Weekly Ketchup

Weekly Ketchup: Flash Gordon, Highlander Remakes Announced

Plus new projects for Gwyneth Paltrow and Narnia's Ben Barnes

by | May 23, 2008 | Comments


With Iron Man showing that a movie can prominently feature a man being propelled into the heavens on a rocket, and make a bajillion dollars, it’s apparently okay again to show a man inside a rocket being propelled into the heavens as well. As the winners of a studio bidding war, Sony Pictures announced this week their plans to revive Flash Gordon as a feature film franchise, bringing back the football star who travels to the planet Mongo, and helps a variety of exotic races fight against the evil Ming the Merciless. Flash Gordon started off in the 1930s as the star of comic strips and a series of extremely popular serials (basically a movie broken up into parts, shown before other movies back then), and was then being remade as a flamboyantly campy Queen-soundtrack-driven adventure (and box office flop) in 1980.

This time around, Breck Eisner (director of Sahara; and son of Disney’s famous former boss), who is also remaking The Creature from the Black Lagoon and George A. Romero’s The Crazies, has been given the enviable challenge of bringing Flash’s fantastic adventures to life. I’m not terribly excited by just how rampant the current remake trend is becoming, but Flash Gordon is definitely a pretty awesome candidate, I think. More interesting than Flash himself, I think, is the prospect of seeing Ming the Merciless return as a movie icon. Absence from popular culture for 25+ years has hurt his legacy a bit, but Ming easily deserves a place on any top 10 list of the most classic movie villains ever. “Pathetic Earthlings!”


Hollywood’s junkie-like addiction to raiding its back catalogue for remake material continues this week with a really great fantasy sword-and-sorcery adventure which inspired several sequels, and more than one TV show: Highlander. In the original, Sean Connery and Christopher Lambert starred as immortals locked in a centuries-long struggle against others of their kind who seek to kill them off. This time around, the project’s new producers are promising a more “romantic” Highlander that will stress Connor MacLeod’s love for a non-immortal woman, with a script to be written by the writers of Iron Man (Art Marcum and Matt Holloway). This project, then, proposes the question I bet you didn’t think you’d have to ask yourself today: who is the 21st century equivalent of Christopher Lambert?


Discussing candidates for remakes, the studio chiefs at MGM revealed this week that they have their eyes on Robocop (which we already knew about a few weeks back) and from a somewhat similar 1980s-centric political vein, Red Dawn. Yes, the Patrick Swayze-starring movie about high school kids who take to the hills during a Russian/Cuban invasion of the United States, becoming rather successful guerrila rebel fighters. Directed by John Milius (the Conan movies, and writer of Apocalypse Now), Red Dawn is a movie that people either passionately LOVE, or find rather hilariously bad, I think. I’m actually in the first camp, but I’m also a big fan of “alternative history”, so my mind goes all kind of theorizing at any movie that depicts a different path like Red Dawn does (so, yes, I’m that one person who actually saw White Man’s Burden). The big question for this remake has got to be who they would paint as the big bad invaders this time? Theoretically, I guess it *could* be Russia and Cuba again, but you’ve got to think that “they” would probably either go for an Asian threat (China or Korea?), or probably the most predictable choice, post 9/11, and some sort of Middle Eastern and/or Islamic threat. The logic-challenging problem there though is… can “terrorists” credibly be portrayed as an invading force?


DreamWorks has hired screenwriter David Franzoni (Amistad, King Arthur) to bring his history-friendly talents to bear on Blackbeard, about the real-life early 18th century English pirate, Edward Teach. This isn’t the first time a historical pirate’s life story has been considered in recent post-PotC years; projects about Captain Kidd and the pirates of Tripoli are now gathering plenty of dust somewhere in development desks. Blackbeard probably has an edge, however, as he was particularly flamboyant (adorning his beard with rope and lit matches!), and probably contributed a great deal to the things we stereotypically think of as being part of pirate lore. I say “probably” because I’m (honestly) not really that into the pirate genre, and I’m sort of just basing this on what I know of (gasp) actual maritime history and stuff I found on Wikipedia. Apparently, though, for people who are really into the whole pirate thing, Blackbeard’s a big deal, so… here they go. Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum, and all… that.


Columbia Pictures has hired Danish documentary filmmaker Asger Leth to make his dramatic debut with Olympia, a romance-heavy ancient war movie set during the original Olympics, as war wages between Greek rival city-states Athens and Sparta, from a script by Robert Rodat (Saving Private Ryan, The Patriot). Given the average speed that film development and production usually goes, I’ve got to think that Sony’s target here is probably sometime in 2011 or 2012, so that the movie can properly tie into the 2012 games in London? They’re probably also inspired by the success of 300, of course. Before that movie, who knew moviegoers would love Spartans so?


