In 2015, Swedish filmmaker David Sandberg unleashed his wild, ’80s-influenced action-comedy short Kung Fury, a movie about a martial arts master Miami cop traveling backward in time to kill Adolf Hitler. Not only did Kung Fury demonstrate Sandberg’s command of every ridiculous action-movie trope imaginable, it also showed that he is a legitimate visual wizard, even working on a $600,000 budget scraped together via Kickstarter (and while deliberately making the movie look like low-quality VHS).
Besides putting together a sequel to Kung Fury (that may or may not bring back the film’s breakout character Triceracop), Sandberg is also jumping on board a project that will team him with American star Channing Tatum, though it’s not yet known whether Tatum will actually be appearing in the film.
According to Variety, Sandberg and Tatum have both signed on for Tencent Pictures’ Zombie Brother, a movie version of a popular Chinese comic book that has already been successfully adapted into an animated film and a stage play. Tatum is on board as a producer along with Reid Carolin’s Free Association, with writer Matt Lieberman signed to do the script. Lieberman has become a very sought-after writer, as he is currently working on The Jetsons, The Flintstones and the Scooby-Doo movie Scoob all for Warner Bros.
The comic book Zombie Brother tells the story of a regular guy who must escape a sprawling city when it is overrun by ever-evolving zombies that set about eating each other after a virus gets into the water supply. The source material is virtually unknown in America, but it’s huge in China and Tencent Pictures is hoping they can expand the property into an international one. Tencent CEO Edward Chang said:
“‘Zombie Brother’ is one of the first products of Tencent’s trans-media pipeline, utilizing animation and comics, gaming, literature and live-entertainment platforms. The material has already attracted an incredible loyal fan base in China, and we are delighted to be working alongside Free Association in bringing this beloved IP to a global audience.”
One big question is whether Channing Tatum will remain behind-the-scenes or take on a starring role in the film. If producers want Zombie Brother to catch on in America, it would possibly help to have a star of Tatum’s magnitude attached as an actor and not just a producer, but that could open up accusations of whitewashing. Matt Damon gained whitewashing criticism when he took a lead role in the recent Chinese production The Great Wall, a film that despite a fair amount of hype was a bomb at the U.S. box office. Producers of Ghost in the Shell have faced the same type of backlash after casting Scarlett Johansson to play a character who was originally Asian.
Another big question is how much of a gamble it might be hiring David Sandberg to direct what sounds like a pretty ambitious project. Though Kung Fury demonstrated that Sandberg possesses plenty of visual imagination and a witty approach to action, it was not a feature film and did not have a large budget. Sandberg’s involvement hints that Zombie Brother will lean more toward the outrageous and comedic and away from the atmospheric and creepy, but we’ll have to see what the movie ultimately turns out to be.