This “Leviathan” proof of concept directed by Ruairi Robinson (an Irish director who already has an Academy Award nomination for one of his shorts) has racked up 1.2 million views since it was uploaded a week ago. Today, Deadline reported that Neill Blomkamp and X-Men producer Simon Kinberg are coming aboard to produce a feature-length version, with Robinson and Fight Club screenwriter Jim Uhls.
A slew of big name producers had been lining up to meet with Robinson to pitch for the project but were blown out of the water once Kinberg moved decisively. Kinberg’s first-look deal with Fox also gives Robinson potential studio backing should they decide to move forward. [Deadline]
As you can see in the video, the story is set in the 22nd century, when man has achieved the ability to travel faster than the speed of light, but only through “harvesting of exotic matter from the eggs of the largest species mankind has ever seen,” which is done by “involuntary labor” (ie, slaves). Robinson said it was partly inspired by Moby Dick.
“I came up with the idea as a joke. I was laughing with a friend about what classic novels could be adapted ‘…in space!’ Jane Eyre… in space! Traditionally space is where franchises went to die when they ran out of ideas (Hellraiser… in space!) so I was running through these names of classic literature when I hit on Moby Dick and thought, ‘Oh wait. No that actually sounds good.'”
Moby Dick was set amongst 19th Century Nantucket whalers, who sailed around the world in search of sperm whales, which they harpooned using glorified spears, tied to their glorified dinghies. Then they basically had to hold on, waiting for the whales to get tired, at which point they rowed them back to their main ships, dragged them aboard, and whacked them open to get at their horrendously-stinky-but-valuable oils. So you can see how that’s analogous to Robinson’s Leviathan project, and also to dating your mom.
The three-and-a-half minute sequence is done entirely in CGI, “other than a few dust/smoke elements,” and the result is a real technical achievement, especially considering the shoestring budget. Robinson was quick to thank the Irish Film Board who financed the project, saying they’ve, “been awesome to me and funded all my short films.” [Examiner]
It certainly looks expensive. And one thing Hollywood loves is something that looks expensive but isn’t. I would’ve gone with the more straightforward title, Harvest of the Space Whale. You can check out a couple more Ruiari Robinson shorts below. The first is Fifty Percent Grey, from 2002. for which he was nominated for best animated short.