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Atlanta-shot Ben 10 live action sequel out: Alien Swarm

Photo credit: Jeremy Freeman

Photo credit: Jeremy Freeman

Atlanta is never mentioned in Cartoon Network’s latest live-action film “Ben 10: Alien Swarm,” but anyone who lives here will have no trouble picking out the skyline.

The characters ride sleek motorcycles up I-75/85, get chased by monsters through the Krog Street tunnel and beat back zombies at the former General Motors plant. The film was shot in metro Atlanta over five weeks earlier this year.

Beefed up state tax incentives have been drawing numerous films into Georgia the past year, including Sandra Bullock’s “The Blind Side,” and Woody Harrelson’s “Zombieland,” both recent box office successes.

“I chose Atlanta specifically,” said director Alex Winter, who film fans might know best as Bill in the “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” film two decades ago opposite Keanu Reeves. “I’m from St. Louis. I know Atlanta, been going there since I was a little kid. I wanted it to be an urban story. We wanted a winter environment and a cool skyline I hadn’t seen a trillion times. A lot of major cities have been overexposed.”

He especially liked Atlanta’s blend of old and new architecture and the variety of vistas and cool industrial spots such as Pullman Yard in Kirkwood. Plus, he couldn’t resist filming a car chase through the graffiti-filled Krog Street tunnel.

Then again, Winter admitted, it didn’t hurt that Cartoon Network was based here, too. Turner’s special effects specialists were right in town. “It was helpful for morale,” he said. “People got excited. These movies are hard to do. It’s helpful to have happy people around.”

Cartoon Network is riding the popularity of the “Ben 10″ animated series, plus a successful 2007 “Ben 10″ live-action film. And the series is not only big in the United States but overseas as well. (The network recently flew the cast to London for a red-carpet screening and will open the film in 166 countries over the next two weeks.)

This brisk 69-minute film, which debuts on the network Wednesday at 7 p.m., is a sequel but ages the characters from pre-teens to teenagers. While the first film targeted 6 to 9 year olds, this one is expected to draw 8 to 12 year olds.

This change allowed the characters to ride motorcycles and engage with adults and each other in a more mature manner. But don’t expect gore, particularly horrific zombies or anything more than mild romantic tension.

“I purposely created a story that wasn’t going to be too scary,” Winter said. “It’s not pretending to be ‘Spider-Man’ or ‘Dark Knight.’ ”

The film is slick, packed with special effects. The primary gimmick is Ben’s alien watch the Omnitrix, which allows him to morph into different creatures. “I put on that leather jacket and watch and felt like a kid in a candy store,” said Ryan Kelley, who plays Ben in his first lead movie role. (At age 23, he can still pass for 16 with the proper haircut.)

In the movie, Ben breaks from his crew of alien-battling buddies to help out a childhood friend Elena. The problem: her dad may have been involved in some alien technology that turns people into zombies. Ben’s uncle Max, played by veteran actor Barry Corbin, feels betrayed by Elena’s dad and tells Ben to back off.

Stuart Snyder, president of Turner’s animation division, said it’s too early to say if another sequel is coming, but he’s encouraged by the reaction so far to the film. A screening in Mexico City, he said, drew a whopping 15,000 people.

“This is our most successful global franchise,” he said.

Locations you might recognize in the film include:

- The Krog Street tunnel during a car chase

- The former General Moors assembly plant doubling as a Ship-It hub

- The Atlanta Life Building on Auburn Ave. as an abandoned city hall

- The Georgia Aquarium as headquarters for the Plumbers crew

- City Hall East as Max’s office

- Pullman Yard in Atlanta for an abandoned steel mill

- Main Street in Conyers for Bellwood’s main drag

Here’s the film trailer:

18 comments Add your comment

Tony

November 23rd, 2009
3:44 pm

Some concepts just were not meant to survive into puberty.

Stan

November 24th, 2009
7:47 am

I don’t really care where it’s filmed, just as long as it’s not being filmed while I’m on the roads trying to get somewhere.

