Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Thoughts about Zardoz

I've been trying to get back into the blogging habit and had this post rolling around my brain for a while. So it's at least an exercise in getting creative juices flowing again. A while back I found Zardoz on Netflix and it had been a long while since I'd seen it so I gave it another whirl. It's supposed to be (at least the way I've viewed it over the years) part action adventure/part intellectual experiment.

As an adventure, it has some really inspired moments, but kinda falls short of its potential. As an experiment it does well on grand scale, but the details get sort of muddled.

With movies like Inception, Dark City, and even something as wacky as 12 Monkeys, I think Zardoz could be remade and given a bit more gusto, perhaps fewer suspendered banana hammocks. Side note: I've tried to love the film, but in truth I've found it mostly boring with some good bits and an overall interesting--if sometimes shocking--premise.

Oh, and while the Book of Eli may have borrowed from ol' Zed, I'm talking more a straight-up re-imagining. So the characters and story details would be mostly intact beyond the overall concept. Sorry Singleton, we're not counting that one.

In Japan, Zardoz is in SPAAAACE!
So here's my pitch to re-imagine a new Zardoz:

First, take a moment to familiarize yourself with the original plot. Done? Okay, we begin with a band of masked marauders known as Brutals sporting theme park mascot heads as helmets is laying seige to a seaside village. They take no prisoners and bow to a giant floating head, the god Zardoz. The most fierce of the bunch is Zed, whose curiosity leads him to discover the truth about their infallible, flying deity. His journey takes him to Vortex, a clandestine community of Eternals (psionic immortals) who yearn for the excitement that death brings--whether it's their own or the primitive villagers that make up the outer settlements. An artificial being known as Tabernacle rules as a beneficent adjudicator and administrator of Vortex's citizens. She has served humans for more than three centuries as a chorus of consciousnesses trapped in a single synthetic body. Over that time she has grown envious of her wards and planted the seed of their doom in a power hungry Zardoz pilot...Arthur Frayn.

Let's leave the English countryside of the original behind and move to a beach on the California coast, dotted with ruined piers and broken highways. Since this is in the future, it'd be nice to see a few twists on the theme, maybe some mutated animals (carnivorous steeds for the Brutals) and evidence of a slightly more advanced civilization than our own (an upgraded Tabernacle that could neurologically control Vortex and its citizens). Zardoz itself is a remnant of a Wizard of Oz theme park erected in the late 21st century to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the film. The giant head really is the "wizard" as it appears inside a replica of the Emerald City--as part of the Wiz's main audience chamber. Vortex is a biodome commune that sprouted several towns over in a more rural area. Vortex appears similar to the Eden Project or Biosphere 2.


Probably the most important aspect since a quirky film like this is usually driven heavily by the hand of the artist in charge. Chris Nolan seems like an easy bet with his deft direction of sci-fi-with-a-message films. Overall, I think he'd be good to reel in some of the more muddled elements that weighed down the Boorman version and still be able to make it the thought-provoking action/thrillers he's known for.

Yeah, cynics may decry him for being a bit over-wrought, but I honestly think he's yet to put out a bad piece of filmmaking. Whom would you rather have, Zack Snyder? (As if!) Ten years ago I would have said Alex Proyas who directed one of my favorite-ever films, the aforementioned Dark City. But until he comes up with something to make up for I, Robot--I think Nolan is the guy to make Zardoz fly.

So what would your Zardoz look like?

Previously: Zardoz Video Game in 8-Bit, Intro