There are few things that make us film fanatics as excited as when a favorite director announces their next project (except maybe casting announcements, stills, trailers, the actual theatrical release, and the subsequent Blu-ray cover art and extras unveiling). Ok, so I guess there’s a lot we get excited about, but that initial directorial announcement is so filled with possibility that it’s definitely one of the most memorable aspects of the whole production and release circuit. But let’s get real for a moment. Directors attach themselves to projects all the time, and more often than we’d care to admit, those projects never come to fruition. I’ve become a bit of a doubting Thomas over the past year (you could call it Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man Syndrome), so I’m not completely convinced a movie is happening until the director is behind the camera and shooting. And even then, things aren’t so certain.
While I was thrilled when Neil Blomkamp posted his concept art for a proposed Alien 5, I didn’t think it would actually happen. We’d been down this road before with too many other movies and concept art is just concept art. To my surprise, we lucked out and Blomkamp is officially onboard (though I feel that with any sudden movements, this could easily become another Halo situation). While we wait with baited breath for Blomkamp’s Alien to start shooting, let’s look back in remorse at the best movies never made.
10. Quentin Tarantino’s Less Than Zero
While this was nothing more than a rumor, the possibility of Tarantino remaking Brett Easton Ellis’ novel has floated around over the past few years. The rumor was substantiated by Ellis himself in a 2010 interview with Vice. Tarantino isn’t known for doing adaptations (Jackie Brown being the exception) and with his alleged retirement after three more films, it’s no surprise this didn’t come to fruition. Still, one can’t help but wonder what Tarantino’s unique voice would have added to the California-set, existential tale of wealthy, young adults and their near complete dissatisfaction and dehumanization in all things concerning life. While Tarantino would have obviously taken liberties with the source material, it would have likely gotten closer to the conceit of Ellis’s novel than the 1987 Brat Pack version.
9. James Cameron’s Battle Angel
James Cameron’s plans for Battle Angel, based off the manga series by Yukito Kishiro, have been tossed around since the 90s. Before I was familiar with Cameron’s work outside of Aliens, I knew him as the guy who was making the awesomely titled, Battle Angel. While I’m unfamiliar with the source material, the central premise, involving a female cyborg’s quest to restore her memories by becoming a bounty hunter, sounds right up Cameron’s alley. Cameron postponed his work on the film so that CGI and 3D technology could catch up to his vision. Once it did, he decided to make Avatar instead, and it seems like he’ll be in the world of Pandora for the foreseeable future.
8. David Fincher’s Black Hole
David Fincher has developed quite a reputation for attaching his name to projects that never see the light of day. Due to studio pressures or disinterest we’ll likely never get Fincher’s Cleopatra, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Torso, Steve Jobs film, or the final two adaptations of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy. Perhaps most regrettably we’ll never get Fincher’s Black Hole. In 2008 David Fincher attached himself to an adaptation of Charles Burns’ graphic novel about a group of Seattle high-schoolers in the 1970s who contract a sexual disease that gives way to disturbing mutations. The story was notably different from the kind of work Fincher was known for, but as a follow-up to Benjamin Button, it seemed Fincher was looking to explore the fantastic side of things. He delayed the film to direct The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Trilogy. In 2013, Fincher attached himself to the project again, but opted to make Gone Girl. Now he’s off to direct the HBO series Utopia, followed by Strangers on a Plane, while Black Hole languishes in development hell.
7. Nicholas Winding Refn’s Logan’s Run
How interesting would it be if the director of Drive made a science-fiction movie about a society that prevents overpopulation by forcing people to kill themselves at age 30? And wouldn’t it be great if I told you that Ryan Gosling and Rose Byrne were going to be the leads? Unfortunately we’ll never get see what would have surely been an expertly framed, mental trip into a dystopian future. Refn’s version, based off William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson’s novel, was said to have completely rethought the concept, updating it from the 1976 version starring Michael York and Jenny Agutter. Unfortunately, Warner Bros wanted a remake in the strictest sense of the word, and Refn, understandably wanting his creative freedom, left the project.
6. Ridley Scott’s The Forever War
For a director known as one of the most influential science-fiction directors, it’s somewhat of a shame that Scott has only directed three sci-fi films in his long career (his fourth, The Martian arrives this November). A possible reason for the long gap in Scott’s sci-fi fare was his 25-year wait for the rights to Joe Haldeman’s novel The Forever War to be released. As one of the greatest science-fiction novels of all time, it was certainly worth waiting for. But once Scott had the means to make it in 2008, he chose other projects. According to Haldeman, the script is on its seventh draft. Scott claims he still wants to make it, but at 77, with a long lineup of proposed features, Scott doesn’t have forever.
