Posted on Friday, July 24th, 2009 by Russ Fischer
During the Warner Bros. panel this morning in Hall H, Richard Kelly took the stage, alongside stars Cameron Diaz and James Marsden, to show off four minutes from his upcoming film The Box. This footage gave a much better indication than the first trailer of the scope of the film, and also was the public debut of the music by Win Butler and the Arcade Fire. The vibe had a lot of classic Twilight Zone feel, and the music conjures up tones of suspense from the ’60s and ’70s. Then add the sort of effects you’d expect to see from Kelly. (Think shimmering water and energy fields.) Some comments and description of the footage is after the break. Beware, though, that a variety of mild and severe spoilers follow.
The Box is based on Richard Matheon‘s 6-page short story Button, Button, which Kelly optioned about six years ago.You probably know that the story is about the choice faced by a couple when presented with a box. Press the button on the box and they’ll get a million dollars, but someone somewhere in the world will die. This footage shows that it’s not long at all before the offer made by the severely scarred Arlington Steward (Frank Langella) is taken up by Norma Lewis (Diaz). So the film isn’t so much about the choice, but about the consequences. And as the new footage shows, those consequences are far-reaching and potentially bizarre. I’d been thinking of The Box in terms of pretty small-scale suspense, and indeed Kelly says he was going for a Hitckcockian vibe, to some extent. (He also said he’d made the movie for his parents, and that it features no swearing.) But the scope is far larger than early footage has led us to believe. In addition to old Twilight Zone episodes I started thinking of movies like Dark City. We see James Marsden being pursued by strange folks and some meetings between Arlington Steward and others that are extremely ominous.
Kelly worked on the script for quite a while, and says that the breakthrough moment came when he decided to set the film in 1976 and tie it to “very specific circumstances that happened at NASA in Virginia in ’76.” The time period also meant that he could work around modern stuff like Google; the story’s suspense might just dissipate if the characters played by Diaz and Marsden could just Google the backstory of Arlington Steward. That brief statement suggests quite a lot, and if I were you I’d skip the following paragraph and leave it at that.
Here are the real spoilers: Cameron Diaz just came out and gave up the whole movie with a few comments about people from Mars and some race testing mankind as a whole; this isn’t just a weird supernatural moral test, which is fitting, really, as The Box had always seemed like a too-small story, especially given the previous ambitions we’ve seen from Richard Kelly.