The trailer for “The Box” has kind of sold you wrong on the film. They make it look like writer/director Richard Kelly has taken a simple, “Twilight Zone”-esque story and once again, over-reached as he did with the poorly received “Southland Tales”. But watching the presentation today from Hall H, I think he’s done exactly the opposite. It looks like he’s learned from “Southland Tales” and gone back to a simple premise (a man brings you a box with a button; press the button and you get a million dollars but someone in the world who you don’t know will die) and built outwards from there. This was a really fun panel and a good way to let the audience catch a bit of a breather before the back-to-back onslaught of “Jonah Hex” and “Sherlock Holmes”.
Hit the jump to hear about the footage they screened and the Q&A with Kelly and stars James Marsden and Cameron Diaz.
Kelly comes on stage to present the footage. Before they hit the projector, Kelly says this is the first time anyone will hear The Arcade Fire’s score for the film and the crowd (myself included) cheers (although I want to keep listening to “Wake Up” after the “Where the Wild Things Are” presentation. We then see the footage and the trailer doesn’t prepare you for Frank Langella’s creepy Mr. Arlington. He’s kind of missing part of his face. It’s really horrific and hard to look at which means it works brilliantly. It’s another example of how once again the blending of CGI and practical effects in the field of make-up has yielded some really impressive results.
The footage sells the film far better than the trailer and yet it presents the double-edged sword of Comic-Con: on the one hand, a film that screens impressive footage or a strong trailer can build unstoppable buzz with just one strong presentation. But that footage shouldn’t be shown online because it would severely diminish the Comic-Con experience. But the flipside to that is while word-of-mouth is a tremendous force, it loses power the more people have a chance to form an opinion on it pre-Comic-Con. Films like “Iron Man” or “Kick-Ass” can blow up big but “The Box”, which already has a poster and a trailer and features two actors who aren’t major box office draws (although I don’t dislike Diaz and I think Marsden is fantastic when given a good role like with “Sex Drive” or “Enchanted”). I don’t know if what we saw today can change the film’s buzz but I hope it can.
The Q&A doesn’t go very well (although it’s nowhere near as bad as what happened for “Jonah Hex” which I’ll have my report for in the next hour or so) as the same five or so boners* approaching the mic and usually asking really asinine or self-serving questions. This is not what Comic-Con should be about and you should expect an editorial from me ripping these guys apart. The one sweet moment is when a young woman (who hadn’t been making repeat trips to the mic stand) stumbles over her question but Marsden can tell she’s nervous and looking at him so he says “Yes, I’ll marry you.” It’s a cute, charming moment, her tension is relieved and she replies “Great!” and then she asks her question which I now can’t remember since I was breathing a sigh of relief after experiencing the wasteland that has been the Q&A throughout the Warner Bros. presentations.
Kelly, Diaz, and Marsden keep describing the film as Kubrickian with flourishes of Hitchcock and I think they’re setting themselves up for backlash in their noble attempt to arouse interest in the film. Kelly mentions that he would really like to release a film that made more than a million dollars at the US box office. I think that unless the studio decides to open the film in only a handful of theatres, he’s gonna complete that goal. The real question is whether or not the film has legs and how much money it can rack up before the Thanksgiving onslaught of family films.
The presentation ends with a great finale as Kelly says that under one of the more than 6,000 chairs in Hall H, they’ve put a poster for the film and that person can come up to the stage and receive an autographed replica of The Box. A young woman is the victor after everyone grabs under the seats (I don’t because I’m sitting in the press section and there’s no way they’re gonna give it to someone who already has the privilege of sitting in reserved seating). She comes up to the stage and she’s presented with the autographed box. Kelly lifts the glass top of The Box and implicitly gives her the choice of whether or not to hit the button. The audience screams “Press it! Press it!” When 6,000 people yell at you to do something, you tend to give into peer pressure. She slams her hand down on the button and the audience cheers.
“The Box” hits theatres on October 30th.
*Credit: BenDavid Grabinski via Twitter, 2009.