Designer Neville Page Describes Creating Green Lantern Movie Aliens, TRON Costumes & More
Published: December 3, 2010 - 11:47am
Neville Page is one of the most in-demand artists/designers in Hollywood right now. He has been involved with Cloverfield, Avatar, The Hulk, Star Trek and The Watchmen. Most recently his designs have been part of Green Lantern and TRON: Legacy.
Along with creature design and sculpture, Page does conceptual design and engineering. Charlie Jane Anders of io9 got the opportunity to talk to him about a wide variety of his projects.
Page is credited as lead creature designer on Green Lantern. He designed many concepts for a wide range of GL Corps members but the two most prominent are Kilowog and Tomar-Re. He strived to maintain the core of these characters as they have been depicted through the years in the comic books: "The design concepts are so great, and so different than what I would ever [normally] do." Of course, these characters have changed many times in the comics with different artists and the natural evolution of modernizing characters. This resulted in Page making some tough choices. A lesser known character such as Chaselon is a prime example of that.
I remember seeing that one and going, "Oh wow, it's a crystal with a Mohawk and robotic limbs. As you know, in the comics, it evolved over the years and had different looks. I looked through them and tried to get a baseline of what [the fans] would expect him to be. [In one version] he's a crystal ball with legs that look like something from The Matrix, and in another, he's like a shard of stone. So I would look at all the comic book versions, and say, If I took all of those, and took the best pieces of each, what would you have? And then the hardest part is, How do you take a crystal with robotic limbs and a Mohawk, and not have it be laughable on film. Somehow, in the comic world... there's so much more liberty to pull off the crazy stuff, but on film, when it's next to a real live human being for example, it just has to be a totally different thing that's true to the franchise yet doesn't make it look really stupid.
One intriguing aspect is making a character like Kilowog sympathetic instead of scary:
Page is used to designing terrifying creatures like the Cloverfield monster — so how does he approach an alien like Kilowog, who's still menacing-looking but is supposed to be a friend? Page says it would be absolutely wrong to try and make Kilowog look more sympathetic — that should come from the way he's animated, and the voice actor who brings the character to life. Kilowog has to be a "bad-ass, tough, brooding character," so his physicality should reflect that. At the same time, you want to create a facial structure that allows the character to furrow his brow, or smile or wince, so the animators can convey a range of expressions. Some creatures don't have enough range of expression to allow that — some menacing creatures have an ugly expression "baked in" to their faces. For example, movies featuring scary wolves often seem to have the wolves start out with furrowed brows that never un-furrow, which is something that doesn't happen in real life.
The movie's main villain, Parallax, was a very collaborative effort that is still being refined in post-production now.
I think everyone worked on Parallax, because he's such a complex thing... There were so many people involved that in the end, I'm not sure what he looks like. I was one of the last people to almost bring it through to the finish line, but in the end, due to the complexity of it — it's a lot of visual effects. I believe the post-production house will be really the one to bring [the look of Parallax] across the finish line.
Page's designs will next be seen in this month's TRON: Legacy. He primarily worked on the costumes, including both Sam and Kevin Flynn, plus Quorra, the Black Guards and the Sirens. Even though CG was used throughout the movie, the designs had to be practical in order for the actors to wear the outfits.
"We were using stuff that was as high-tech and as science fiction," says Page, "but in real life. Like doing laser-scanning, and scanning them into the computer, and then designing the costumes on the computer."
Getting things painstakingly right and meeting director Joseph Kosinski's demands made this "the hardest production I've ever worked on in my life," according to Page. Each helmet had to be made specific to its actor to fit as tightly as possible.
One of the biggest concerns Neville Page has is not repeating himself. He wants to make sure his designs lend themselves to the story being told by each different filmmaker.
But at the same time, I don't feel like I'm one of those designers who's iconic, like a [H.R.] Giger, and I feel like my job is to service the story. And what I hate to have happen is when people say, "Oh, I saw that movie, and it looked like a Neville page creature." Aw, crap. If it looks like a "Neville Page creature," then it took you out of what you should have been enjoying. I need to work harder at making it a J.J. Abrams movie or a Ridley Scott movie, or a Joe Kosinski, it's more about making it feel like their work than it is my work.