Marvel and DC may have a cinematic stranglehold that tightens with each new release, but there’s always room for other studios to get in on the act. Historically Dark Horse Comics have given Marvel and DC the odd nip on the heel with the Hellboy, 300 and Aliens vs. Predator movies, but things have been quiet around the stables for a while. That is, until now. The Dark Horse tosses its head and whinnies once more, with an adaptation of Frank Miller’s ultraviolent sci-fi comic Hard Boiled under negotiation at Warner Bros. There are some intriguing choices for director and lead.
News about the project has been scarce ever since it was first announced all the way back in 2001. Back then it was a David Fincher movie, starring Nicholas Cage. Since then both Frank Miller himself and Vehicle 19 director Mukunda Michael Dewill have both been slated and then dropped out. Now, the project is back in a big way, with Warner Brothers in talks with High Rise Director Ben Wheatley and everyone’s favourite Norse trickster god Tom Hiddleston.
The 1990 miniseries followed Carl Seltz, an average workaday tax collector whose dull life is shattered by the realisation that he is in fact a murderous cyborg, and the only hope that his robot kindred have to throw off the shackles of servitude and strike a blow for freedom. It’s the blood-drenched saga that earned artist Geoff Darrow his 1991 Eisner award for best Writer/Artist.
From the simple brutality of his debut Down Terrace, to the elegant, violent, hallucinatory adaptation of JG Ballard’s High Rise that he gave us last year (in which Tom Hiddleston starred as shell-shocked apartment resident Robert Laing), Ben Wheatley has proved time and time again that he’s a director capable of doing incredible things. Hard Boiled is a highly unusual project choice for the British director. Light on plot and gloriously pulpy, Hard Boiled is more or less an extended fight scene, rife with gore but shallow as a pool of blood.
It’s unclear yet what role (if any) Darrow and Miller will play on the project, but both have demonstrated a cinematic bent in the past, with Darrow’s design work on the Matrix trilogy and Miller’s directorial work on Sin City. Both Darrow and Miller have a proven track record of bringing the visual qualities of their comic book worlds onto the screen. With Geoff Darrow’s jaw-dropping artwork being the main selling point of Hard Boiled, learning that he’s part of the team would certainly set a few minds at rest.
It’s early days for the project, but so far we’re intrigued if not totally won over by the idea. Geoff Darrow’s artwork on Hard Boiled makes each page like trying to find where Waldo is in a cyberpunk slaughterhouse somewhere in the seventh circle of hell. If Wheatley manages to captures just a fraction of that when he brings Hard Boiled to the screen, we’re all in for a great time. Just don’t expect too much storyline.