Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Guillermo Del Toro and the “long-cherished” project

To the annoyance of H P Lovecraft nuts and Guillermo Del Toro fans (the intersection between the relevant Venn diagrams takes in most of the two sets and includes this writer) the Mexican director has confirmed that his “long-cherished” adaptation …

Wed, Mar 9, 2011, 17:36

   

To the annoyance of H P Lovecraft nuts and Guillermo Del Toro fans (the intersection between the relevant Venn diagrams takes in most of the two sets and includes this writer) the Mexican director has confirmed that his “long-cherished” adaptation of the mad author’s At the Mountains of Madness has, once again, been put on hold. I first discussed the project with Guillermo six years ago and, having met him twice since, now almost feel as if I’ve seen the blasted thing. It always sounded like a perfect match. The story follows a group of scientists who encounter a dead (or is it?) civilisation in the depths of the Antarctic. Disgusting and absurd in equal measure, it offered Del Toro, one of the best directors currently operating, every opportunity to exercise his most fantastic impulses. Indeed, the most annoying aspect of his baffling decision to get on board with The Hobbit was the fact that it would deprive viewers of seeing Mountains for another six years or so. The plan was to deliver two films, each very much in the style of Peter Jackson’s bewilderingly admired Lord of the Rings films.

As you will be aware, having wasted too much of his time in New Zealand, Del Toro eventually separated himself from the Tolkien adaptation. Now, finally we would get to see his masterwork. Not yet, I’m afraid. The great man has confirmed that Universal Pictures, wary of a potential R certificate, have now backed away from the epic horror project.

Should he persevere? I’m not so sure. The history of the “long-cherished” project is not altogether a happy one. The most notorious is, perhaps, Barry Levinson’s awful Toys. The director had been badgering away at the thing for years and, when it eventually arrived, it was an unprecedented atrocity. Some people like Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York, but, to this writer, the lengthily gestated epic looked overworked and overstuffed. Terry Gilliam’s attempts to make The Man Who Killed Don Quixote have nearly driven him insane.

Far too often, the “long-cherished” project, left too long in the sun, ends up curdling badly. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was in development for about 20 years. David Fincher’s eventual film was an absolute dud, while The Social Network, a less obviously commercial project, earned the director some of  the best reviews of his career. It is probably wise for film-makers to take the seventh “no” (or so) as a sign that he or she might be best advised to leave the project rotting in the long grass.

None of which is to suggest I won’t get excited if At The Mountains of Madness kicks back into gear.