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Del Toro revs up for his next charge
Writer, director, and producer Guillermo Del Toro’s career has never been in better shape. The massive success of the recent “Mama” sealed his commercial credibility at the box office, along with his screenwriting duties on the “The Hobbit” trilogy. Moreover, what is likely to be his biggest magnum opus to date, “Pacific Rim,” is scheduled to be released on July 13.
This film is his most ambitious effort yet. The plot revolves around an alien invasion in which we fend the enemy off with–wait for it– giant robots. Yep, it’s basically “Independence Day”-meets-“Transformers,” only with us in control of the ‘bots.
The reported $200-million budget is also a career high for Toro. He had originally planned to adapt H.P. Lovecraft’s epic “At the Mountains of Madness”, which featured producer James Cameron and starred Tom Cruise; a crazy-awesome idea. Alas, the studios balked at the proposed $150-million budgeted, “R”-rated effort, and Toro had to shift his focus to the more palatable “Rim” proposal.Time will tell if it was the right decision.
If “Rim” doesn’t fly, Toro certainly has plenty more ideas where that one came from. He is best known for the two filmic adaptations of the popular “Hellboy” comics. Toro was also a front-runner to be the director of “The Hobbit” film, but then the rights to get the film made took so long that he bailed out with exception to his scriptwriting duties. The director’s chair reverted back to originator Peter Jackson. It was probably for the best, as far as the fans of that much-beloved series are concerned, and it freed up Toro to work on other projects.
A “Hellboy 3” is in the planning stages, as is a proposed “Haunted Mansion”-reboot; it would revert the film version back to a scarier tone, which would relate it back to the original ride. Think along the lines of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise: scary, but not without a sense of dark humor. Toro also implied that the film would focus on –at least in part–the famed “Hatbox Ghost,” which would ring a bell with hardcore fans of the classic ride.
Also, a TV adaptation of his popular novel series, “The Strain,” co-created with Chuck Hogan, author of the book of the recent Ben Affleck film, “The Town”, was based upon. The vampire-themed show revolves around an apocalypse in which a virus breaks out and turns people into blood-thirsty maniacs. Think of a vampocalypse instead of a zombie one to get the idea. Toro will direct the pilot for FX.
As if that weren’t enough to keep a filmmaker busy for a decade, he also has the gothic horror epic “Crimson Peak” in pre-production with his “Rim”-star Charlie Hunnam (“Sons of Anarchy”) and Emma Stone. This horror epic is yet another take on “Frankenstein,” and it was written by Frank Darabont (“The Walking Dead”) long ago, but abandoned with the release of director Kenneth Branagh’s version with Robert DeNiro.
He is working on all of these projects in addition to adaptations of the cult novels “Slaughterhouse-Five” and “Drood”, which are in the planning stages. Can you say busy? Toro can.
New to Toro’s unique vision? No problem. His older work is readily available on DVD and Blu-Ray. In addition to the two cult classic “Hellboy” films, I can’t recommend the superlative dark fantasy “Pan’s Labyrinth” enough, which was nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars in 2006. (A dubbed English-language version is readily available for you language snobs.)
For fans of “Mama,” there’s also plenty of films Toro had a hand in that are well worth your time, and include: “The Devil’s Backbone” and “Cronos,” which he wrote and directed; and “The Orphanage,” “Splice” and “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark,” all of which he produced. “The Orphanage” in particular is certainly one of the best horror films of the 2000s- if not one of the best films of the 2000s, period. The guy just isn’t capable of making an ordinary film. Even the lesser flicks on his resume, such as “Mimic,” “Blade 2” and the more recent animated effort, “Rise of the Guardians”, is worth your time so long as you enjoy a more esoteric and offbeat film.
Whatever the case, with two films currently book-ending the box office charts in “Mama” and “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” Toro has certainly started the year off on a high note. We’ll just have to see how long he can sustain it. My opinion is that he’s only just getting started.
Senior Staff Writer