No matter how many decades of science fiction fiction may come and go, the prospect of time travel never ceases to captivate the imagination. Films like Terminator: Genisys and Interstellar prove that traveling through time can support both popcorn action and heavier-hitting drama, but few films seek to combine theoretical science with the ambition and wonder of the 1960s 'space race.' That's something that comic book writer Mark Millar (Kick-Ass, Kingsman: The Secret Service) set out to solve.
Apparently, the comic series that would go on to become Chrononauts began with a single image: American families huddled around their television sets, as man's first attempt to travel through time is broadcast live - planting an American flag on the shores of the New World in 1492. That mixture of history, science fiction and shameless nostalgia sells itself, and thanks to Universal, will be coming to movie theatres everywhere.
News of the Universal acquisition comes via Deadline, reporting that the comic series from writer Mark Millar and artist Sean Gordon Murphy will be handled by Chris Morgan Productions, with the co-creators acting as executive producer.
The story behind Millar and Murphy's "Chrononauts" is as brimming with big screen potential as one is likely to find. The tale follows the dual heroes Dr. Corbin Quinn and Danny Reilly, two brilliant thinkers whose bravado and dialogue would do any buddy cop movie proud. With the smarts to unlock time travel and the swagger of 1960s-era test pilots, the story's physics-bending twist on The Right Stuff is the exact kind of attitude and edge typically lacking in today's mainstream sci-fi.
Prior to the comic's launch, writer Mark Millar explained to CBR that the book's mixture of action and wry humor makes it much, much easier for movie fans to understand, thanks to one particularly popular box office hit from Marvel Studios:
"I went to see Guardians of the Galaxy when I was starting this, and the tone was just identical. It's dangerous or action-packed when it has to be, but it's really just people who like each other and whom the readers will like in fun situations. The drama is intense and the danger is real, but Guardians had such a fantastic tone. That's absolutely the tone Sean and I have here. We've had a great decade of seeing how real we can make impossible concepts, but now is the time just to have a good time. Just as I left the cinema smiling after Guardians, I like the idea of people finishing this book and enjoying it so much they just read it again."
Unfortunately (or not, depending on your personal views) it won't be up to Millar to preserve that sense of humor or personality, but the still-unannounced screenwriters. Since the most recent Millar property to be adapted to film - Kingsman: The Secret Service - was a critical success, optimism over a Chrononauts film will be justifiably high. Yet it isn't the only comic property written by Mark Millar to be 'in development,' which means fans may not want to hold their breath just yet.
Keeping Millar and Murphy on board to oversee production will hopefully keep the comic's spirit intact, since it's the kind of fresh perspective that will soon become more valuable in a comic book movie genre dominated by blockbusters and shared universes. At one time, it seemed that Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment would fill that need, releasing small-scale films alongside their Justice League juggernauts.
But with Universal picking up Chrononauts not long after green-lighting Cowboy Ninja Viking (starring Chris Pratt, no less), the studio seems to be seeking a less obvious path into comic book success. We tend to believe that audiences respond to strong stories and compelling worlds first, and the source of the story second, so stories like these certainly pack potential. Of course, the 'R.I.P.D. Factor' can't be overlooked, either.
We'll keep you updated on any Chrononauts news as it arrives.