoul last Thurs­day.

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