Universal Abandons 150 Million Dollar Sci-Fi Movie for 175 Million Dollar Sci-Fi Movie

By  · Published on March 9th, 2011

Considering the complexities of a large corporation, the maze of impossibilities to get through on the way to getting a movie made, and the time lines at work here, this may seem unfair, but the buck has to stop at someone’s desk.

What’s Playing (via /Film) is reporting that Universal might be in the earliest stages of prepping another Doom adaptation that would be in 3D and cost something around $175 million dollars. That number might as well be made up at this stage in development, but it seems reasonable to expect that doing a big action flick like Doom would require a big check book.

This comes on the heels of Universal passing on Guillermo Del Toro’s At the Mountains of Madness project because the $150 million budget was too big to manage alongside an R-rating and source material that’s not super hot.

But wait. Is Doom really all that hot?

If the report is true, it’s a baffling development for a studio that seems to be morphing into every other studio out there. They deserve praise for their recent risks, but doing something like a reboot of a movie adaptation of a 90s video game seems as craven and formulaic as it gets.

And yet, it seems so absolutely out of touch.

Universal is coming off like the middle-aged person getting Facebook for the first time who goes on about how much they love “finger poking” everyone. It’s like they’re trying to do the Hollywood thing, but can’t figure out what’s actually cool.

The studio has had a rough track record when they play with The Formula (reboots/sequels/prequels/comic books), and the theory is that the chances they took which didn’t pay off are now the reason they can’t gamble on H.P. Lovecraft to the tune of $300 million or more in production and marketing.

So why gamble on Doom? Even as a business decision it makes no sense. The “Doom” video game franchise is still churning out titles (with another on the way supposedly in the near future), but it’s hardly on the tips of everyone’s tongues. And what exactly makes it a better gamble than a beloved cult sci-fi author?

The best market analysis in the world has already been done. 2005’s Doom made a total of $56 million worldwide. Even with the international language of action, it still tanked. That was on a $60 million budget. Does it really make sense to inflate it to $175 million?

On the one hand, the result would be better quality all around. Bigger action sequences, better CGI. In short, Universal would be taking Doom up to the big leagues and placing a lot of pressure on it to perform. Maybe all they really want is a ton of explosions of their very own.

On the other, video game adaptations are notoriously difficult, are usually downright terrible, and audiences don’t particularly go crazy for them.

Fortunately, Universal hasn’t decided to gamble yet. But somewhere in the inner-workings of that company is someone who thinks pulling a G.I. Joe on Doom is a good idea, and that’s dangerous. It’s dangerous because in order to make it work on a broad scale it would have to be toned down to PG-13, there are probably few talented directors who get their passion level up for Doom, and the result could be disastrous both quality-wise and financially.

None of this is to say that At The Mountains of Madness would have been a blockbuster hit. It most likely wouldn’t have been. Them passing is understandable from a business stand point. It’s also not a zero sum game. It’s not like At the Mountains of Madness was passed on because of this project. One wasn’t chosen over the other.

Still, it’s difficult to understand what muddled-thinking is going on over there when one ultra-expensive sci-fi project with a limited fan base is passed on while another ultra-expensive sci-fi project with a limited fan base is being developed.

Yes, Doom is a brand name in the way that H.P. Lovecraft isn’t, but that doesn’t mean anyone wants to go see a movie of it. In fact, they already proved definitely that they wouldn’t by not buying a ticket back in 2005.

Of course, maybe failure is the goal here.

What do you think?

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