Mountains of Movie Madness

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The geek in me wants to see Guillermo del Toro make a big budget, blow your mind, zillion dollar, block buster. The Lovecraft purist in me hopes that the movie NEVER see’s the light of day. Part of me thinks it would be great for somebody to finally give Lovecraft his due and make a great movie based on his work. Elder God’s know we have had more than our fair share of crap produced in his name. But there is a nagging suspicion in the back of my mind that tells me that somehow, despite del Toro’s best intentions, this would be a mistake of cyclopean proportions. Just looking at the recent offerings from Hollywood! I don’t have a lot of faith that they would let del Toro make the movie the way it needs to be made. I’m sure some people will argue… “But he is a Lovecraft fan!” and I hear you. But Sam Raimi was a Spider-Man fan and he gave us Spider-Man 3… I rest my case… But I have more reason to dread the crawling chaos that would be At the Mountains of Madness should a movie ever be made and it might shock you to know that none of them have anything to do with Tom Cruise being in the movie.

Time Period…
If this movie is made as anything other than a period piece the entire story breaks down. The idea of the Arctic being a vast unexplored region of the earth only holds up in the early 1900’s because they didn’t have all of the great technology of today. Sure there are still parts of the Arctic that are unexplored but we have satellite images of the entire planet. The idea that we somehow “missed” or just found the worlds biggest mountain range in present time is absurd. Not to mention we wouldn’t need to send people there because Google has probably already mapped the area and you can zoom in to see it from a street view. So setting the movie in any other time than the 1930’s isn’t going to work.

Sorry Ladies…
Hollywood loves to add a leading lady in a story where she doesn’t belong. I’m not trying to be sexist here but there aren’t a lot of female characters in Lovecraft’s work. In fact I can’t think of any off the top of my head. So when del Toro turns in a script that doesn’t include a female character you can but your butts some idiot Hollywood executive is going to say, “Why don’t we cast Megan Fox in the role of Danforth?” at which point a conference room full of equally stupid Hollywood executives are all going to think it’s a great idea and del Toro is going to be forced to put a female character in the story. That’s not a big deal you say? Really? Let’s imagine for a second what John Carpenter’s The Thing would have been like if a woman would have been cast in any of the male roles…

Screaming, running and screaming, pointless shower scene, more screaming… You get the picture.

My point here is that if you are going to make a Lovecraft movie you have to stay true to the source material. Putting a female character in this movie (especially if they set it in the 30’s) would make absolutely no sense at all.

Last Action Hero…
Let’s face it, Lovecraft wasn’t exactly known for writing incredible action scenes. I can’t think of many car chases, shootouts or Matrix style fight scenes in any of his writing. But I would bet you a shoggoth that if this movie is made a car chase/gun fight would break out at some point. There are plenty of parts in the original story that could be suspenseful and even if they take a few liberties with the scene where the Elder Things attack the camp I could live with that. But I don’t have enough faith in Hollywood to do what is right. In their opinion they are going to need some explosions or fire or crazy stunts otherwise nobody is going to want to see this movie.

Raiders of the Lost City…
Most of the action and suspense of this story takes place after the advance team is found dead. This is a pretty detailed part of the story but again not exactly action packed. Basically the rest of the party finds the team and their dogs dead or missing. It offers Hollywood an opportunity for a lot of gross visual effects but not exactly “action” by Hollywood standards. Then Dryer and Danforth decide to take the airplane and fly up over the mountain and find an massive ancient city. Again from a movie standpoint this gives us a lot of really great CGI visual effects of massive cities and mountains and non-euclidean architecture but it’s not exactly action packed. From here Dryer and Danforth set about looking at murals and hieroglyphs for the rest of the day. So let’s imagine how you pitch this idea to a Hollywood executive.

del Toro: “Yeah they fly up over the mountain and see this amazing alien landscape.”
Exec: “Are there horrible alien creatures that they have to fight?”
del Toro: “No it’s all creepy and abandon but they find a bunch of really well painted murals and stuff to look at.”
Exec: “And then they are attacked by hideous monsters?”
del Toro: “Um… no they look at some more pictures and stuff and explore some of the ruins.”
Exec: “Where they run into a giant mind numbing cosmic horror that they battle to the death using alien weapons?”
del Toro; “…err… Not exactly… They see some huge albino penguins, hear some freaky noises, see something they can’t explain and then run away in pant’s crapping terror.”
Exec: “Security could you please escort Mr. del Toro off the property.

