Kevin Smith recently revealed that he was offered the opportunity to direct a reboot of The Toxic Avenger, but passed due to creative differences. The revelation took place on an edition of Smith's Fatman on Batman podcast, which he co-hosts with Marc Bernardin. On the surface, the famously geek-friendly Smith seems like a logical choice to helm a modern attempt at telling Toxie's tale, especially with his forays into weird horror films in recent years.
Definitely the most well-known film to ever come out of notorious indie studio Troma Entertainment, The Toxic Avenger hit theaters in 1984. Its initial theatrical release was far from a hit, but the film would carve out a cult audience on the midnight movie scene, and would serve to establish Troma as a company. Full of over-the-top gory kills and jokes that would never fly in today's social climate, The Toxic Avenger revels in its absurdity.
A pair of sequels - The Toxic Avenger Part II and The Toxic Avenger III: The Last Temptation of Toxie - were both released in 1989, having been shot back to back. Another belated sequel arrived in 2000, entitled Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV. None of these follow-ups have come close to earning the reputation of the original, and many fans would suggest skipping them altogether. A remake/reboot of The Toxic Avenger has been in and out of development hell since 2010, and despite being offered the directing gig, here's why Smith says he turned it down.
"The last thing, and it wasn't even a big deal, it wasn't like 'I'm outraged!'... somebody asked me, 'Hey man, we've got THE TOXIC AVENGER and we're gonna remake it, do a reboot, and hey, you're from Jersey.' And you know, I always kind of dug what Lloyd Kaufman and the Troma people do, it was right in Jersey, I remember seeing them on the news all the time - 'Hollywood, motion pictures in New Jersey? Right here at Troma!' And TOXIC AVENGER was insanely well known. So I always respected the Troma world and Toxie franchise. So I was like, all right, I'll go down the rabbit hole a bit and see what's what.
And we parted ways fundamentally on the budget, because I was just like, 'Part of the charm of the TOXIC AVENGER is that it was made for two nickels. If you're gonna do it again, don't spend a lot of money.' But they were like, 'No no no, it's a 35 million dollar movie.' And I was like, 'It's a f*ckin' remake of THE TOXIC AVENGER, the guy in a tutu with a bad makeup job, what are we gonna spend all the money on?' So right then and there, I'm clearly not on the same page. In my head, if I need to see a TOXIC AVENGER remake, it should be done in the spirit of the original. Instead, they were literally trying to start a franchise, Marvel-ize it and stuff like that. And I'm like, 'I don't know if you guys saw that movie.' So I just quietly stepped away. I understand what they were going for, but I would never want to see that version of the movie. It would be like somebody doing a 35 million dollar version of CLERKS. Why would you bother?"
From a fan perspective, Smith's disagreements with the proposed creative direction for the reboot make sense. So much of the charm of the original Toxic Avenger is in its cheesy acting, and low-budget special effects. Trying to turn the story of weakling turned psychopathic superhero Melvin Ferd into a glossy studio picture seems like a fool's errand at best. Plus, fans of the existing franchise are likely to be turned off by a cleaned up version of the famously politically incorrect character.
Yet, even without Smith's involvement, a Hollywood-ized Toxic Avenger is still coming, or at least it was as of last fall, when Sausage Party co-director Conrad Vernon was attached to direct. That project was reported to be targeting a PG-13 rating, and planning to present a more mainstream take on the character. However, no major updates have been released in the more than a year since the announcement, so it's unclear whether that family-friendly Toxic Avenger reboot remains in the cards. If it's not, that may just be for the best.