Monsters vs. Aliens is a throwback to those B-movie glory days of the '50s when Martians invaded our backyards and rubber monsters stalked the Earth.
But the DreamsWorks sci-fi spoof, landing March 27, 2009, also transforms a once-tacky Ike-era gimmick into an eye-popping 21st-century experience as the first computer-animated feature to be shot in 3-D.
Studios such as Disney have dimensionalized CGI films, but only after a non-3-D version was made.
DreamWorks, which will preview Monsters for ShoWest exhibitors in Las Vegas today, is commit- ted to doing all its animated releases directly in 3-D from now on. "This isn't our father's 3-D," says the studio's animation chief, Jeffrey Katzenberg. Though it still relies on funny glasses, "the digital projection puts a perfect image on the screen. There is no ghosting, no eye strain or nausea."
To avoid confusion, since computer animation is already called 3-D, he calls it "the Ultimate 3-D."
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Others are joining in the trend: 20th Century Fox's Ice Age 3, due in July 2009; Disney's motion-capture A Christmas Carol, November 2009; and Pixar's Toy Story 3, 2010. Why the switch? The number of theaters with digital 3-D capability has grown rapidly.
Monsters tickets will cost more because the process adds about $15 million to a film's budget, but Katzenberg believes audiences will pay for "a premium experience."
That includes hearing Reese Witherspoon as Susan Murphy, a modern-day California girl who has the bad luck to be hit by a meteor on her wedding day and grows to be 49 feet, 11Â½ inches tall (a wink at 1958's The Attack of the 50-Foot Woman). Captured by the military, she's renamed Ginormica.
"I got very inspired when the studio showed me storyboards," says the 5-foot-2 actress. "Playing a larger-than-life woman has given me my own opportunity to make tall jokes." She also is no stranger to cinematic cheese. "My father was a fan of Roger Corman movies," she says. "I watched a lot of those on late-night TV."
Joining her giantess to fend off Rainn Wilson's evil alien Gallaxhar are Dr. Cockroach, Ph.D. (Hugh Laurie), the jellylike B.O.B. (Seth Rogen) and the half-ape, half-fish Missing Link (Will Arnett). Kiefer Sutherland speaks for Gen. W.R. Monger (get it?), and Stephen Colbert is the president.
"He plays it on steroids," Katzenberg assures.