Weekly Ketchup: The Story of Kong Before He Was King

Plus, some juicy pairs: two video game adaptations, two children's book films, and two remakes.

This Week's Ketchup sees an unusual number of pairs: two remakes, two prequels to beloved sci-fi movies, two movies based on recent video games and two movies based on 1971 children's books with environmental themes.


#1 KONG GETS A PREQUEL AS THE KING OF SKULL ISLAND

A production company called Spirit Pictures, which appears to have a connection to groundbreaking early special effects guru Ray Harryhausen, has picked up the rights to the novel Kong: King of Skull Island, by Joe DeVito and Brad Strickland. Published in 2004 (timed to match the release of Peter Jackson's remake), Kong: King of Skull Island is a prequel that tells the backstory of Skull Island before Carl Denham and his movie crew arrived there, including how Kong became King. The story also features other giant gorillas and dinosaurs not seen in other tellings of Kong's story. The rights were brokered through the estate of the family of Merian C. Cooper (the original 1933 film's cowriter and codirector), which owns the rights to King Kong, and also authorized the book itself. Spirit is expecting to produce Kong: King of Skull Island using motion capture technology as seen in movies like Beowulf and The Polar Express. Spirit is also developing a movie called War Eagles, an adventure story about a pilot who crashes in Antarctica and discovers a lost civilization, which was a project Harryhausen had been working on in the 1930s until World War II intervened. No director for Kong: King of Skull Island has been announced yet, and the scripts for both Kong and War Eagles are being written by Andy Briggs, a screenwriter with several scripts under his belt but nothing yet produced.


#2 RIDLEY SCOTT RETURNS TO THE ALIEN MOTHERSHIP

20th Century Fox's plans to produce a prequel to Alien has been teetering on the Rotten Idea of the Week edge, but the news that the studio has hired franchise cocreator Ridley Scott to return might just be enough to give the project the benefit of the doubt. Fox has hired a screenwriter named Jon Spaihts, whose filmography includes such yet-to-be-produced titles like The Darkest Hour, Children of Mars, Shadow 19, St. George and the Dragon and Passengers, which was #3 on 2007's Black List of highly reviewed unproduced screenplays. Spaihts has gotten a lot of other work based on the strength of Passengers, as evidenced by his involvement in this Alien prequel. No details are known as yet about what Spaihts might do with the concept, but one could guess based on where that movie started. Might this prequel explain what happened to the dead alien whose spaceship the crew of the Nostromo explore, leading them to be infested by the Alien facehugger?


#3 THE LORAX FOLLOWS THE GRINCH, THE CAT IN THE HAT, AND HORTON TO THE BIG SCREEN

Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment are teaming up to bring yet another classic Dr. Seuss to the big screen, and this time, it's 1971's The Lorax. The Lorax is the second of a three picture deal Illumination has with Universal, with the first being the Easter Bunny-themed I Hop, starring Russell Brand. The Lorax will be a 3D CGI feature, and is already scheduled for a March 2, 2012 release, which marks Dr. Seuss' 108th birthday. The Lorax is arguably Dr. Seuss' attempt to address environmentalism (a very hot issue in 1971, as it is again today), as The Lorax is a furry little creature attempting to stop the Once-ler from chopping down all of the Truffula trees to knit himself a Thneed, a ridiculous looking garment which he insists everyone needs. The writing team of Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio (Horton Hears a Who!, Bubble Boy) are adapting the screenplay (they're also writing I Hop), and will make their directorial debuts with The Lorax.


#4 THIS WEEK IN VIDEO GAME ADAPTATIONS: DEAD SPACE AND INFAMOUS

This week, two recent hit video games joined the dozens of other titles that are being developed as movies: Dead Space and Infamous. First, there is the Doom-like outer space-set survival horror game, Dead Space, which Electronic Arts has hired D.J. Caruso (Disturbia, Eagle Eye) to direct, with the game publisher still talking to prospective screenwriters. Once a writer is found, EA then expects to auction off the property to studios, possibly in September. In Dead Space, a 26th century engineer responds to a distress call from a mining vessel infested with necromorphs, which are human corpses reanimated by an alien virus. Next up is Infamous (or inFAMOUS, if you want to use the game's exact title), for which Sony has paid screenwriter Sheldon Turner (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, The Longest Yard) a massive seven figure deal to adapt. Avi Arad, formerly of Marvel, is also producing, along with his son Ari Arad. Infamous is the story of a bike messenger who gets caught in a New York City explosion that gives him electricity-based super powers.


