The Temple of Ghoul blog has reviewed the screenplay for Guillermo Del Toro’s and James Cameron’s film adaptation of At the Mountains of Madness by H. P. Lovecraft. [ARTICLE]
I have to say I’m a little disappointed (only a LITTLE) but not surprised. As soon as I heard that Guillermo Del Toro, my favorite director, was going to be making ATMOM I got more excited than I have been for a movie in a very long time. When I heard James Cameron was going to be involved, my expectations became a little more realistic. And now it seems my fears have been confirmed. The movie is going to be about action and monsters and explosions rather than about the tension, atmosphere, and cosmic horror of the book. Before I knew there was even a possibility that this movie would be made, I always said that there’s no way to adapt the book to film. But I’ve also always said that the only person who could even come close to capturing the mood of the book is Guillermo Del Toro. Del Toro always says that he hates dialogue and prefers to communicate visually. But how do you communicate one of Lovecraft’s densely-written, overly-wordy stories without, you know, words? I mean, one of the most terrifying scenes in the book is when the scientists discover a giant albino penguin. How do you make that scary on film? Apparently you can’t because, as the review I linked to above indicates, they seem to have replaced atmosphere and tension and dialog, with explosions, action, and action-packed, explosive chase scenes.
So it seems even Guillermo Del Toro is unable to fully capture the feeling of Lovecraft’s greatest work. But who could? Or maybe it’s James Cameron’s influence. Who knows. It seems to me that this movie would almost be better with a slightly smaller budget. The studio is going to demand a blockbuster hit for the kind of cash they’re doling out for this movie and ATMOM is not a blockbuster hit kind of story. People want explosions and 120 minutes of monsters eating people, and that’s what they’re going to get with this adaptation. But if there ever was a movie where people should read the book first, this would be it.
I don’t mean to be totally down on At the Mountains of Madness or Guillermo Del Toro. I’ve only focused on the negative news and completely glossed over the good news; such as HOLY COW! MY FAVORITE DIRECTOR IS DIRECTING ONE OF MY FAVORITE STORIES!!! I still have faith in Guillermo Del Toro, the master of mood and the Caravaggio of creature design. I will definitely go see this movie as close to opening night as possible and so should you. But you should also read the book first.
I’ll leave you with the opening lines from an even more well-known story by H. P. Lovecraft, which I believe encapsulates the sense of dread and absolute cosmic horror that his writing is so famous for. Let’s hope that Guillermo and Cameron remember it when the time comes.
The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.
-Call of Cthulhu