NYCC | Attack the Block Panel
Fans of the cult-hit sci-fi movie Attack the Block descended on New York Comic Con to catch a glimpse of writer/director Joe Cornish and stars John Boyega, who plays stong-but-silent protagonist Moses, and Luke Treadaway, the film’s comic relief, awkward stoner Brewis.
The trio was there to debut clips from the movie’s DVD/Blu-ray, which arrives Tuesday, but technical difficulties turned the presentation into a hilarious comedy of errors, with Cornish showcasing his formidable talents as a showman.
It began when the three emerged in front of the packed room and approached the dais, without pomp and circumstance. Once they were all seated, Cornish joked they needed to be re-introduced, so they retreated to the back of the room until the moderator tinkered with his computer, dimmed the lights and played the movie’s trailer.
The crowd was clearly along for the ride – cheering Cornish’s decision, laughing along with the trailer and erupting in applause once they emerged – and a shout of “Moses! Moses! Moses!” spread from the middle of the room.
Cornish sat in front of his mic and smiled, “That’s more like it. Thank you, ladies and gentleman!” He couldn’t hold back the good-natured sarcasm, though, noting, “And a round of applause for the technical proficiency!”
Once the three attempted to speak and realized their mics weren’t working, Cornish couldn’t help himself: “Boy, oh, boy, you spend four years making a film, taking care of every detail, and then you get here.” Even the moderator was laughing at this point – regardless of the minor issues, Cornish had everything in control.
He began by asking Boyega what he was doing in New York, to which Boyega answered, “Just chillin’.” After some nudging, he divulged, “I’m doing an HBO drama called Da Brick with Spike Lee.”
This is, of course, a reference to Lee’s new pilot, loosely based on the life of Mike Tyson. He cast Boyega in the role of Donnie after being impressed by his breakout performance in Attack the Block. Cornish added his own two cents regarding his young star’s next move, citing it as, “Pretty damn cool.”
Before debuting clips from the upcoming DVD/Blu-ray release, Cornish explored the inspiration and themes behind Attack the Block.
“It was very much inspired by movies I loved growing up, movies like E.T. and Critters and Gremlins, and also great American gang movies like The Warriors and The Outsiders and Rumble Fish and Streets of Fire,” Cornish said. “And also kind of inspired by the way a particular young person in London who perhaps doesn’t have the breaks that other people do in the city – the way that portrays sometimes in the media … the attitudes towards them. Attack the Block is attempting to explore those issues with the use of one of the most powerful tools of social analysis available: an alien invasion. [Laughs] For me, science fiction always used to be kind of about reality in a way, you know, going back to Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which is a kind of allegory for McCarthyism, or going to Godzilla, which is dealing with the atomic bomb, or The Thing, which kind of came out at an interesting time when AIDS was just happening. We wanted to make a genre movie that was talking about something that mattered, and not in too serious a way but in a fun way – you know, like a sugary pill.”
As the lights dimmed, Cornish continued his line of teasing, saying, “So don’t let the possible scrappiness of this presentation affect your perception of the disc that is going to be released on Oct. 25. We put our hearts and souls into this film and we put our hearts and souls into this disc. This is a good disc! And, uh, this is gonna be a bad presentation.”
Howls of laughter from the audience trailed well into the beginning of the first clip, and Cornish was right – the audio-visual issues didn’t do much for the reveal, but it’s safe to say he created a few new fans regardless.
Before taking questions from the audience, Cornish discussed the film’s creature effects, saying, “We wanted to do a kind of a creature that was different from the CGI creatures you see in movies today. I miss how graphic and stylized aliens used to be. We wanted to do a creature that connects with the old-school practical monster work that I used to love, when there wasn’t this obsession with hyper-realism. So the creature in our film is practical – it’s a guy in a suit. And the costume he’s in was designed by Spectral Motion, who did all of Guillermo del Toro’s creature work. And then we used kind of lo-fi CGI effects, actually to take away detail rather than to add it – kind of a Rotoscope technique.”
Boiling it down for the comics crowd, Cornish said, “The inspiration for the creatures were the graphics on the side of a Space Invaders arcade game, a SNES game called Another World, one of the first video games to use motion capture, and also my pet cat, who is jet black and always looks like a very beautiful silhouette when she’s backlit.”
Clearly the crowd was eager for more of the same, as an audience member asked if there’s an Attack the Block sequel in the future. “Um, I don’t know,” Cornish replied. “Some people have proposed it to us and I dunno. There’s no answer. We don’t have any serious plans at all … but I can’t help thinking about it.”
A question was also raised about Cornish’s possible collaboration with Edgar Wright to bring Marvel’s Ant-Man to the big screen. “We delivered a draft earlier this year and it’s in the hands of Marvel and Mr. Wright,” Cornish confirmed. “So I’m very proud of that script; so is Edgar. We’re very excited about its potential, and it’s in the hands of the powers that be.”
One fan noted some parallels between Cornish’s Attack the Block characters and those in The Wire, and asked whether there was any influence from the acclaimed HBO drama.
“I’m a massive fan of The Wire,” Cornish said, pointing to Boyega. “This guy is the guy to answer that, probably. John, you watched The Wire a lot before we started shooting, right?”
“Yeah, yeah,” Boyega smiled. “I got my inspiration for Moses from Season 4, from Michael, Marlo – those characters. Just the way they were silent and they still expressed narrative and story.”
Ending the discussion on something of a spoiler-y note, an audience member asked why Cornish decided to kill off some of his main characters.
“I was kind of surprised at the reaction to that,” he admitted. “I never really gave it a second thought. Generally, that’s what happens in horror movies, isn’t it? People get killed. And the one thing I didn’t want to do was have any moral framework. Like usually in movies someone will smoke pot and be killed for it or have sex before marriage and be killed for it. And the truth is, the dangers for kids like these in the real world are very random, they’re not necessarily motivated. So we wanted to reflect the randomness and chaoticness and the lack of motivation for some of the dangers that are out there for kids like this. Plus, everybody loves a face being ripped off or a throat being ripped out, or a head being bitten off – right?”