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|Written by Joe Lipsett|
|Thursday, 17 December 2009 00:00|
Fulfillment is a funny topic when it comes to films. When there's a project announced that I can hardly wait for, it's such an amazing feeling . . . until I realize just how long the wait between the announcement and the final project will be. In some cases, the wait could be years: delays, reshoots, studio bankruptcies, shelving until the star becomes famous, and direct to DVD all take their toll. In some cases, studios announce a film and then it simply disappears.
This phenomenon is called Development Hell, and it is here that some of the best, brightest, and most ambitious film proposals have been lost. So in honour of all the films we've waited forever for (Tintin, Chicago, Freddy vs. Jason, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the Star Wars prequels, Tron Legacy), here are six of my most anticipated films that will likely never be made:
A feature film based on the epic series of graphic novels by Neil Gaiman about a deposed Lord of Dreams named Morpheus who returns from 70 years of banishment to rebuild his dream kingdom. The series is filled with literary references and classical mythology and is considered a classic of the medium alongside Alan Moore's Watchmen. Unfortunately, attempts by Roger Avery to mount the production in 1996 never happened, and, with the critical and economic failure of Watchmen earlier this year, it seems doubtful a studio will roll the dice on what would be an ambitious and financially risky investment.
Verdict: A perfect candidate for cable miniseries on AMC, who have recently debuted The Prisoner and acquired the rights to The Walking Dead and Red Mars.
See Also: Preacher
2 Ender's Game
One of my favourite all-time novels concerns Earth's war with the Buggers, an insectoid alien race that almost wiped out the human race. The principal character is Ender Wiggin, a child genius who is sent to battle school to train in tactical simulations with other prodigies. Orson Scott Card's novel is considered too battle-oriented by some, and the themes of child abuse and depraved morality in the child-adult relationships can be difficult to read, but these are also the elements that would make a fascinating political allegory film in the same vein as Ron Moore's revamped Battlestar Galactica. The film was officially announced in 2002 and apparently began pre-production in 2007 after several directors came and went, although no casting, release or distribution information is available. Whether this one ever emerges is anyone's guess.
Verdict: I would love to see Ron Moore or JJ Abrams take on this kind of material; they both have the big-screen space opera experience.
3 Superman Returns 2
Admittedly I was not a huge fan of Bryan Singer's 2006 effort, although I didn't have the same issues that many others had (poor casting, wooden acting). My main concern -- aside from the suspension of disbelief that Brandon Routh and Kate Bosworth were older versions of Christopher Reeves and Margot Kidder -- was that it was an origin story wrapped in a sequel and neither really worked. When I walked out, I felt the same way I did about Guillermo Del Toro's Hellboy -- it was satisfactory but not great, and I was really excited to see the sequel. Hellboy II: The Golden Army has come and gone, but there's still no sign of Singer's follow up.
Verdict: Considering the film wasn't an epic disaster, and there's a lot of potential for the sequel (plus Routh, Bosworth and Spacey appear to have gone into career comas), the biggest issue would be a script worthy of filming and securing the costs for another pricey project. Talk of a "darker" direction akin to The Dark Knight seemed to build interest, but for now this is an unlikely project for the future.
See Also: Jurassic Park 4 (which more or less died on the vine with the death of series creator Michael Crichton earlier this year).
4 Unlimited Numbers of Videogame Adaptations
Given the rise in popularity of both videogame adaptations as well as superhero films, in recent years some of the videogame projects stuck in development hell are surprising. As the recent slate of board-game inspired films begins (Monopoly, Risk, Battleship, Clue and Ouija will soon be playing at a theatre near you!), it's surprising that some more established franchise-ready films have been shelved or placed on the backburner. Potential candidates include Duke Nukem, Prey, Fallout, Metroid and most recently Halo. Of all of these, the most likely in a group of longshots is Halo, which was originally conceived as a Peter Jackson-produced, Neill Blomkamp-directed project before 20th Century Fox pulled the plug after a series of expensive delays and a non-confidence motion in the director in 2007. Since then, however, Blomkamp went on to direct one of 2009's biggest financial and critical successes, District 9, which in part showcases some of the designs and techniques he had planned for Halo.
Verdict: Blomkamp has publicly declared he wouldn't reconsider returning to the project because it would be too difficult, and Microsoft's attempts to procure funding fell through. Unless there's some kind of miracle, we may need to be content with G.I. Joe.
Clive Barker's 1987 original, ultra-low budget tale of a reanimated man who seduces his sister-in-law into murder while avoiding detection by the otherworldly Cenobites is a horror classic. Doug Bradley's Pinhead entered the lexicon of horror before being diluted by direct-to-video sequels (see you soon, Saw franchise!), but the concept and characters remain ripe for reimagining. Enter Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo, the French duo responsible for Á L'intérieur (Inside) which managed the delicate feat of balancing emotion with some of the most brutal horror setpieces I've seen in years. These guys were the dream team to mount a new production . . . until it all fell apart. The 2007 project was slated for a September 2008 release date, but at this time Maury and Bustillo have left the project. It remains in limbo amid a sea of franchise remakes such as this year's Friday the 13th and next year's Nightmare on Elm Street.
Verdict: The film will likely get made, although whether or not they find a director who can do justice to the material or if it is simply remade as a PG-13 hackjob will determine whether this is a good or bad thing.
See Also: The scary number of recently announced horror remakes (some domestic, others foreign) including David Cronenberg's Scanners and The Fly, Stephen King's It, Sam Raimi's Evil Dead/Amy of Darkness, Joon-ho Bong's The Host, and Pascal Laugier's Martyrs.
6 Wonder Woman
This one feels like a personal attack. Despite the fact that I'm not an avid/rabid fan of the comic book, the inclusion of Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse) as director/screenwriter was enough to get me pumped, especially when a lot of talented actresses started getting thrown around (Sandra Bullock, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Monica Belluci, Jennifer Connelly, and Angel/Buffy vets Charisma Carpenter and Eliza Dushku). Then after years of working on the script, Joss announced that the project simply wasn't well received by Warner Brothers, and, just like that, the project was dead.
Verdict: Not unlike my Hellraiser fears, I don't doubt that this movie will eventually be made; it's more of a question of who will make it. If they decide to go B-List and dumb it down for the Ghost Rider/Fantastic Four crowd, it will likely only be a shadow of what it could have been.
See Also: 2007's Justice League adaptation, which may or may not have cast actors such as Adam Brody and Hayden Christensen and may or may not be filming in Australia. Speculation abounds . . .
Of course there are hundreds of projects, including those hot spec scripts that circle every year and then never seem to be developed. So what are your "most desired" projects that have been announced and never seen the light of day?