is just one of nine movie projects that IMDb.com says that director
Guillermo del Toro has “in development” right now . . .
The other projects include Hater (a “zombie”
movie of sorts based on the novel by Brit writer David Moody),
Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Witches,
Death: The High Cost of Living (the character from Neil Gaiman’s
Sandman comics) and Deadman (the DC Comics superhero).
When exactly del Toro will get round to Drood –
or any of the other projects for that matter! - is a bit of mystery
While del Toro won’t be directing all of the above
projects and will probably only be involved as producer or writer on most
of them, someone should have told the 44-year-old director of movies such
as Hellboy 1 &
Pan’s Labyrinth that
directing a multimillion dollar prequel to a special effects blockbuster
such as a Lord of the Rings
prequel (The Hobbit) is the sort of thing that
will keep one quite busy and will probably result in one getting grey
pubic hair as Steven Spielberg so colorfully remarked of his experience on
Slated for a 2012 release Drood will be based on
a 2009 novel by Dan Simmons, an American author who made his reputation
with the Hugo Award-winning Hyperion Cantos
series of science fiction novels (ironically also a project which
Hollywood has been trying to get off the ground for several years now).
Simmons has been moving away as of late from this sort
of Ian M. Banks-style space opera albeit with more literary aspirations.
The Terror, the book he wrote before Drood, was a
fantastical recounting of a real-life doomed 19th century Arctic
expedition. In this book the crew were slowly hunted down and killed off
by a giant ice bear with supernatural powers. (This makes it sounds worse
than it is - you have to actually read it yourself.)
Drood is similar to The Terror in the way
it blends fantastical elements of the supernatural with actual historical
events and people. (Simmons’ next book is titled Black Hills and
features a “Red Indian Shaman” who in true Forrest Gump style
witnesses most of American history, starting with Custer’s defeat at
Drood is sold as being the actual “secret”
memoirs of one Wilkie Collins. Never heard of him? Not your fault. Wilkie
Collins was a hugely popular writer of sensationalist novels in Victorian
England. Wilkie is of course largely forgotten today, except for one
thing: he was a close friend and occasional collaborator of Charles
Dickens, who you maybe have heard about.
"Nothing much actually happens in Drood . . ."
Yup, more than a century on and Jim Carrey and Robert
Zemeckis are making underperforming 3D CG animated movies with Disney’s
money based on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol whilst no-one knows who
the heck Wilkie Collins was! Problem is that Collins knows this, which
makes Drood a bit like Amadeus with Wilkie being Salieri to
The narrative kicks off with Dickens telling Wilkie of
the then-famous Staplehurst Rail Disaster in 1865. Dickens was a passenger
upon the doomed train and narrowly escaped death. In the immediate
aftermath Dickens helped rescue survivors and in the process met a
spectral character named Drood. Drood is clearly some sort of supernatural
being with his ability to effortlessly glide in his opera coat like a
cheap Dracula clone from one disaster victim to the next, stealing their
Later on, Dickens became obsessed with finding Drood and
drags Wilkie along on his quest to Undertown, a vast underground city
beneath Victorian London. Here Drood is rumored to rule over hordes of
brainwashed followers who do his every bidding, no matter how diabolical.
(Cue maniacal laughter here.)
Dickens’ obsession soon becomes Wilkie’s own and in time
Wilkie becomes convinced that Dickens has ritually murdered an innocent to
escape mind control by the enigmatic Drood. The only problem is that
Wilkie isn’t a particularly reliable narrator, consuming copious amounts
of opium as the novel progresses. What is real and what isn’t? the reader
soon finds asking him- or herself.
It comes as no surprise that del Toro wants to make
Drood into a movie. He calls it a “dazzling journey through a crooked,
gaslit labyrinth” on the front page of the book’s paperback edition.
(Author Dan Simmons)
Drood clocks in at 771 pages. Normally condensing
a book like this into a full-length feature film will be an issue, but not
in this case.
You see, nothing much actually happens in Drood.
Once one takes out all the material superfluous to the central plot then
not much actually remains. That is because Drood reads more like
biography of Dickens than the “masterwork of narrative suspense” Stephen
King calls it.
It is filled to the brim with Simmons’ pain-staking and
meticulous research on the famous Victorian writer’s life and the book
often comes across as a history book rather than an actual work of
We had no problem with this, but many readers will
probably find Simmons’ info dump (as if he was too afraid to lose any of
his research) annoying. Any future movie version will probably excise most
of the material too. It could be successfully argued that Drood is
several hundred pages too long as the story often loses sight of its
central narrative and plot. It is however a testament to Simmons’ prowess
as a writer that the pages do indeed “fly by” as The Daily Telegraph
states on the back cover.
Problem is that once Drood becomes more like an
alternate history horror flick and less of a Dickens biopic then it isn’t
particularly exciting or interesting. Three hour Victorian Epic or 90
minutes phantasmagorical diversion? That would be up to the film-makers,
but to be honest we’d rather see them turn Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos
into a three-hour space epic. Who knows? Maybe with the huge success of
Avatar there will be someone out
there in Hollywood crazy enough to do it!