You may remember that a couple of years ago, a sci-fi action short called The Raven began grabbing a lot of attention in Hollywood. The film was made for just $5,000 and shot within 48 hours (though there's no way you'd be able to tell by looking at it) and it garnered 50,000 hits within two days of being made available online.
Eight months later, director Ricardo de Montreuil negotiated a deal with Mark Wahlberg and Steve Levinson to produce a feature-length version of the film for Universal Pictures. Montreuil will return to direct from a script by Michael Gilio as well as Justin Marks, and production is set to start in June.
Casting seems to be moving ahead for the film, as Deadline reports that Liam Hemsworth is close to being locked for the lead role of Chris Black AKA "The Raven" - a man with psychokinetic powers living as an outlaw on the run in a futuristic, police-state version of Los Angeles. The role was originally played by stunt performer Victor Lopez, who previously appeared in action sequences for The Hunger Games, G.I. Joe: Retaliation and The Bourne Legacy, and he incorporated some slick-looking parkour into The Raven's chase scenes.
Hemsworth is no stranger to the action genre either. Best known for his role as Gale Hawthorne in The Hunger Games, the actor also starred as Billy "The Kid" in The Expendables 2. Whether he can pull off the same moves as Lopez, or whether he'll need a stunt double of his own, remains to be seen, but otherwise he seems like a pretty solid choice for the role.
The original short is definitely worth watching, and you can do so right here:
Quite a lot of people got a Minority Report vibe from it, probably because it opens with police-controlled robotic insects, similar to the spiders that hunt down John Anderton as he hides in the tenement building. Despite The Raven's incredibly powerful abilities, there's nonetheless a feeling of hopelessness that builds up as he is hounded through the streets, tracked by the watchful eyes above. The dialogue is sparse, but there are some good lines in there ("Move, you big trashcan! Get outta my alley!"). It's also amusing how polite and soft-spoken the first gun-wielding robot sounds.
The premise doesn't seem particularly high-concept. We've all seen people with super-powers before, and we've all seen people on the run from Orwellian governments before (in films, anyway), but provided it's executed well the feature version of The Raven could turn out to be something special. If anything, it mostly brings to mind James Cameron's sci-fi TV show Dark Angel, which starred Jessica Alba as a genetically-engineered super-soldier who escapes from the facility where she was born and leads an undercover life in a post-economic crash version of Seattle. Let's hope that Montreuil can bring a similarly strong blend of interesting characters and engaging plot in The Raven.
It looks like Hemsworth just can't get away from dystopian futures. Let us know what you think about this project - and the latest casting news - in the comments.
We'll provide more information on The Raven as it becomes available.
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