#5 THE SECRET OF NIMH TO GET A REMAKE CLEVERLY CONCEALED WITH A MUCH LONGER TITLE

Paramount Pictures is in talks with director Neil Burger (The Illusionist, The Lucky Ones) to develop an adaptation of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, which most of us know better as the source material for the 1982 animated movie, The Secret of NIMH. Written by Robert C. O'Brien, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH is the story of a widowed field mouse who recruits the help of a group of escaped lab rats to save her home from imminent destruction by way of a local farmer's plow. Like The Lorax, O'Brien's book was published in 1971, and can also be seen as a enviornmental treatise disguised as a children's book; a year later, another such book, Watership Down, was published with a similar concept, only this time with bunnies. It's not yet known if this latest version of NIMH will be animated, live action, or a combination of both. Neil Burger's previous films don't suggest an expertise with children's stories, so it appears quite possible that Burger's take on NIMH will be more serious, as Watership Down was.


#6 (500) DAYS OF JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR

Universal Pictures is in talks with director Marc Webb ( (500) Days of Summer) about taking on a remake of the 1973 rock musical Jesus Christ Superstar, which was of course based upon Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1971 Broadway hit. Last year, Universal scored a $600 million global hit with the similarly-1970s themed ABBA musical Mamma Mia!, so it is not surprising that they are looking for another movie musical with catchy tunes and plenty of ensemble numbers. (500) Days of Summer does also sport a musical sequence (Hall & Oates' "You Make My Dreams"), and in general has a quirky, visual style that would seem to suggest Webb, who has reportedly "long had an affinity for," could indeed turn out a pretty cool musical. Jesus Christ Superstar is the story of the final weeks of Jesus' life, as his conflicts with Judas Iscariot come to a head, and it was also a social parable, using the hippies of the early 1970s as a visual setting for Jesus and his followers. Today, however, there isn't really anything quite like that, so the question is whether Webb would make another "hippie movie" or set his Jesus Christ Superstar in the early 2010s, complete with IPods, Twitter and trendy 20-somethings singing along to the Smiths. Hey, maybe Jesus IS the "light that never goes out."


#7 CAPTAIN BLOOD REMAKE CHANGES HIM FROM A PIRATE IN THE CARIBBEAN TO A PIRATE... IN SPACE?

Warner Bros has hired the Spierig Brothers directing team, Michael and Peter (2003's Undead, next year's Daybreakers) to take on an unusual remake of the classic 1935 Errol Flynn pirate movie, Captain Blood, which was inspired by the novel by Rafael Sabatini. To be written by John Brownlow (Sylvia), this new Captain Blood will change the setting from the 17th century to... outer space. You know, just like Ice Pirates. The original script by Brownlow was in fact set in the original setting, but when the Spierig's read the draft, they came up with the idea of going in and pitching it instead as a space adventure, and this innovation is what got them the job. Despite "the radical period and venue switch," the story of Captain Blood will reportedly still stay quite loyal to the source material, telling the story of a doctor, Peter Blood, who joins up with a French pirate, only to clash with the buccaneer when he captures the woman that the doctor loves. Right now, I'm just curious about whether the space pirate will still be French. This is not the first time in recent memory that Warner Bros announced a project that takes a classic story and sets it in space: the studio is developing a similar project based on Homer's The Odyssey.


#8 RON HOWARD JUMPS ON THE ROBERT LUDLUM BANDWAGON WITH THE PARSIFAL MOSAIC

With nearly every week seeing a new project that name checks the Bourne franchise, it's no surprise that many other books written by Robert Ludlum are also being developed (despite the fact that the Bourne movies were actually not that particularly faithful to Ludlum's books). The latest example is The Parsifal Mosaic, which Universal Pictures has attached Ron Howard (The Da Vinci Code, How the Grinch Stole Christmas) to direct, from a script by David Self (Thirteen Days, Road to Perdition; he's also working on the Robocop remake). The Parsifal Mosaic, published in 1982, was a spy novel about a CIA agent who believes he has witnessed the execution of his lover following her recent uncovering as a double agent for both the CIA and KGB. Considering it's now nearly 30 years later, it's anyone's guess what the story might be about now. Perhaps it'll be a tale of corporate intrigue about a woman revealed to contract as a data engineer for both Yahoo! and Google, or a barrista who works for both Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts. Universal is also developing a fourth Bourne film and an adaptation of Ludlum's The Sigma Protocol, and MGM is in pre-production on Ludlum's The Matarese Circle, to be directed by David Cronenberg.


