Comic-Con: Thoughts on Richard Kelly's The Box Footage

July 27, 2009

Richard Kelly's The Box

One thing from Comic-Con that I really want to talk about is the presentation for Richard Kelly's The Box during the Warner Brothers panel on Friday morning. In terms of the Q&A session, it wasn't that exciting, and Cameron Diaz actually revealed a huge spoiler for the movie right on stage (which we're not going to repeat), but what I was most intrigued by was the footage. We all saw the trailer back in June, and there is some weird stuff going on it, but you just wait, that's only the tip of the iceberg. Kelly brought a new sizzle reel cut just for Comic-Con and it was pretty fascinating and I'd like to get into it more because of that.

There is a small spoiler ahead, so if you want to stay completely fresh on this, I'd suggest you stop reading. But I can assure you that what occurred in the first part of this footage did not ruin anything for me, but instead only made me vastly more curious and interested in the movie. As you probably know, The Box is based on Richard Matheson's short story "Button, Button" about a button that, when pressed, gives the owner(s) a large sum of money, while at the same time killing someone that they don't know. But of course, this is Richard Kelly, and he is going to take that story a lot farther than just that. And he certainly does.

In the trailer, we see Cameron Diaz receive the box from a disfigured Frank Langella. Then in the next scene, we see her and James Marsden sitting at the table looking at it, and Marsden cautiously asking her what they should do. Without any hesitation, Diaz just slams her hand down on it - and presses the button. Just like that. I gasped in Hall H when that happened. In any other movie (meaning, a non-Richard Kelly movie) that scene would've played out with plenty deliberation and discussion about the consequences. But in The Box, that's not what it's about. And everything starts to spin out of control from that point on.

From there we're shown even crazier glimpse of more bizarre sci-fi things and trippy ideas that only someone like Richard Kelly could've thought up. For example, near the end of the trailer, we see some weird water-like square tubes extending up from the ground in a giant room (see the photo below). In the footage we saw, there's a lot more interaction with this "watery" substance, or whatever it is. At one point, we even see James Marsden floating in a "box of water" above Cameron Diaz in her bed, then that box bursts and the water flows out into the room and Marsden falls out of it as well. Uh, what the hell was that all about?

Kelly said that his breakthrough moment working on the script came when he decided to set the movie in 1976 and tie it to "very specific circumstances that happened at NASA in Virginia in '76." I'm almost afraid to do some research on that time period because I feel like it could give away too much and I'd rather be surprised. But in the footage we saw, and in the trailer, you can notice glimpses of scenes set in hangars and other areas that are NASA related. James Marsden's character even works at NASA (that was confirmed a while back). I think that's enough evidence to prove that this might have something to do with space?

I won't get too much more into it besides what I've said so far (nor will I tell you what Cameron Diaz said) because I want to go in to see this and be as blown away by everything that occurs as I was the first time I watched Donnie Darko. Although this is being marketed by Warner Brothers as a much more mainstream movie, I have a feeling that it could turn out to be a very intricate and intimate movie like Donnie Darko as well, taking Kelly back to his "roots" in a sense. Either way, the footage Kelly decided to show at Comic-Con was just the right amount to make me even more interested than I already was. Bring on The Box!

Scene from The Box

Find more posts: Comic-Con 09, Opinions



I don't know if I'm now more curious about the movie or more curious about the "very specific circumstances that happened at NASA in Virginia in '76."

John Madden on Jul 27, 2009


Despite having trouble buying the 2 lead actors, I am pretty damn intrigued; just not enough to shell out $11 for it, unfortunately.

Voice of Reason on Jul 27, 2009


I know the spoiler, if anyone wants to know it, but only if you really want to know the spoiler. i strongly suggest not to, but any way:

Shaun on Jul 27, 2009


Stupid. I know what happen in '76 and as if this movie couldn't get worse, it gets campy. I didn't know when the movie was based but after going tot he that site suggested by Shaun, before reading the spoiler and just "The film is set in Richmond, Virginia in the year 1976" And now knowing about NASA. Wow...I feel like Mission to Mars all over. If it's not predictable already, then you have more screws loose than a broken robot.

Tra la la la la di da on Jul 27, 2009


Im scared to google nasa 1976

Trey on Jul 27, 2009


It's common sense really. Think about some conspiracy theory or possible occurrence that happened in '76 and run with your imagination. You'll realize how crappy this movie will be then.

Tra la la la la di da on Jul 27, 2009


This has me much more interested.