Good Grief

November 24th, 2009
11:57 am

They need to stick to filming in large places like Los Angeles, New York and Seattle. I understand they have filmed here a little bit because it’s cheap, but we don’t need the extra traffic and hassles these film crews bring. Get out of our state!!!!

Krista

November 24th, 2009
12:26 pm

I agree, shouldn’t be filming here.

David Markson

November 24th, 2009
12:42 pm

Look folks, I like watching TV programs and movies, but I’m not a fan of it being filmed in my general area. They close down streets, block intersections, and all so they can save a buck at my expense? I think they should be forced to do their filming over in California where it’s properly regulated and setup for this kind of thing. Don’t come to my neighborhood because it has a “cheap feel” to it and expect me to be happy.

Stuart S.

November 24th, 2009
12:51 pm

Ya 2 weeks ago i was held up for 2 hours by one of these filming locations. At least warn us where you are before hand or just don’t do it and do what everyone else said and go somewhere else.

W

November 24th, 2009
1:59 pm

Yeah, stop filming!
Atlanta doesn’t need any extra tax revenue at all!

Send `em back from where they came from!

Karen

November 24th, 2009
3:09 pm

Tax revenue? They are filming here because it’s dirt cheap, hence hardly any tax revenue. I agree that the inconvenience outweighs the benefits. Sign me up for the “send ‘em back” bandwagon.

Jonathon

November 24th, 2009
8:08 pm

Wow! I thought I was the only one that was annoyed by the filming here.

JD

November 25th, 2009
7:31 pm

You people are idiots. These movies bring jobs and money here. And you’re bitching about traffic? Seen the unemployment numbers lately?

JC

November 25th, 2009
9:10 pm

Seriously…really!? Maybe most of the people on this talk thread need to move to Macon…you live in a city…oh wait, most of you probably live Outside the Perimeter and are wannabee Atlantan’s! Ungrateful people…

LBC

November 25th, 2009
10:12 pm

I’ve been an extra here instead of waiting in that unemployment line. I’m not getting paid though, so I should be in the unemployment line. I don’t see how shooting films here helps with unemployment other than making my wife yell at me for spending time doing that and not getting a job. I think they should pay extras, if everyone demanded it maybe they would. I did have a chance to talk to some of the crew and none of them are from the area, they film and then fly home to see their families. Still though one day I will be famous.

Mark

November 26th, 2009
12:38 am

Get rid of them. We don’t need ‘em, we don’t want ‘em. It’s just as bad as the lame rap videos they shoot around town.

Michael Smith

November 26th, 2009
9:59 am

I would prefer they don’t film here either but what can you do. Happy Turkey Day!

Len

November 27th, 2009
12:31 pm

Really? You people are complaining about being held up for a LITTLE bit longer than usual? Filming movies ANYWHERE other than Hollywood, CA has a positive affect on that location. You guys are big babies!

Dawgs09

November 27th, 2009
2:01 pm

I grew up around constant filming in Torrance, CA. Chips is something they filmed frequently there. I fail to see the positive effect it had to the non-star struck people who actually enjoy getting a glimpse of the actors. It brought in no money, no new jobs, and frankly is always a pain in the butt. I bet you’ve never had your street shut down for weeks. The only positive thing that has came from it, was when they paid me to use my house for 3 months and they put it me up in a hotel for a movie that came out about 3 years ago. I was paid well, came back to all new furniture, but I would not do it again. It wasn’t exciting and it was more than a pain if anything.

JP

November 28th, 2009
2:46 pm

Wow! I think that’s really cool! I wish I could have seen the stars. I’m a major fan of Ben 10 and CN.

GeorgiaRawks

December 2nd, 2009
10:12 pm

I knew it! I saw the Equity building in the background! My 5 yr old loved the movie! Casting was perfect! Lots of movies have been filmed here without any issue – I love seeing our city on the big screen and anyone who thinks the city doesn’t need money – ask Mrs. Franklin (or soon to be Mr. Reed). We’ll just raise property taxes instead, right?