5. Darren Aronofsky’s The Wolverine, Robocop
Yes, we eventually got The Wolverine and Robocop, and they were fine if not particularly memorable. In Aronofsky’s hands they could have been two of the best modern films in their respective genres. Aronofsky has toyed with the idea of doing a blockbuster for years. Most famously he was attached to Batman: Year One. It’s clear that Aronofsky wants to venture into the comic-book world but he’s always prevented from doing so. Aronofsky was attached to Robocop in 2008 (see a trend generating here?) and a release date had been set for 2010. Everything seemed to be on track until MGM saw the 3D success of Avatar and wanted Robocop in 3D. Creative disagreements led to Aronofsky leaving the project. But everything was ok, Aronofsky next set his sights on The Wolverine. Pre-production was already well underway but after an earthquake hit Japan and Aronofsky declared reservations about being away from his family for a year, he left the project the month filming was to begin. The fact that neither of these films happened wasn’t Aronofsky’s fault, but I can’t help but wonder what layers of madness and obsession he would have unveiled in each of the respective characters.
4. Steven Spielberg’s Robopocalypse
In 2011, the maestro of blockbusters signed on to direct an adaptation of Daniel H. Wilson’s popular novel that featured a scientifically-backed look at how A.I. could take over the world. With a script from Buffy scribe Drew Goddard, and a cast led by Chris Hemsworth and Anne Hathaway, I would have put money on this film hitting the big screens. In 2013, the film was put on hold, allegedly because the script created too expensive a movie to make (a factor I don’t fully believe). With production pushed, Goddard was given time to revise the script. But almost two years later, Goddard may be doing something with Spider-Man, and Spielberg has completed his Cold War film St. James Place and has regrettably chosen to direct a live-action adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The BFG (Big Friendly Giant).
3. Stanley Kubrick’s Napoleon, A.I. Artificial Intelligence
Every film that Stanley Kubrick was unable to make is a tragedy. Sure, he has a great filmography, but like any greedy film fan, I want more. The most famous of Kubrick’s unfinished projects are Napoleon and Artificial Intelligence. Kubrick began work on Napoleon in 1968, after 2001. He spent years on research (creating a card catalog of events and people) and scouting locations, until the project was shelved when the studio didn’t want to pay the cost of location filming. Kubrick began work on A.I. in the 70s, but put it on hold because technology wasn’t where he wanted it to be. A.I., based on Brian Aldiss’ short story “Super-Toys Last All Summer”, got made with Spielberg at the helm after Kubrick’s death. While many of Kubrick’s designs and ideas were used in the final product, it is an aesthetically different and more family-friendly film than what Kubrick would have given us. Spielberg once again plans to step in for Kubrick by adapting his Napoleon screenplay into a TV miniseries. I’m confident it’ll be good, but it just won’t be the same.
2. Guillermo Del Toro’s At the Mountains of Madness
Damnation and ruin! That’s what we missed out on (and perhaps what the studio execs who bailed on the project will be facing). Del Toro began work on a film based on H.P. Lovecraft’s famous horror novella, in 2006. The story, which involves archaeologists going to Antarctica to uncover a race of ancient beings detailed in the Necronomicon, had trouble getting funding with an R-rating. Even when James Cameron was brought on as producer and Tom Cruise as the star in 2010, studios still refused to give Del Toro the budget he needed to bring Lovecraft’s visions to life. Del Toro said in 2013 that he would still like to try to make it, but I’m always pleasantly surprised whenever Del Toro is able to actually start shooting a new film. With Crimson Peak coming out in October, Pacific Rim 2 after that, and Justice League Dark (Dark Universe), Frankenstein, and Hellboy III all waiting in the wings, it seems like it could be some time before we get Del Toro’s take on Madness.
1. J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof’s The Dark Tower
We’re generally pretty big Stephen King fans here at AE, and the thought of King’s seven book magnum opus coming to the big screen is the stuff we dream of at night. To take a page from SNL’s Stefon, these books have everything: a disillusioned gunslinger from King Arthur’s royal line, a demonic magician, lobstrosities, tragic romances, an evil train, Beatles and Elton John songs, vampires, the Emerald City, deadly golden snitches, a multiverse that connects the series to most of King’s other work, and a meta-examination on the power of stories. If anyone could tackle the complex and layered mythology of King’s world it seemed like Abrams and Lindelof. King was so confident in their ability to handle the project that he sold them the rights for $19. Envisioned as a franchise that would cover gunslinger Roland’s backstory in a TV series, and the main arc of his quest on the big screens, The Dark Tower seemed like it would be a project unlike anything audiences had ever experienced. Unfortunately, Abrams and Lindelof left the project after claiming they were too big of fans of the source material to make the changes necessary to bring the series to screens. Ron Howard replaced them as director with Javier Bardem, and later Russell Crowe set to star, but those plans too were scrapped. While I wait for the announcement that HBO will pick it up as a series, believe me when I tell you, the lack of movement on this one still hurts.
And there you have it, ten beautiful gems we’ll never see, at least not in the hands of these filmmakers. So tell me readers, what movie do you sorely wish had been made?