Shane on Jul 27, 2009


wow...just when I thought hollywood couldn't recycle an worn out storyline...I thought this might really be something new and interesting, but it looks like it will end like all the rest.

Mattyc on Jul 27, 2009


I was there and I honestly don't remember what Cameron said that was so spoilery. Maybe it's because I tend to tune her out when she opens her mouth.

Alisa on Jul 27, 2009


from NASA's first major effort to look for life on Mars was carried out by two Viking spacecraft that landed, probed and tested the planet's soil for signs of martian life in 1976. The tests were inconclusive, because what first appeared to be chemical signs of life could have been caused by non-life chemistry. The spacecraft included a sensitive test for organic material. The apparent absence of organic material has led many to favor the non-life explanation for the red planet. Recently, scientists conducted tests on desert and other nearly sterile soils on Earth, similar to those that two Viking spacecraft conducted on Mars in 1976. The researchers found that the Vikings' organic detection instruments were not sensitive enough to perceive minute bits of organics existing in those barren wastelands on our world. A technical report describing the scientists' tests appeared in an issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in late October 2006. "Our study shows the Viking instruments from the 1970s may have been unable to detect low levels of organics on Mars, due to the presence of iron in the soils, because the soil was heated in the presence of this iron. Future Mars missions should use methods that do not involve heating the soil, such as liquid extraction," said Christopher McKay, a scientist at NASA Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley, and one of the report's authors. The principal author is Rafael Navarro-Gonzalez from the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico. Even soils without iron can contain organic material the Viking spacecraft could not detect. Study scientists said they found minute amounts of graphite-like organic material (produced by life) in the Antarctic dry valleys, the Chilean Atacama and Libyan deserts. Because the levels of organics are so low in these soils, and the organic material has become so much like graphite, the Viking instruments would not have detected the graphite-like material. The scientists also studied soils from other places on Earth that have high iron content, as does much of Mars. For example, soils containing iron oxides, or their salts, in Spain's Rio Tinto area and California's Panoche Valley, oxidize organic materials to produce carbon dioxide that blocks detection of organics. In addition, the researchers tested a volcanic Hawaiian soil from a cinder cone south of Mauna Kea, soil that also contains organics. This soil is very similar to martian surface materials, according to scientists, and is used to simulate Mars' soil in laboratory experiments. Viking's 1970s-era instruments would not have detected organics in this Hawaiian organic soil, either, scientists said. McKay said it is important that instruments destined for Mars first need to be tested thoroughly on Earth. "This is a real issue for future missions. It makes no sense to send an instrument to Mars that cannot even detect organics in these environments on Earth," McKay said. "We need to test (the instruments) here first. If they can't detect life in the Atacama Desert, or the hills of Hawaii, they are not ready for Mars," he added. "The fact that no organic molecules were released by this (1976 Viking) analytical treatment during the analysis of Mars soils does not demonstrate that there were no organic materials on the surface of Mars. . . ," concluded study scientists. "The question of whether organic compounds exist on the surface of the planet Mars was not conclusively answered by the organic analysis carried out by the Viking Landers."

Shaun on Jul 27, 2009


So much for the choice of not being spoiled. lol Although that is a lot to read

Tra la la la la di da on Jul 27, 2009


its going to flop. what made Button Button so great was the suspense involved with wondering weather or not to push the button, and its twist ending. Making Frank Langella cynical is an unwanted change as well, it just becomes another campy stalker esq. film. i'll give it a chance, but im starting to think Donnie Darko was just accidently good.

Al on Jul 27, 2009


I think I mostly agree with Al. The original story was great and stood on it's own. Why do these Hollywood idiots always think that they should (or even can) improve on classics? When I heard about this movie coming out I wanted to see it, now all interest has evaporated.

Meh on Jul 27, 2009


I don't agree...there was zero suspense in wondering if the couple was going to push the button. The dialogue about whether or not TO push the button was kinda good, but there was no question in my mind that they were gonna push it. The only thing I wondered about from the original story was what unknown "thing" would occur if they did. Apparently most of the movie deals in detail with exactly what happens after the button is pushed. As long as the ideas, acting, script and visuals are interesting, there's no reason why the film won't be as well. It sounds like Richard Kelly didn't make a movie about the events of the short story, but instead used the events of the short story as a jumping off point to tell the story of what the movie is really about--which would seem to be a very sci-fi-ish/government conspiracy-ish tale that speaks to the same "human condition" that the short story does. I, for one, am looking hugely forward to see Kelly's explanation of what exactly is going on behind the scenes and the reality of whatever is really taking place.

Moi on Aug 1, 2009

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