Here’s another delayed reaction, on my part, to a report that may or may not have come out of last week’s Comic-Con.
One day before director Scott Derrickson took part in a panel to discuss his upcoming remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, MTV Movie News posted an interview with him that touched on a completely different subject altogether: his long-gestating adaptation of John Milton’s Paradise Lost.
Some excerpts from the story:
Imagine the most evil creature that ever existed, a villain who commits atrocity after atrocity, who has scarred the world and each and every creature in it, a scoundrel so heinous he makes Heath Ledger’s anarchist Joker look like Mother Teresa. Now imagine that you like him.
Director Scott Derrickson says that when you see his upcoming adaptation of “Paradise Lost,” the epic 17th-century poem by John Milton about the Fall of Man, you won’t be able to help but have sympathy for its bad guy: the devil.
“What’s interesting to me is that you cannot help but feel that his initial feelings of being disgruntled are merited, and I feel a lot of empathy for the Lucifer character in the beginning of the story,” said Derrickson, who wrote and directed “The Exorcism of Emily Rose.” “I would want the audience to be sympathetic with him at the beginning, and what happens — what he’s up against and what he’s wrestling and struggling with — you certainly feel that.” . . .
“In the movie, Satan goes from being a completely good being [an angel] to becoming the most heinous kind of evil, and you really have a hard time knowing exactly where he crossed that line because you were with him,” the director said. “What is interesting about that story, in the way Milton laid it out, is that people jump off with him at different points and some never at all. Properly done, it’s a story that tells readers a lot about themselves.
“You have to respect that Milton created the first anti-hero with that poem, and certainly this was preserved in the script,” Derrickson added. “At what point does love turn to jealousy, jealousy turn into hate and hate into evil?” . . .
Add up all the challenges — the evil character at its heart, the theology, the visuals, the epic story line — and adapting “Paradise Lost” is no easy task. For his part, though, Derrickson can’t wait for the opportunity.
“It would not be an easy movie to make, but it would be groundbreaking,” he said. “It’s really worthy of the attempt.”
Incidentally, when I last mentioned this film a year and a half ago, I suggested that the producers could address the “nudity problem”, with regard to Adam and Eve, through some sort of digital effect. What that effect would be, exactly, I don’t know — but the actors wouldn’t have to be really naked, and it would be a lot easier to obscure the nudity if the filmmakers so desired.
Since then, we have seen the trailer for Zack Snyder’s upcoming adaptation of Watchmen, which features some digital nudity in the person of Dr. Manhattan, the footage of whom is based on a motion-capture performance by Billy Crudup. So there would now be a high-profile precedent for doing that sort of thing.
Angelina Jolie’s naked-but-still-high-heeled seductress in Robert Zemeckis’s Beowulf (2007) could also be cited as a precedent, I suppose, but that entire film was animated, with no live-action, so it’s sort of in a different category. Still worth noting, though.