26 October 2005

Another Richard Matheson Mistreatment On The Horizon?

Hey guys, it's Donnie...Richard Matheson is a brilliant writer. Just about everything that he's written has a fantastically awesome premise. Unfortunately, Hollywood has never really been able to take any of these great premises and do anything great with them. The best translations of his work are probably the short stories that became episodes of The Twilight Zone, including the infamous episode with Shatner on a plane and a guy chillin outside on the wing.

What Dreams May Come and Stir Of Echoes were both based on his novels, and neither one really lived up to its potential. Mark Protosevich's adaptation of I Am Legend remains one of the greatest unproduced scripts in Hollywood. (Along with David Hayter's script for Watchmen, written by Alan Moore, the other most abused source-writer in Hollywood.) Matheson's story The Box is in the pipeline for Eli Roth (God, this guy's everywhere...) and Richard Kelly, but they've each got big projects to finish before that.

And so when I read this morning that Countdown, another Matheson story, has just been acquired by Manderlay Pictures and Summit Entertainment, I have to take it with a few grains of salt. As expected, the set-up is great: A crew of astronauts land on a mysterious planet to discover their own corpses in a crashed duplicate of their own ship. Realizing they're trapped in a temporal loop, they have to figure out a way to break the chain of causality before they die again. Oh yeah, and I'm pretty sure there are some aliens involved too. Sounds pretty much like it can't miss right?

Well the screenplay is being rewritten by Michael Brandt and Derek Haas, the intellectual giants who were previously responsible for the turd that was 2 Fast 2 Furious. Now, granted they were writing a sequel, and a highly marketed one at that, so I'm almost willing to admit that they probably had a studio breathing down their neck and very little wiggle room as far as what they wanted to write vs. what the studio wanted the movie to be. I'm certainly not willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, but I am willing to concede that they've got five original projects currently in some stage of development, and that those may be a better indicator of their writing talent than The Automobile Adventures Of Paul Walker.

It's almost inconsequential anyway. My guess is that a project of this nature will probably attract a fairly skilled director, and probably the type of director that will want to do his own re-writes. The director is really what is going to make or break this movie, so until we get word on that, everything else is just speculation. But there's certainly potential for greatness here. Unfortunately, there's also potential for suck.


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