Friday, September 23, 2011

Tearin' up the Town

Forget about Zeus ordering the Kraken to "Destroy Argos!" in Clash of the Titans, a bunch of students at the Vancouver Film School issued the order to "Destroy Vancouver" for an assignment a couple of years ago, and they didn't pull any punches.

Though it was brought to my attention just a couple of days ago, it looks like the "Destroy Vancouver" project has been online for a couple of years. That being said, it's definitely worth watching for fans of science fictional mayhem - whether you're a Lower Mainlander or someone who's only visited the city, or even if you've never been in this neck of the woods at all. Clicking on the link takes to you to a standard Google map of Vancouver, with a number of neighbourhoods or landmark buildings flagged. Rather than giving you the standard photo and address of said building or neighbourhood, clicking on each flag gives a summary of a short visual effects reel put together by a particular student who's chosen that location as his or her target for annihilation. From there you can link to Youtube to watch the destruction in question.

Overall, the students' work is pretty awesome. There's a lot of creativity in the choices of means of devastation and a fantastic attention to detail in depicting it. The degree of SFX artwork varies from reel to reel - some are spot-on photorealistic, while others are good but still have the somewhat animated look of, say, the later additions to the Babylon 5 franchise. The length varies too, with some features running just a few seconds to show off post-apocalyptic cityscapes, while others go for more than a minute blasting out action-packed SF mini movies.

Of the 19 reels offered on the map, my top 5 favourites were:

5) Whale City by Taeyoung Kim - No actual destruction of the Downtown business district in this one, but it's just so pretty to watch that I had to include it in the top 5.

4) Experiment 8 by Juan Carlos Mendoza - Another reel featuring a gigantic sea animal, but this time, this beastie runs amok in and on the Vancouver Sun and Province building and the nearby plaza. While the lead actress could have done a better job playing the reporter, the berserk mega octopus was top notch.

3) The Levis HVC by Nicholas Markel - A well-animated and funny public service announcement about personally-owned flying cars versus public transit. That being said, I still want my own flying car!

2) The untitled robotic orb short from Ed Holdsworth felt cold and downright creepy. There's a price to pay for being a Yaletown yuppie I guess.

1) The Steam Tank by Chris Paul - A steampunk tank slugging it out with a sniper up in the old Sun Tower on the Downtown East Side - what's not to love?!

I don't know if this is a regular assignment at VFS, but if it is, it's certainly something the organizers of VCon should incorporate as a special feature in the movie room. I'd love to see a showcase of new SF shorts like this become a standard part of the con. Too late to forward the idea to the con organizers to consider for this year's event (VCon 36 kicks off Friday Sept. 30 for anyone still thinking of attending); I'll have to remember to include this in my suggestions for next year.

Thanks to Steve for passing along the "Destroy Vancouver" site.

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