It was recently announced DreamWorks SKG optioned the film rights to the five part comic book miniseries Atlantis Rising. Atlantis is a myth that has been around for thousands and thousands of years about a highly advanced civilization sinking to the bottom of the sea. And other than this upcoming film, the Disney animated flop Atlantis: The Lost Empire and the television series Stargate: Atlantis there has not been any attempt to cash in on the legendary myth. Why on earth did it take Hollywood this long?
With all the book and video games, among other things based on Atlantis one would Hollywood would have caught up to this, and made it into a money making franchise years ago. Yet with these few exceptions, you do not hear one peep about Atlantis in film and television. Maybe travels in outer space and other lesser known yet more original fantasy worlds are more appealing to audiences. But Atlantis is one of the biggest potential cash cows that someone should have realized its potential many years before now. Also, why did it take these creative geniuses in Hollywood so long?
Imagine in 1966, if NBC aired a series created by Gene Roddenberry involving a group of socially diverse scientists exploring the depths of the sea to re-discover what was lost thousands of years ago instead of how Star Trek took place two over three hundred years in the future in outer space. Sure, it may not have featured Kirk, Spock, and McCoy going to a different planet each episode, but it still would have featured the diverse cast of characters and contemporary social issues in an uderwater setting. After a short three year run, it could have become a huge hit in a decade long period of reruns leading to six films with the returning original cast and a good number of television spinoffs.
Also, what if George Lucas wrote and produced a trilogy of films based around The Hero’s Journey starting in 1977, instead of Luke Skywalker his unknown father Darth Vader, it might have been a young hero coming face to face with Poseidon, The God of The Sea, realizing he has a destiny to bring the lost continent back from the depths of the ocean. There could have been endless possibilities over the last few decades, but Hollywood never acted on it.
Maybe Atlantis is too hard of a concept for Hollywood to swallow once they get passed the money making potential of the idea. When one gets to the creative aspect of Atlantis, there are so many ideas to draw from, but it is possible there could be too many. The average moviegoer would have thought Steven Spielberg could have made a huge summer blockbuster about Atlantis many years before his studio DreamWorks SKG snapped up the rights to some comic book miniseries based on it. It just does not make any sense to wait so many years on a huge money maker like this.
Another reason maybe be many in Hollywood fear a film about Atlantis may end up some summer blockbuster with a focus on special effects and a huge plot without any character driven elements. Therefore, it would be a huge box office hit, but interest would dwindle with reactions from the critics and fans alike, along with any DVD sales, television airings, or any sequels that might follow. Such was the case with Star Trek: The Motion Picture, a film with a large budget around $35-45 Million, it looked more like Gene Roddenberry’s take on 2001: A Space Odyssey instead of the recapturing the magic of the original series.
The movie’s five sequels on the other hand took a different approach, each of them had a modest budget of a little over $10-15 Million. The focus was less on special effects and the budget, and more on the relationships between the characters and how they deal with the situations they face. The Wrath of Khan, The Search for Spock, The Voyage Home, The Final Frontier, and The Undiscovered Country. Each title of these sequels are so simple yet so direct in how they explain each movie’s storyline.
This plot and title should be this simple, it should be a film about characters and how they react to discovering Atlantis in the depths of the sea that time forgot. It would be the start of a great movie franchise with this approach, instead of some big budget blockbuster blowing a lot of smoke yet fails and does not make a lot of money at the box office. Another cue this could take is from the television series Lost, another example of relationships between characters and how they face certain situations while being stranded on the island.
Lost’s first season dealt with the division of the survivors from the front section of the plane between Dr. Jack Shepard’s logical solution they should get off the island and John Locke’s belief they are on the island for a reason. The second season involves the survivors from the front section meeting the survivors from the tail section while the third season reveals more about The Others, the group watching over the island. The fourth involves some of the survivors getting off the island at last while some remain there. This current fifth season deals why the rescued survivors need to go back while the sixth will deal wiith what happens when they go back.
Again, an approach that is so simple and so direct in its storytelling and characters. Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks SKG will be making Atlantis Rising with Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman producing, Spielberg has a long running association with Star Wars creator George Lucas and worked with him on the Indiana Jones franchise. Orci and Kurtzman have both worked with J.J. Abrams, creators of Lost on the TV Series Fringe and many of his films including the big screen remake of Star Trek. But two question remain. Will they do right by the Atlantis Rising comic book and the myth of in Atlantis in general? And what took them so long to explore Atlantis?