I feel really bad for Duncan Jones.
A talented director, Jones has been having a rough couple of years. 2017 saw the release of “Warcraft”, which didn’t exactly light the world on fire. This year we got “Mute”, which wasn’t quite the blockbuster hit that Netflix was hoping for. Both of Jones’ most recent projects were incredibly ambitious, and failed to hit the mark.
Fans of sci-fi know that Jones can do better than this. He directed “Moon”, which proved a solid understanding of personal, character-driven storytelling. He’s just not managed to reach the same heights since.
Perhaps Jones is now entrenched in Hollywood as a go-to sci-fi guy. One of the benefits of being a white male director is that once you’ve earned a reputation, you’re allowed to fail over and over again until you get something right.
Nevertheless, I worry that if Jones doesn’t get a hit film out soon, he might not get the chance at the big leagues of blockbuster filmmaking for quite some time. He’s not exactly going to end up as the next Josh Trank, but he might get stuck waiting a long while for more widespread recognition.
A Different Kind of Comic Book Movie
It seems that Jones is pinning his career hopes on a movie adaptation of “Rogue Trooper”, a comic book series that’s about a blue soldier with a ghost living in his helmet.
I love comic books so much.
As promised… pic.twitter.com/6y3pzn2Cn1
— Duncan Jones (@ManMadeMoon) July 15, 2018
While this is far from the most mainstream of comic stories, I can definitely see how it might appeal to Jones’ particular sensitivities. This off-the-wall weird comic book character (I wouldn’t really call him a superhero) is ripe for a grimy, grungy cinematic adaptation.
Rogue Trooper is part of the 2000AD canon, making him tangentially connected to Judge Dredd.
Based on his announcement, it seems that Jones is planning to make a film that’s a spiritual successor to the 2012 movie “Dredd”, this sounds pretty perfect. I can really see Jones bringing a lot of the design ideas from “Mute” over into this film and making something special.
That said, just because the movie could be really solid, it doesn’t mean that it’ll necessarily be popular. While “Dredd” won a very passionate niche audience, it’s definitely more of a cult classic than a genre-defining blockbuster. Hopes of a sequel have never really borne fruit due to the movie’s obscure nature, and director Pete Travis hasn’t exactly been launched into super stardom following the film’s release.
Basically “Dredd 2”
I hope that Jones can capture people’s imaginations with “Rogue Trooper”. This is a good premise for a film, and it suits his directorial style. If given the right push, this could be a “Watchmen” style hit, leading Jones onto bigger and better things.
Alternatively, we’ll get a new cult hit that fans of 2000AD will rally around. This will still be a nice outcome, but it wouldn’t necessarily get Duncan Jones to the top echelons of Hollywood.
I really hope things work out with this movie. On paper, it sounds like it could be incredible, but as always in filmmaking, the devil is in the detail.