With 15 years now passed since the tragic events there, the government siege of David Koresh’s Branch Dividian compound outside Waco, Texas is now becoming the subject of a feature film, to be directed by Rupert Wainwright (Stigmata, the remake of The Fog). I’m sure this project has probably been in the works for years (considering that one of the co-producers is the director of the 1997 documentary, Waco: The Rules of Engagement), but it’s always interesting to me when projects like this are announced just as something similar is going on in the world (in this case, the Texas raid of that polygamist compound). Who knows what bizarre movie project would be revealed as having been in the works for a while, if any given random thing made the news?


Little-known British actor Ben Barnes, currently starring as Prince Caspian in the latest Narnia movie, has been cast as the lead in a new feature film adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, as a man who keeps a magical painting upon which all of his aging goes, keeping his real body perpetually awesome looking. Oliver Parker, who also directed the most recent movie versions of Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest, is aiming to start filming in July, on this project which will delve into “dark horror”, as it analyzes the subject of fame, and what one will do to keep up appearances.


Frequently inspiring movies loosely based on it, William Shakespeare’s King Lear is apparently due for another proper film adaptation, with Sir Anthony Hopkins (Lear), Gwyneth Paltrow (Regan) and Kiera Knightley (Cordelia) being announced this week as having been cast as 3/4 of the play’s lead characters. King Lear, which tells the bloody tale of what happens when the elderly King of England’s three daughters fight amongst themselves over who will benefit when their father dies. Although the director hasn’t been announced yet, this British production reportedly has a budget of $35 million, which will be used to include “epic” battle scenes to support the Bard’s notoriously grim and cruel dialogue. I’m maybe a bit surprised this isn’t being announced as Kenneth Branagh’s next Shakespeare production, but perhaps he is just waiting until he can properly age into the role.


In addition to their various projects that star members of The Avengers, Marvel Studios announced this week plans to produce a feature film adapation of Runaways, a 2004 series created by Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, and part of the Lost writing team), about a group of fugitive teenagers whose parents are super-villains, and who must come to terms with their own super-powers, and place in the world. The great thing about Runaways was that it managed to be a creative idea at a time in an industry where most of the original stuff seemed to have already been done, and most writers have a tendency to “pay homage” to other titles far, far too often. Brian K. Vaughan will adapt his own screenplay, and there is no word yet about a director, etc., so this project will probably not be added to Marvel’s actual production calendar until after the Avengers projects (possibly aiming for 2012 or so?).


In other prison movie news, the Warner Bros project called Super Max, which will star DC Comics’ Green Arrow, received a script review at Latino Review this week, which revealed something we had not previously known, which is what DC super-villains will be joining archer Oliver Queen in the big house. I’ve been a fairly consistent reader of various DC Comics titles over the years, and even I have to say, that I am only familiar with about half of the villains, so writer Justin Marks definitely felt comfortable not being forced to only use villains with “marquee” value (although a few of those, which I won’t spoil here, are definitely included as cameo appearances).

Among those that comics fans might know (versus having to look up on Wikipedia) are The Calculator (prominent in the excellent Identity Crisis storyline), Blockbuster (one of Nightwing’s main baddies), Tattooed Man (a Green Lantern foe) and Pied Piper, a member of the Flash’s Rogues’ Gallery. I think I’m seeing a trend, actually, as it appears that each of these villains correllates to a different prominent DC superhero. There’s obviously some overlap, but I definitely think that might be intended, which is sort of cool. Meanwhile, in the years it takes this movie to get made, you can join me in trying to learn exactly who such obscure DC villains as Cascade, Multiplex and Shock Trauma are. As a footnote, let me say I’m totally behind the idea of superhero movies being more about an actual story than having to be “about” whatever hero or heroes star in the story, which Super Max seems to be a perfect example of. Green Arrow is a character in the story, rather than the subject of the story.

In other prison movie news, director Frank Darabont (The Mist), whose most popular movies include The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, announced this week plans to return to jail with Law Abiding Citizen, although this time, he won’t have the benefit of source material written by Stephen King. From a script by Kurt Wimmer (Equilibrium), the film tells the story of a criminal mastermind who is able to control an entire city from the comfort of his prison cell, with Gerard Butler having already signed on to play the district attorney attempting to bring him down.

You can contact Greg Dean Schmitz via a message at the RT Forums, the thread there devoted to him, or his MySpace page.