#9 RUSSELL CROWE FINDS OUT WHAT HE'S GOING TO DO FOR THE NEXT THREE DAYS

Lionsgate has cast Russell Crowe to star in The Next Three Days, the movie that reunites the studio with the director, Paul Haggis, that gave them their first Best Picture Oscar winner with 2004's Crash. The Next Three Days, an English language remake of the 2008 French film Pour Elle, is the story of a high school teacher (Crowe) whose wife is arrested for a murder she claims she did not commit, and so he comes up with a desperate plan to rescue her. Of the story, Haggis said, "the deeper theme here is, would you save the woman you loved if you knew that by doing so, you would turn into a man that woman could no longer love?" The Next Three Days will be Haggis' third film as director, working from his own script, with filming scheduled to start in Philadelphia in late September, 2009. Next up, no doubt, is the casting of the actress who will play Crowe's wife.


#10 ZAC EFRON TO GET ALL EMO, HANGING OUT IN A CEMETERY, AS CHARLIE ST. CLOUD

High School Musical star Zac Efron reportedly bailed out of the Footloose remake because he wanted to find a new movie identity. Efron's latest project suggests an interest in following the career track of Johnny Depp (who also got his start as a TV teen-friendly heartthrob), as Charlie St. Cloud has a plot that sounds like an old school Tim Burton project. Formerly titled The Life and Death of Charlie St. Cloud, the movie tells the story of a cemetery caretaker (Efron) who regularly talks to his dead brother whose death he blames on himself, and who meets a young woman (Amanda Crew from The Haunting in Connecticut) who he soon realizes may be a ghost on her way to the afterlife. Universal Pictures is producing the supernatural romance, which will be directed by Burr Steers (Igby Goes Down), who also worked with Efron on this spring's 17 Again. Filming starts in Vancouver next week.


ROTTEN IDEA OF THE WEEK: JERRY BRUCKHEIMER DECLARES WORLD WAR ROBOT

Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer used to be nearly synonymous, working together on a string of five huge movies that included The Rock, Armageddon and Pearl Harbor. And then, they went their own ways, apparently, and Michael Bay's last two movies have seen him working with giant imaginary robots in the Transformers series. So, what does Jerry Bruckheimer do, hoping to get some of that hot Michael Bay mojo back in his filmography? He, of course, has obtained the rights to World War Robot, a 2008 IDW comic book with just 48 pages. World War Robot should also not be confused with World War Z, the zombie apocalypse adaptation that Brad Pitt is producing for Paramount. World War Robot tells the stories of bands of humans and robots as they wage battle with each other on the Earth, the Moon and Mars. The comic is very obscure, but IDW excels at selling their comic properties to Hollywood producers, regardless of whether many actual fans have ever read them. And so, World War Robot gets tagged as the Rotten Idea of the Week, because it represents the trend in Hollywood of movies riding the coattails of perceived hipness that goes with being a "comic book property," regardless of whether there are any actual people out there that will support the movie. There are thousands of comic books out there, but that doesn't mean they should all become movies. And in fact, in recent years, many of these comic books are being produced almost solely for the purpose of being sold to Hollywood, sort of like storyboards that you buy from your local comic shop. If they bothered to order the comic.


For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS through his MySpace page or via a RT forum message.

Comments

cornelius fucklebutt

John Maus

Darn, was hoping the Captain Blood remake would be the rotten idea. Oh, well, Bruckheimer deserves it all the more.

Jul 31 - 05:23 PM

inactive user

Jared King

****. Why are "Dead Space" and "inFAMOUS" having their own film adaptions? Not that they're bad, they're good, it's that they're not the stuff that makes a movie. "Dead Space" will seem like a cheap "Alien" knockoff, and "inFAMOUS" has a paper thin lead character. Plus, why not do a classic game? I've said this before, I'll say it again, "Zelda" and "Metal Gear".

