Earlier this year, Guillermo Del Toro hit his official fansite to bring sad tiding to fans about his long developing passion project, "At The Mountains Of Madness." With "Prometheus" seemingly touching on some of the same creation mythology that H.P. Lovecraft outlined in his celebrated and hugely influential novella, Del Toro believed his film was doomed: "I assumed the greek metaphor [of the title] alluded at the creation aspects of the HPL book. I believe I am right and if so, as a fan, I am delighted to see a new RS science fiction film, but this will probably mark a long pause -if not the demise- of ATMOM." But never say never?
Empire caught up with the always chatty writer/director at Comic-Con over the weekend, and there is still some minor hope for 'Madness' as Del Toro hasn't actually seen "Prometheus" yet. "When I’m brave enough to go and see 'Prometheus,' I’ll know. But for now, I don’t know," he said. "We are all nothing but human beings. I go to the theatre, I buy my ticket for Prometheus and I go and see something else, because I’m afraid. I’m not a mental entity, I am also emotional, because the ideas are similar, from what I’ve heard and I’ll see it next week, I promise!”
So what is the similarity between 'Madness' and "Prometheus"? It is actually quite striking. **Spoilers ahead** The book concerns an expedition to the Antarctic that uncovers a lost civilization. Through some scientific work, the team puts it together that it was built by the Elder Things, a race that came to Earth shortly after the Moon broke off the planet, and were the creators of life (see where this is going?). They also created Shoggoths, who assisted the Elder Things in building their cities. Long story short, it's eventually revealed that the Shoggoths destroyed their creators, but even more, there is something else that was possibly even more powerful than Elder Things themselves (it's not quite revealed, but it causes one characer to go insane). **Spoilers end** Add to that the plot point that has the scientific team using hieroglyphs to decipher their findings, and you have two stories whose thematic ideas are very, very similar.
“For me, the collapse of 'At The Mountains Of Madness' was a soul-shattering experience. It was very difficult for me that that movie didn’t happen,” del Toro said. "We designed the creatures, the sets, we were scouting the locations, and went through any number of drafts. Everything was going and then it collapsed and it was a big blow. It was a very debilitating moment.” So it's easy to see why he's been holding off on seeing Ridley Scott's film, particularly when it seems to be taking on all the same, broad stroke ideas and concepts of 'Madness.'
But Del Toro is nothing if not continually inventive and inspired, and he may see "Prometheus" and find a fresh angle with which to approach 'Madness' and still make it distinctly his own. But given his comments this spring, he's not optimistic that his film and Scott's are different enough. All this to say, keep your eyes peeled, because that guy in the row behind you at the theater just might be Del Toro.