Epic… Running Away…
What is truly lacking in this story is the signature Hollywood ending of an Epic battle between good and evil. At the end of the story Dryer and Danforth basically freak out and run away. Not exactly a battle for the ages. Then as they fly away Danforth looks back, see’s something (That nobody else see’s) and goes bat shit crazy. Moral of the story… Don’t go to the Arctic. Role Credits. But that’s not really a great ending for a Hollywood Block Buster is it? Sure there have been lot’s of movies made like this. Cloverfield comes to mind just off the top of my head. But I just don’t see Hollywood leaving this one alone. Having our hero’s do all this just to end up loading their drawers and flying away isn’t going to seem like a great “Hollywood” ending.

Selfish Reasons…
B
ut putting all of that aside perhaps my biggest fear is also my most selfish one. I don’t know if I’m ready for the rest of the world to know who H.P. Lovecraft is. I don’t think I’m ready for the merchandising blitz that might happen if this movie is ever made. Right now Lovecraft still occupies a dark corner of the earth. Sure for those of us who are fans we know about him and his work but the general public goes about their daily lives oblivious to the mind numbing cosmic horror he created. We are all part of a secret cult, we have esoteric knowledge that most mortals couldn’t understand. I like being in our little cult and I don’t think I want to share it with the rest of the world. I don’t want to see Lovecraft t-shirts for sale at the mall. I don’t want to see a copy of At the Mountains of Madness on store shelves with a cover photo from the movie and a little sticker that says, Now a Major Motion Picture. I don’t want to hear some fifteen year old girl talk about how she is “totally into this NEW Lovecraft guy!” 

Lovecraft should be someone you have to seek out, like a book in the “restricted section” of Miskatonic Library. You should have to do your research and pour over dusty tomes to find him. Part of the romance of being a Lovecraft fan is knowing you know something that other people don’t. He isn’t for sale at Hot Topic, he isn’t “trending” on Twitter or just another Facebook meme. Pushing Lovecraft into the light of day for all the world to see might sound awesome to the geek in me. But the Lovecraft fan in me doesn’t want everyone to know about him. I like Lovecraft right where he is. A big name among a small crowd.  It makes his work all the more mysterious and I don’t think Lovecraft would have wanted it any other way.

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Published in: on July 16, 2014 at 3:26 PM  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. FYI…”At The mountains of Madness” was NOT in the Arctic it was in the Antarctic…being critical is one thing but that’s a huge geographic difference.

    Second item I should address regarding the article is the fact Lovecraft is not an author hard to find – he’s far from unknown especially for horror/sci-fi fans – or one who’s influential legacy is difficult to grasp. EVERY modern horror/monster and sci-fi movie made is built on the foundations Lovecraft built (not to mention the mountain of literature he has inspired). As a lover of his works I believe it is past time he gets his due on film equal to his legacy rather than the cheap imitations fans have had to endure.

    • You are correct… At the Mountains of Madness takes place in Antarctica. Many pardons for the error.

      While I agree with you 100% that Lovecraft is well known among horror/sci-first fans, his popularity in those circles is not what I’m talking about. My point is that the general population (John Q. Everyman) is still generally unaware of his existence. It is easy to forget that outside of the cult of fandom the people that you or I consider incredibly important and or well know hardly register on the radar of most people. Ask the general public about horror icons such as Doug Bradley or Kane Hodder and most people don’t have the slightest idea who you are talking about. Several years ago I was having a conversation with a woman about the H.P. Lovecraft Book Club and she told me she was a huge Lovecraft fan… she especially like his poem, The Raven. So while I agree with you that Lovecraft is well known in certain circles I don’t believe he commands the status of other authors who he influenced.

      I too would love to see a big budget movie… however my fear is that instead of getting the Lord of the Rings, we will get The Phantom Menace. I think we can all agree that nobody wants that.


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