"The Lorax" seems like a good idea *sarcasm*, as is the "King Kong" prequel *sarcasm* and the "Captain Blood" remake *I drool with sarcasm don't I?*

Actually, everything here is a bad idea.

Jul 31 - 05:56 PM

John Mclane

Graham Robertson

would love to see a zelda movie, it seems weird that in this day in age where every book/ comic/ game publisher is tied to a major studio (and making movies of anything that sold more than 10 copies in its respective format) that Nintendo are not involved with anyone that I can see.

Aug 1 - 12:09 PM

vashfanatic

Martha Boatright

If they're calling it "Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH," that probably means they're going back to the book rather than simply remaking the animated movie.

The movie, by the way, added in all that unexplained stuff about magic, and the depressingly one-dimensional villain. I recently rewatched that movie without nostalgia goggles on and was boggled at how most of the plot threads were undeveloped and fizzled out to nothing. Its technical merits are astounding, but the story is pretty darn weak thanks to the added material. I'd love to see a movie that went back and was more faithful to the book.

Jul 31 - 06:50 PM

Chris B.

Chris Bellew

Well, if they absolutely must make a Dead Space movie, at least they hired a director I like in D.J. Caruso.

And the Alien news is good I suppose. I'd rather they hire Ridley Scott than some unknown newbie.

Jul 31 - 07:10 PM

Logan A.

Logan Alexander

Well, i suppose the news that R-Scott is coming back is good. Even if they somehow managed to make a semi-ok AVP movie, a bad Ridley Scott movie is WAYYYY better then a a good AVP movie.

Jul 31 - 07:21 PM

Gordon Franklin Terry Sr

Gordon Terry

How about Rob Zombie REMAKING THE KEEP with the Nazi's against Nazi-vampire/zombies in 1942 Transylvania? Or maybe Rob Zombie would make The Keep in a crusty trailer park and screw-it up. Maybe Michael Bay should "do" The Keep by F. Paul Wilson.

Jul 31 - 08:45 PM

Jack Waters

zachary leeman

Has anybody read the Kong: King of Skull Island book? Jackson's film was a masterpiece and the book sounds interesting.

BTW: I realize I'm prbably in the minority about King Kong, but I would like to know more about the book and if there are fans out there.

Jul 31 - 08:55 PM

ChrisCinephile

Christian Chavez

ya to rambo-killer#2

basically it tells the story aout Kong becomes King of the island and talks about the witchcraft and sorcerey Harrihausan was very detailed on his origins,so thats basically some of the story

Jul 31 - 10:14 PM

Jack Waters

zachary leeman

Thanks. I'm wondering if it is any good though. I've been looking for a new book to read next to The Strain since the new Bob Lee book doesn't hit shelves until december.

Aug 1 - 03:37 PM

Gordon Franklin Terry Sr

Gordon Terry

Another redundant King Kong movie? In Peter Jackson's movie it took 3 hours and 20 minutes to retell a story that had already been told twice . . . now a largly European-American cast and crew are going to make a movie about "black" people living on an island and messing-around with a giant ape. Hollywood is . . . Hollywood's Hollywood (it takes God-given artistic ideas and exploits them). The MAKING of KING KONG WOULD MAKE the better movie
The Making of King Kong: The Story Behind a Film Classic by Orville Goldner and George Turner
now we're talking!!!!!!! I'D LOVE TO SEE THAT (The Making of King Kong)!!!!!
And The Making of Psycho
Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho by Stephen Rebello (Paperback - Jan 1999) as a movie as well.

Jul 31 - 08:56 PM

Valmordas

Val Mordas

Actually the cartoon version The Secret of NiMH was rather dark in terms of a kid's movie. I never read the book so I cant comment on what plotlines were left out of the film, however I am interested to see how this goes. The Lorax
should be interesting to see how it works out as well, not sure if I'd like to see Jim Carey having anything to do with it, I'm not sure the source material was really meant to be funny.

Jul 31 - 09:06 PM

closetmovielvr

John Haughterton

Oh man...none of these movies seem interesting to me at all. I guess I'll be saving a lot of money.

Jul 31 - 09:41 PM

ChrisCinephile

Christian Chavez

ya to rambo-killer#2

basically it tells the story aout Kong becomes King of the island and talks about the witchcraft and sorcerey Harrihausan was very detailed on his origins,so thats basically some of the story

Jul 31 - 10:14 PM

Jack Waters

zachary leeman

Thanks. I'm wondering if it is any good though. I've been looking for a new book to read next to The Strain since the new Bob Lee book doesn't hit shelves until december.

