By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com May 3, 2011 at 1:26AM
Which Is Ironic, Because We'd Rather Fling Ourselves Into A Volcano Than Watch One Of His Films
Is there a worse mainstream director working today than Paul W.S. Anderson? It's hard to say. Certainly if you can call the "Vampires Suck" duo of Jason Freidberg and Aaron Seltzer directors, they would probably pip him. But there's something about Anderson's work that seems to sink him below most of his action-heavy compatriots, the likes of McG and Brett Ratner -- whether it's the consistently shitty effects work, the continual aping of "The Matrix" or the way his films always look so... cheap, Anderson's pretty close to the bottom of the barrel. Put it this way, if the best film we'd made in a decade was "Death Race," we'd start to think about retraining as something else. Like a plumber.
But Anderson consistently brings in low-budgeted fare that turns a profit, and so he keeps finding work -- he's got "The Three Musketeers" on the way later in the year, which looks to utilize the same 'let's-keep-flinging-things-at-the-camera' 3D lensing that he pulled off in "Resident Evil: Afterlife," and he's now signed on to a project that could turn out to be his biggest to date. The Hollywood Reporter brings news that Anderson will direct "Pompeii," an adventure film set against the background of the legendary eruption of the titular volcano in 79AD, which buried an entire city beneath it.
Anderson's regular home Constantin Films are backing the project, and Summit, who are putting out "The Three Musketeers," have already snapped up the U.S. distribution rights. The plot involves a slave, in love with his master's daughter, who makes his way back to the city after the volcano erupts to rescue his love, and his best friend, a gladiator. It all sounds firmly derivative (It's "Gladiator" meets "Titanic" meets "Dante's Peak"!), and with a script from "Batman Forever" scribes Lee Batchler and Janet Scott Batchler, we're not holding out a lot of hope that there'll be hidden depths. But it will, we imagine, have lots of CGI lava.
This isn't the only such project on the horizon -- Roman Polanski came very close to making a big-budget version of the Robert Harris book of the same name, with Orlando Bloom and Scarlett Johansson, and the project's now been revived as a miniseries, prouduced by Ridley & Tony Scott, with a script by "Chinatown" writer Robert Towne. We know which one we'd rather see at this point...
Foreign rights for the project are being shopped at Cannes, and Anderson's planning to begin filming next spring. We presume Milla Jovovich will have a role.