James McTeigue, who made his name as the right hand man for most of the Wachowski Brothers films and debuted as a director with 2005’s V for Vendetta, gave an interview to Peter at SlashFilm and talked about his upcoming projects: The Raven and Altered Carbon.
The Raven tells the story of the last five days of Edgar Allen Poe’s life, inventing a story of Poe helping track a serial killer linked to his tales. McTeigue describes it as “like the poem, The Raven, itself, crossed with Se7en.” It’s logical to use the title of Poe’s best known poem as the title of the film, but it seems like a bit of a stretch to insist that the poem has much influence on the described plot. Poe wrote a good deal of horror/mystery fiction, including works like The Murders in the Rue Morgue and other pieces featuring the detective C. Auguste Dupin that probably have a much greater influence on the film.
Nitpicking aside though, the last days of Poe’s life are an intriguing focal point on which to hinge a story. It’s one of a handful of Victorian-era mysteries like the murders of Jack the Ripper that have only intensified over the last century and a half. The story has been explored many times before, including the 2006 novel The Poe Shadow, so it will be interesting to see what McTeigue can do with it.
Hannah Shakespeare and Ben Livingston wrote the script. Hannah Shakespeare. Hannah Shakespeare? Wow. Dirty librarian much? That’s like a writer needed a pen name and asked a porn star how to choose an alias. I bet it’s an alternate identity of Stephenie Meyer, she’d totally believe that pretending her last name was “Shakespeare” would make people assume she was a good writer.
Okay so that other film McTeigue is working on is Altered Carbon, based on the Richard K. Morgan novel. It’s a pretty decent read, wraps some interesting science fiction ideas inside of a lot of ultra violence and explicit sex. It’s the holy grail for a 15-year-old sci-fi geek to stumble across in the library. Altered Carbon is the first of a loose trilogy, followed up by Broken Angels and Woken Furies. At face value it looks like a good fit for a film, but it will be very difficult to make this more than just a run of the mill sci-fi actioner. The reason is that the interesting science fiction of the novel revolves around “sleeving.” Basically, everybody has a little black box embedded in the back of their skull that records all thoughts and personality. Bodies are just sleeves to be worn in this society. There are lots of philosophical bits between the explosions and sex: the rich collect bodies to wear on a whim, the poor literally sell their bodies, physical murder is just property damage, deleting a final back-up is an unspeakable crime, soldiers are sleeved in genetically engineered super bodies, certain religions forbid re-sleeving after death. Translating the first person narrative of a man who can and does wear many faces into the third person of a movie screen is a challenge to say the least.
I’ll leave you with a rather lengthy but incredibly applicable quote from Altered Carbon that may give a little insight into the anarchist ethos underlying the story:
“The personal, as everyone’s so fucking fond of saying, is political. So if some idiot politician, some power player, tries to execute policies that harm you or those you care about, take it personally. Get angry. The Machinery of Justice will not serve you here - it is slow and cold, and it is theirs, hardware and soft-. Only the little people suffer at the hands of Justice; the creatures of power slide from under it with a wink and a grin. If you want justice, you will have to claw it from them. Make it personal. Do as much damage as you can. Get your message across. That way, you stand a better chance of being taken seriously next time. Of being considered dangerous. And make no mistake about this: being taken seriously, being considered dangerous marks the difference - the only difference in their eyes - between players and little people. Players they will make deals with. Little people they liquidate. And time and again they cream your liquidation, your displacement, your torture and brutal execution with the ultimate insult that it’s just business, it’s politics, it’s the way of the world, it’s a tough life and that it’s nothing personal. Well, fuck them. Make it personal.”