“One thing I am drawn to unconsciously is the hero myth,” says director George Miller.
Looking over his resumé it’s easy to see what he means. His creations, like Mad Max, who ruled a dystopian Australian landscape from the driver’s seat of a Ford Falcon XB Coupe and Babe, the king of the barnyard, are agents of change in their own worlds.
In his new film, Happy Feet Two, the follow up to the Oscar winning dancing penguin musical of 2006, you’ll have to look closely to see his heroes, because they are the smallest creatures in the movie.
They are Bill and Will (Matt Damon and Brad Pitt), two bug-eyed characters who can only be described as existential shrimps. Actually, they’re krill – a minute marine crustacean.
“Happy Feet Two is not a saga,” he says. “It’s not the hero myth, except from the point of Will the Krill. From his point of view the world is epic because they are so tiny. He goes off on a classic hero myth, going out, looking into the unknown, confronting great dangers and bringing a boon back to his world.
“Because the film takes place in a truncated time period it was important to make it epic from some point of view. From the krill’s point of view it’s a very big world — universe — out there. We saw them like space explorers wanting to go out beyond their world.”
The krill may leave their flock — the “krillions” of krill they live with — to go on a journey, but Miller says the point of the story has more to do with family than heroes.
“They begin by being torn apart in some way,” he says, “and it is only in the coming together that they are able to solve the problem.”
For Miller, Happy Feet Two was a bit of a family affair, but not intentionally. He says he turned to his daughter to write the lyrics of the show-stopping tune Eric’s Opera because he was desperate.
“We had three very well-known writers who have written musicals in Australia to try and write some lyrics and it just wasn’t working,” he says. “It was over elaborate so I called her and said, ‘Can we just sit down together and work through it.’ In two hours she had it, but it was more out of desperation than wanting specifically to work with my daughter.”