Aug 1 - 03:37 PM

RamALamADingDong

That Guy

Ridley Scott coming back to his baby, and the movie that made him a household name, is probably the best sequel news in years. He wouldn't be on the movie if it didn't have potential. He won't let the idiot studio execs control too much like Alien 3 (though I still love the movie), or make a piece crap like Alien Resurrection, Alien vs Predator, and Aliens vs Predator: Requiem. With him on board the movie's level of anticipation went from "lets wait and see" to "more anticipated than The Dark Knight 2."

Jul 31 - 11:17 PM

John Mclane

Graham Robertson

we all know that ridleys only coming back because the buzz on internet for weeks after the prequel was announced was seriously negative. "omfg leave aliens alone" "I cant believe they are doing this to aliens!" etc etc. Fox will have paid him mega bucks to make sure this project doesnt fail

Aug 1 - 01:10 AM

Ben K.

Ben King

The King Kong prequel is definitely the worst idea of the week.And inFAMOUS gets a film adaption,it just came out

Aug 1 - 08:14 AM

inactive user

Jared King

Well, I don't know if "Kong" is the WORST idea, but it shouldn't be made.

Aug 1 - 08:41 AM

inactive user

Jared King

Well, I don't know if "Kong" is the WORST idea, but it shouldn't be made.

Aug 1 - 08:41 AM

underoath18

Mitch Jones

how do you choose just one rotten idea of the week? whenever i read this i feel like nearly all the ideas are rotten. this whole series should be called the rotten weekly ketchup and then pick one fresh idea at the end of the article as a nice surprise.

Aug 1 - 11:10 AM

John Mclane

Graham Robertson

would love to see a zelda movie, it seems weird that in this day in age where every book/ comic/ game publisher is tied to a major studio (and making movies of anything that sold more than 10 copies in its respective format) that Nintendo are not involved with anyone that I can see.

Aug 1 - 12:09 PM

dj Mark

Mark Marquis

I don't care who agrees or not, but I enjoyed the hell out of Jackson's Kong. I even enjoyed reading Weta's Natural History of Skull Island because it expanded the island as a rich, layered, and imaginative nightmare. THAT'S the book I'd prefer seeing made. I have no knowledge of the other publication.

Aug 1 - 12:38 PM

Jack Waters

zachary leeman

Thank god i'm not alone. There seem to be a lot of films I'm in the minority for liking. King Kong, The Passion of the Christ, Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Crystal Skull. just to name a few.

Aug 1 - 03:40 PM

Jack Waters

zachary leeman

Oh ****. My bad. I meant Indiana jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Wow, I guess I didn't like it as much as I thought.

Aug 1 - 03:43 PM

inactive user

Jared King

I like Indy 4 too.

Aug 1 - 09:43 PM

Jack Waters

zachary leeman

Nice. I thought it was a professionally done fun film. Most people act like it completely destroyed their memory of Indiana. Not for me.

Aug 2 - 08:57 AM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

Check out those reviews for G.I. Joe. I know it's still early, but I based on how people on here were talking about it I wouldn't have expected it to get 5 positive reviews in it's whole run much less 5 of the first 6. Just goes to show you jumping on the negative bandwagon isn't always the way to go. Sounds like it could be more Mummy than Van Helsing.

Aug 1 - 01:06 PM

trgdr777

C Ferguson

Well I read Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH and it's one of my favorite children's books. I never saw the film adaptation, but I'd probably still prefer the book if I had. Hopefully this version will stick as close as possible to the original.

All these video game adaptations are ridiculous. Most of the games they decide to adapt have relatively flimsy or in some cases nonexistent (*cough* Asteroids *cough*) stories. I can't believe I'm saying this, but at least Asteroids has been out for a long time. How many people in the general public are even familiar with Infamous? I seriously don't get it. Most of the story elements in these games are borrowed from other sources since video games are more about the gameplay than the story anyway. It will all seem like a cheap knockoff of stuff we've already seen before.

Also, I'm still really angry that people keep using comic books to pitch movie ideas. I'm not a comic fan or anything, but that just seems really cheap. It's not a comic book adaptation if you're just using the comic book medium to get a movie deal.

Aug 1 - 02:26 PM

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