There are some names out there that guarantee my interest in a new show or film, even if I know very little about it. These are people whose finished work may be good, may be bad, but it’s almost always interesting and ambitious. J. Michael Straczynski. The Wachowskis. Rockne S. O’Bannon. Another name that comes to mind is Len Wiseman, specifically in the context of “people I would not include on the aforementioned list.” So I’m trying really hard to be more interested in his newly announced sci-fi thriller Black Chapter, but it’s a sheer act of will at this point.
The concept behind Black Chapter, at least, does have some potential. Or at least some potential to have some potential. Deadline reports that Black Chapter is about “an FBI agent drawn into a top secret military program in which spies train in paranormal abilities.” So sort of the same sandbox as The Men Who Stare at Goats, only probably not as entertaining (and Goats wasn’t that entertaining to begin with. Wiseman told Deadline:
Black Chapter is a science fiction story that draws from our own history.I’ve always been fascinated by the mysteries surrounding the CIA’s astral projection program during its MK-ULTRA era. What if those experiments had actually worked? Would we even know?
Black Chapter director Wiseman is primarily known for the Underworld movies, as well as for directing the aggressively mediocre Total Recall remake and the aggressively bad Live Free or Die Hard. He’s not really my cup of tea, but I have to credit the guy for building an honest-to-gosh multi-film franchise with Underworld — no easy thing outside the realm of direct-to-DVD. He also co-created Fox’s surprise hit Sleepy Hollow. To me, Wiseman isn’t a bad director, just not a very noteworthy one — a decent enough visual storyteller who might be elevated to the next level with the right script. The X-Files-y logline for Black Chapter has potential, so maybe it’ll be the flick that finally helps Wiseman get my attention.
Black Chapter is being scripted by Hollywood “that guy” screenwriter Zak Penn, who has worked on everything from Last Action Hero to the X-Men films to the surprisingly entertaining Incident at Loch Ness and the unsurprisingly awful Daredevil spin-off Electra. He’s pretty much the definition of the “it could go either way” screenwriter, but he’s definitely got plenty of experience handling sci-fi-tinged projects like Black Chapter. If nothing else, the real-world elements culled from some of the intelligence community’s more interesting wild-goose-chase projects could make for a good time. Fingers crossed.