A friend of mine (thanks, Edith!) sent me a link to this article on Cracked today. It’s entitled 4 Reasons This New Movie Is Everything Wrong With Hollywood, and is actually in response to an article published by The Hollywood Reporter which details the sale of a movie entitled Winter’s Knight, which “is a reimagining of the origin of Santa Claus, putting St. Nicholas in the mix with Viking elements”. The movie is also being described variously as “a dark take” and, of course, “grim and gritty”.
Go ahead. Take the time to click over and read the Cracked article before you read the rest here. It’s okay, I’ll wait. Just be sure you come back when you’re done and that you don’t get caught in the labyrinth of interesting that Cracked can often be. Otherwise, I’ll think you don’t love me anymore, and that would make me very sad.
I’ll be honest, the first thing I did upon reading this was to check and make sure that the original source of this information wasn’t a story from the news satire site The Onion.
Unfortunately, it’s not.
According to the article, Sony actually paid $1 million for the screenplay. This figure was actually the result of a bidding war between Warner Bros., Disney,Universal, and Sony, and the deal was made in three days. That’s right, all four of the major studios actually not only thought that this movie is a great idea, but they all tried to outbid each other until the price finally got to a million dollars for the screenplay – written by Ben Lustig and Jake Thornton, who are described as “newbie scribes” – alone.
Oh, and further reports from Deadline state that Marc Platt and Lawrence Grey are already signed on to produce the movie, and that Sony has agreed to “a precedent-setting mid-seven-figure salary for the directing team” of Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg who are currently helming the upcoming Kon-Tiki movie.
Imagining how much Sony’s going to actually put into making this thing just makes my head want to start spinning and spewing green pea soup now.
So where does such a seemingly abysmal concept even come from? Well, according to a number of reports – some of which I’ve linked to below – the screenplay is purportedly based on a 1902 book entitled The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, written by none other that L. Frank Baum. That’s right, the man who created the land of Oz. I’ve not personally read the book, but here’s a run-down provided by geekyrant.com:
Santa Claus, as a baby is found in the Forest of Burzee by Ak, the Master Woodsman of the World, and placed in the care of the lioness Shiegra. The Wood Nymph, Necile, breaks the law of the forest and takes the baby because she desires to raise a child of her own as mortals do, convincing Ak that since he made the law, he can allow an exception, and agrees to have both Necile and Shiegra care for the baby. Necile calls him Claus, meaning “little one” in the old Burzee language, but Queen Zurline gives him the more formal name Neclaus, “Necile’s Little One” (According to a footnote “Nicholas” is an erroneous name based on common convention). He is educated by the immortals of the Forest, including:
The Wood Nymphs who watch over trees
The Gnomes who watch over rocks
The Knooks, who watch over animals
The Ryls who watch over flowers
The Sleep Fays who bring sleep to the world
The Light Elves
The Sound Imps
The Wind Demons
The Water Spirits
Upon reaching young adulthood, Ak decides it is time for Claus to see how other mortals live. He sees war, brutality, poverty, child neglect and child abuse and is frustrated by mortals’ very existence. Ak encourages him not to shy away from the mortals, because he is one, and must learn to live among them, as he cannot reside in Burzee as an adult. He settles in the nearby Laughing Valley of Hohaho, where the immortals regularly visit and assist him, and Necile gives him a little cat named Blinky.
Yeah, okay. That’s already pretty far afield, but it doesn’t really scream “grim and gritty” to me. Nor do I see any mention of vikings. And, as the article that started all of this off clearly points out, it has absolutely nothing to do with the historical figure of St. Nicholas, upon whom the character of Santa Claus is supposedly based.
So, is this movie really everything that is wrong with Hollywood? Honestly, no. Hollywood has a lot more than just the four problems that the Cracked article points out. But as far as it goes, yeah, this really does sum up a lot of the simply wrong-headed “thinking” that goes on in the major studios these days.
Of course, as the Cracked article also notes,
We could be totally wrong. Winter’s Knight may turn out to be the refreshing dose of originality that Hollywood has been searching for, and if that’s the case, Cracked will run an official retraction. But we’re willing to roll those dice.
Yeah, I’m pretty much willing to bet my last candy cane that that’s a retraction they’re not going to have to write. Of course, I’m also willing to bet a case of chocolate covered cherries that if the movie does actually get made, it’s not going to be a box-office flop. Because that’s whats wrong with audiences today.
(Oh, and just by the way, Santa isn’t the only character up for a fun-sounding reboot. According to Deadline, who broke the news, there’s also a new Zorro flick on the way which “will be ‘less traditional swashbuckler, and more of a Dark Knight-style unveiling of the character with a new backstory, gritty realism and emotional core.’ But don’t worry, there’ll still be plenty of swordplay, along with ‘swords, daggers, grappling, bare knuckles,’ and Europe martial arts. See the last article below for more details.)
- Sony Finally Closes ‘Winter’s Knight’ As L. Frank Baum Keeps Racking Up Credits From Grave (m.deadline.com)
- Viking Santa Origin Story ‘Winter’s Knight’ in the Works (slashfilm.com)
- Sony Planning Dark, Viking-Inspired, Santa Origins Movie Winter Knight (themarysue.com)
- A Viking Santa Claus Film Is Coming to Town – WINTER’S KNIGHT (geektyrant.com)
- Gritty, ‘Dark Knight’-Esque ‘Zorro’ Reboot Gets a Writer (slashfilm.com)