Monday, March 7, 2011

Tom Cruise, Guillermo del Toro, and H.P. Lovecraft: Cosmic Horror on Ice

    If you had told me ten years ago that James Cameron was going to produce a movie by the guy who made Mimic, starring Tom Cruise, based on one of my very favorite stories by one of my very favorite writers, I’d have laughed in your face.  That would be like the director of Bad Taste winning an Oscar; just unbelievable.  Yet, that very thing seems to be in the works.  Perhaps the stars are right, and the Old Ones are returning after all.

    I’m not a fan of Tom Cruise.  OK, there.  I said it.  I didn’t care for him as a young pretty boy, as a slightly older handsome man, or as a middle aged crazy dude.  There are a few exceptions, but most of his performances are one-note, and not a note I like to hear.  But once in a while there is that one movie that works.  Eyes Wide Shut, Tropic Thunder, and Collateral for examples.  And, in spite of his recent public madness and religious zealotry, he’s still a name people know.  And at least his madness hasn’t involved drunken anti-Semitism yet, so he’s got one up on some other train-wreck celebrities. 

    James Cameron has always been a good money man.  Like George Lucas, he’s better at producing than he is at writing or directing, so having him in that seat for this film doesn’t phase me one way or another, unless he pushes to have it made in 3D, which I’m sorry, is just lame.  3D should be reserved for ridiculous, campy films like Drive Angry or Step Up 3D, where that sort of shenanigan is acceptable. 

60 years later, still a lame gimmick.
    H.P. Lovecraft is pretty much the creator of modern horror as we know it.  Clive Barker, Stephen King, Robert Block, Ramsey Campbell, and hundreds of other authors are direct descendents of Lovecraft’s body of work.  For a man fairly obsessed with the past, he kind of invented the future for writers of weird fiction.  And his story, At the Mountains of Madness is one of his most epic, and wonderfully revealing.  It’s not the story I would have expected to be the first to get a major Hollywood production, though.  The Shadow Over Innsmouth is the more obvious choice, as it’s action heavy and would probably translate fairly well to an hour and a half feature film with plenty of what viewers want.  Still, Madness is a great story, so I love the idea of it being brought to a larger audience through film, and for Lovecraft in general to get a little more recognition. 

    The wild card in this venture for me is del Toro.  Six years ago, I’d have called him one of the most exciting modern directors, alongside David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, and Peter Jackson.  Unfortunately, like those three, del Toro has spent the last several years hurting his image in my eyes.  I know everyone loved Pan’s Labyrinth.  But I didn’t.  There are some great elements, but much of what I liked about the film was lost among the things that upon reflection I disliked.  My overall feeling toward the film now is quite negative.  Then Hellboy 2 became one of the most painfully disappointing film experiences of my life.  I came out of the theater feeling shell shocked.  Everything I loved about the first film had been torn away to make room for a great looking bit of annoying gibberish that bore little resemblance to the comic that inspired it, and with inane Danny Elfman music accompanying my path to disillusionment.  Then two years wasted on a Hobbit production I hardly care about at all.  Ugh. 

    And del Toro has danced around this project for so long, I'd kind of given up hope he would actually do it.  Now that it’s happening, and Tom Cruise of all people has been attached to it, I’m less than thrilled.  Does del Toro really get Lovecraft?  Can Cruise put his ego and madness aside long enough to do his job (act)?  Will Cameron demand a PG-13 rating, 3D technology, or horror of horrors, a go at the script? 

    Who can say?  I can’t.  I love the idea of Lovecraft getting a big screen adaptation and the attention of generations of new readers that will bring.  If nothing else good comes out of this project, I’ll be happy with that.  But what if the movie is good?  What if the project is successful?  Nyarlathotep knows I’d be shaking with excitement like a shoggoth at a Wal-Mart 2 for 1 sale, if the movie turned out well.  Only time will tell.  But maybe, just maybe the stars are finally right. 


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