Gerard Butler is, according to The Hollywood Reporter, in talks to take the lead of a sci-fi action adventure called The Raven. (Not to be confused with either the Edgar Allan Poe poem or the 2012 movie it supposedly inspired. That film was the cinematic equivalent of a night with a few too many martinis. It was fun at the time then you wake up with a headache and vow to never do it again. Poor John Cusack.)
This new film, to be directed by Peruvian Ricardo de Montreuil, will be based on his own 2010 short of the same name. The short was made for $5000 over the course of a couple of weekends and became a YouTube sensation. The feature version been in development since then. Back in July of 2010 it was announced that Mark Wahlberg would star and produce for Universal Pictures. The last we heard of it, Liam Hemsworth was attached to star, but Wahlberg would stay on to produce.
The short, which you can see below, is about a young man, Chris Black aka The Raven, with telekinetic powers being chased around downtown Los Angeles by assorted police drones and mecha, while a giant police ship hovers above.
At first blush, swapping Liam Hemsworth for Gerard Butler might not make much sense. I can, however, think of a few reasons why the producers would think it could work, aside from the fact that Liam Hemsworth has in no way proven he can carry a movie.
First, we really don’t need another “teens in peril in a dystopian future” movie (see: The Hunger Games, The Host etc) or even “teens at the mercy of their own powers” movie (see: the Twilight series- if you must, City of Bones, Beautiful Creatures, Chronicle).
And second, making the hero older increases the likelihood that The Raven will be R-rated.
Traditionally, those making action movies walk the line between PG-13 and R, trying to stay on the side of the former, the logic being a lower rating means more butts in seats. The problem with that is two-fold. Not only do adults not want to share every cinematic experience with their tweens, but that line has been blurred and obscured so badly, the envelope has been pushed, (use whatever metaphor you like) to the point that the inevitable backlash has begun. Why is the massive amount of violence shown to those under seventeen so more acceptable than sex? How much is too much? (For my own part, I’d like to know who the arbiters of these things really are. Who makes up the governing body known as the Motion Picture Association of America and what are the hows and whys of their decisions? The head of this august body is former Conn. Senator Christopher Dodd, more than likely chosen for his history of “bringing much-needed attention to children’s and education issues”.)
As usual I digress. My point is that an R-rating increases the probability of some no-holds barred action, sci-fi and otherwise, as well as the possibility of a sweaty, “hurry up before they find us” love scene. (I am ever hopeful.). This would seem to be less of a financial risk with reference to The Raven and the possible casting of Gerard Butler as he is just coming off the (surprise) success of another hard R action movie, Olympus Has Fallen, not to mention his greatest box office success to date, 300, was also rated R, thereby giving him a proven track record.
So if Butler is indeed cast, Michael Gilio, who wrote the script (Justin Marks did an earlier draft) will have to do a little tweaking since it’s thought that cameras will likely roll on the film later this year.
Wahlberg and Steve Levinson, who brought the project to the attention of Universal, will produce alongside Gold Circle’s Paul Brooks.
The premise of The Raven (which will more than likely get a name change before all is said and done) has potential. This could be a good move on Butler’s part. It’s territory he should be comfortable with and at the same time, there is the possibility of covering new ground. I’m not providing any startling insight when I say that it will all depend on the script.
Butler had to have been as disillusioned as anyone with the box office failure of the last few films prior to OHF. The critical drubbing he’s probably used to, but it’s easier to shrug that off when you’re raking in the dough. As I’ve previously pointed out, love ’em or hate ’em, Butler’s movies usually make money. No actor sets out to make a “bad” movie. Critical response to Olympus Has Fallen was split, but the box office was decisive. (Another thing I’ve talked about before is how tirelessly Butler supports his projects (and how well Olympus Has Fallen made use of social media), and how often his enthusiasm doesn’t seem to be merited. While I’m all for an actor breaking out of their comfort zones (note to Gerard Butler: I will continue to repeat this until it somehow makes its way to you: You really, really need to get a meeting with Matthew McConaughey’s agent. At the very least, there should be some heart-to-hearts on the set of Thunder Run) and he has a project that would seem to have some gravitas on his docket with Dynamo, that one’s not due for a couple of years. So even if The Raven plants him in familiar territory (re: Gamer), if it’s a hit, no one will care.
In other, more disturbing news, the director of that other The Raven, James McTeigue, is set to helm an “action thriller” called Survivor with Clive Owen and….Katherine Heigl. What is this fuckery? With all due respect to Ms. Heigl, I don’t think she’s in Clive Owen’s league. At all. Are they planning to change it to an “action comedy”? That’s the only way her casting makes sense, but then it doesn’t explain Owen. See the above with reference to comfort zones, but I’m skeptical about this. It’s being shopped in Cannes. We’ll see.