When Great Movies Don’t Happen

Fanboy hearts everywhere were dashed recently when it was announced that Guillermo del Toro’s long-planned dream project, an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s epic novel At The Mountains Of Madness, would not be going ahead.

The idea of fanboy-made-good del Toro helming a big-budget R-rated sci-fi horror involving giant shape-shifting monsters in Antarctica is enough to tickle the fancy of even the most cynical movie-lover. As this incredibly indepth New Yorker piece demonstrates, del Toro had put A LOT of work into the project. And it seems that for now, it’s not happening.

Drew McWeeny (that name will never stop amusing me) wrote a pragmatic piece explaining the thinking behind this over at HitFix, but his writing critically lacks the rage this news caused me to feel. That rage soon turned to grief, and when that subsided, I started thinking about other dream pairings of director and material that never came to pass.

Back when the Peter Jackson-produced, Neill Blomkamp-directed videogame adaptation Halo fell apart, crests fell the world over. But had that not occurred, we most certainly would not have been gifted the modern classic that was Blomkamp’s District 9. Conversely, witnessing the dazzling creativity that went into District 9 only made the prospect of a Blomkamp-directed Halo movie all the more tantalising.

The Halo project is in other hands now; Blomkamp has stated outright that he’ll never go back to it, and his futuristic sci-fi flick Elysium is the upcoming film I am anticipating over all others. But to this day, I still can’t help imagining what his take on the Halo universe would be like, especially when you look at this short film he made to promote one of the videogames.

Before Zack Snyder got his hands on the property, Bournes Supremacy and Ultimatum director Paul Greengrass was developing an adaptation of seminal comic book Watchmen. I remain a defender of Snyder’s slickly faithful version, but it’s tempting to imagine what kind of gravitas the more politically-minded Greengrass would’ve brought to his version.

It’s important to remember though, sometimes it’s good when ambitious projects fall apart. Robert Zemeckis used to be my favourite director – this is the man behind the Back to the Future trilogy AND Who Framed Roger Rabbit. But with clinically detached films like The Polar Express and Beowulf, he’s been slowly disappearing down the CGI motion-capture rabbit hole. So I greeted news that his CGI Yellow Submarine project had fallen over with considerable glee. Now if this emperor would just put his clothes back on and make another live-action movie, I’ll be happy.

On a completely unrelated note, I recently got around to watching the newish Ben Stiller dramedy Greenberg, which unfortunately bypassed a cinematic release in this country. It was awesome. Stiller’s performance is pleasantly removed from his recent broad studio efforts, and recalls his stellar work in David O Russell’s underrated 1996 film Flirting With Disaster, which is very much worth renting.

Greenberg is directed by Noah Baumbach, the Wes Anderson collaborator (he co-wrote The Life Aquatic and Fantastic Mr. Fox) who garnered justly superlative notices for his 2005 film The Squid and the Whale. With Greenberg, Baumbach elicits Stiller’s best work in years while gently embracing the relaxedness of the “mumblecore” subgenre, typified by films like Baghead and Humpday. Mumblecore stalwarts Greta Gerwig (so charming as Natalie Portman’s friend in No Strings Attached) and Mark Duplass turn up, giving Stiller some wonderfully naturalistic performances to bounce off. In mellowing out a little, Stiller’s funnier than he’s been in years.