SDCC 2013: First Ten Minutes of Terry Gilliam’s The Zero Theorem Screen to Small but Enthused Panel


Panelists: producers Zev Foreman, Dean Zanuck, Amy Gilliam. Moderated by Gina McIntyre of Hero Complex.

So, there’s a panel for a new Terry Gilliam movie and Hall H is only half full? This is either a massive nerd fail, or the resentment for Tideland is even worse than i thought.

Though the panel was deathly dull at first, the final reward was worth it.

The movie isn’t in 3D despite the glasses we were handed out, but whatever – I can use them in some other panel.

It’s probably a no-brainer to say that this movie looks amazing. But it does, especially since it throws you headfirst into its wild world without orientation; no mandatory James Earl Jones narration explains what happened to the planet and the culture. It just went crazy, all ruins and ornate crumbling buildings and slums, bedecked with bright candy colors and scrolling news tickers on every wall. “Occupy Wall Street” has been coopted as an ad slogan, and there’s a church dedicated to the worship of Batman.

A Big Brother-ish company called Mancom runs everything and watches everyone. What it does isn’t clear, but something to do with math.

The movie opens with a hairless, naked Christoph Waltz floating over a black hole – which is actually just an image on his computer. He lives in a dark, cavernous, 12 Monkeys-type residence with corded telephones, and wears clothes that resemble a dark monk’s robe. As he exits, the world outside becomes unbearably bright, fast, loud and obnoxious – I imagine this is a great subjective depiction of how the world really does look to a guy Gilliam’s age.

Waltz goes to his bright cubicle, where he pedal-powers his computer and rapidly moves things around. Convinced he’s dying, he goes before the world’s most lunatic HMO, and they tell him that even though his hair has fallen out, that’s normal and he’s fine. Of course they give him drugs – a vial of red liquid.

I have very little idea where the story will go from here, and I love it.

And I feel almost uncharitable now describing my initial play-by-play thoughts of the panel…but in the interests of full disclosure:

Gilliam is still finishing the movie, but has sent a video in which he rants like he’s a desperately imprisoned man about how you must not believe the so-called producers if they tell us that the movie contains spaceships and explosions and robots – he’s tired of those and superheroes, and he hopes the NSA is listening – anyway, he shows us the trailer that leaked online a while back, which tells me that he ISN’T tired of weird future worlds that look like live-action anime meets Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

This movie has a great cast: Christoph Waltz, David Thewlis, Ben Whishaw, Matt Damon…but none of them is here, and none of these people onstage are great at public speaking. Can we please see another clip?

No? Okay, fan questions. And when nobody steps up, we get an “Anyone? Bueller?” joke. Yes, that is how panels go when no actors are on them. At this point, I’d take Chris Hardwick saying, “Come forth!”

No fans do come forth. Holy crap, this is an undeserving whimper of a panel.

Interesting trivia: Amy says her mother thinks every Gilliam film is the same story.

Finally, a question: how will this be different from 12 Monkeys and Brazil?

Zanuck: “Those are great films in their own right. And so is this one.” Great answer. NOT! (Hey, I was trying to equal the Bueller joke for datedness).

Question 2: How does this reflect the notion of the universe being personally out to get you? Foreman: “Maybe just being in Bucharest, I dunno. Haha. Movie-making is that.” Jeebus. And that was the funniest line on this panel so far.

Last question: Gilliam said in a recent interview that he likes lots of questions with no answers, but trailer looks like it has answers. Can they explain that? Foreman: “I think he just wanted to throw you off.” Go away.

wait, WHAT? You’re going to show us the first ten minutes of the movie?

I am so, SOOOO sorry.

You are all awesome.