A deadly time-travel spy story should make us more excited, but instead we’re wary.
Another short story has made the rounds among studios before finally landing at 20th Century Fox. Christian Cantrell’s “Epoch Index” — a novella about a CIA agent tasked with taking down an assassin who kills with seemingly no rhyme or reason — will be made into a movie by the director of several Dwayne Johnson blockbusters.
Deadline dropped the news that Brad Peyton (Rampage, San Andreas) will be directing the adaptation from a script by Justin Rhodes, the up and coming writer who’s worked on the upcoming Terminator reboot for Tim Miller and the Fantastic Voyage remake for Guillermo del Toro. And Matt Reeves (War for the Planet of the Apes) is set to produce Epoch Index through his banner, making this his second short story adaptation announced in the last couple of weeks.
At just 36 pages long, “Epoch Index” still manages to include some twists and turns in the narrative and — as with the other projects that Reeves is involved in — there’s a heavy sci-fi angle. According to Deadline, part of the logline for Epoch Index goes as follows:
“Connected only by a series of numbered tags left on each victim, [protagonist] Quinn Mitchell comes to a mind-boggling discovery: the targets are being sent to the assassin from the future – by her.”
The general state of sci-fi in the past year — at least, when it comes to films that sit outside the franchise continuum — has been rather lukewarm. Buzzed about Netflix films Bright and Mute left much to be desired, and bigger-budgeted fare such as Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets completely bombed. Within the spy genre, things aren’t any more exciting. Atomic Blonde and Red Sparrow are women-led spy thrillers that are just okay. So there isn’t really any wow factor in combining the genres.
A lot of films just don’t really sound that revolutionary on paper, and they mostly depend on who gets involved in the production. As I stated the last time I wrote about Reeves, he’s the most interesting name in these films, at least until a cast is put together. There’s hope that Rhodes could pen a worthwhile script, because even though we haven’t really seen his work flourish, the fact that he’s contributed to some movies that are bound to be big deals could be a good sign. The least promising factor is Peyton, whose films merely scratch the surface of their requisite genre classifications. None of his films has gotten a particularly fantastic consensus from critics, and his most famous movies really bank on The Rock’s presence and star power.
That being said, a possible unequivocal silver lining could come from adapting short stories. Apparently Amblin, Sony, New Line, Paramount, and Imagine were all involved in bidding on Epoch Index. It’s easy to see how the short story format could more easily translate to a fulfilling two-hour film package; adapting novellas certainly makes more sense than trying to compress hundreds or thousands of pages into a relatively short amount of viewing time.
This obviously doesn’t give these movies much room to branch out from their original material. But with franchises being such a staple in the industry these days — be it in the form of superhero universes or more vaguely interconnected sequels like the Cloververse — it could be a fresher idea to just make one movie and be done with it.