With major tentpole films such as “World War Z” and “GI Joe: Retaliation” recently experiencing major structural changes, in both cases executed well after the majority of the film has been shot, the public awareness of just how much behind-the-scenes finagling occurs has gone up ten-fold. Constant revisions and re-edits may appear to be damaging to the final product, but in actuality they’re oftentimes just another essential part of the process — or at least Universal and Warner Bros. are hoping so, as they begin major rewrites to two scripts floating around within their gates.
At the start of the year, the Mark Wahlberg actioner “Contraband” may not have revolutionized cinema in really any way, but the film nevertheless stood out at the box office amidst an otherwise quiet field, taking in nearly $100 million worldwide. Naturally, it makes sense for Universal to keep those involved around, and for the film’s writer, Aaron Guzikowski, that means tackling the studio’s long-gestating adaptation of “Moby Dick,” with the objective of reining in the budget for director Timur Bekmambetov (“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”) to step in once finished.
A script for Bekmambetov, initially written by Adam Cooper and Bill Collage before being passed on to Evan Spiliotopoulos later, has been making the rounds since 2008. The first draft reportedly focused on the seaman Ishmael’s first-person perspective, showing the other vessels’ encounters with the eponymous whale, and also portrayed Captain Ahab as a “more charismatic” (read: Johnny Depp-ish) fellow than the revenge-centered one as portrayed in the Herman Melville novel. It remains to be seen whether this will be the final draft before production, but if all else fails, toss Patrick Stewart into a water soundstage again and he’ll fill in the narrative cracks admirably.
Another estimable box-office hit near the year’s start was director James Watkins‘ “The Woman In Black,” which garnered great reviews in addition to a solid performance from Daniel Radcliffe. Watkins smartly used the film’s success to add some movies onto his slate, one of them being an action-adventure pic entitled “Methuselah,” which he penned as well, but it appears that Warner Bros. isn’t sufficiently pleased with his draft. “I Am Legend 2” scribe Arash Amel has been tapped to deliver a page-one rewrite of Watkins’ draft, which follows a 1,000-year-old man who has used his time to hone a set of special skills, and will begin on the project once he hands over his ‘Legend’ draft, whenever that project decides to get going.
Hopefully not too long, as Watkins is definitely a talent to watch, and one that would be unfortunate to lose amidst studio development hell, as necessary as the changes might be.