Whatever you think about Bird Box — its divisive reception among critics or the sheer amount of dangerous memes that spawned in the movie’s aftermath — Netflix and Sandra Bullock struck gold with the buzz-worthy horror flick. It makes perfect sense that another collaboration between them is already in the works. This time, the pair will bring one of the properties from the extravagant comic book universe of Mark Millar to the small screen.
Per Deadline, Netflix and Bullock have teamed up to develop an adaptation of Reborn. The Lego Batman Movie director Chris McKay is set to helm this onscreen take on the sci-fi fantasy comic that was originally penned by Millar and illustrator Greg Capullo.
Much like many other properties in the Millarworld, Reborn is its own mix of brash and over-the-top storytelling wrapped up in dizzying visuals. The narrative follows an 80-year-old woman named Bonnie Black who spends her final days in a hospital ward. Although she doesn’t believe in life after death, she wakes up as her 25-year-old self in the fantasy world Adystria after passing away.
In this land filled with monsters and dragons waging an ongoing war of good versus evil, Bonnie’s arrival is apparently prophesied. She must defeat a great darkness that’s out for her blood. However, Bonnie also discovers a mission of her own. She encounters loved ones like her father, former friends, and beloved childhood pets in Adystria. Yet, the one missing piece of the puzzle is her late husband Harry, who died over a decade earlier and cannot be found. Bonnie longs for a reunion and sets off on a quest with her family to find Harry.
For the time being, Bullock’s involvement in Reborn is strictly as a producer. Deadline adds that she could possibly star in the film, too. We could presume Bullock would be up for the role of Bonnie (changing the character’s age wouldn’t be an issue, considering Bullock’s star power and proven prowess in the industry). But there could be other female characters for her to explore, such as Estelle the Fairy Queen, the protagonist’s former friend.
Reborn is next in the lineup of high-profile Millarworld projects that have previously been picked up by Netflix in the wake of the streamer’s initial deal with the comic book imprint back in 2017. However, despite its sparkly set-up, the film’s success may depend on how Reborn‘s filmmakers choose to tweak the story at hand.
No scribes have been announced to tackle the adaptation just yet, so I can’t make any presumptions of quality in that regard. And obviously, Millar and Capullo’s own involvement as executive producers can be a comforting notion to ensure the narrative stays on track. Still, I’m looking for more depth to be borne (no pun intended) from this feature, because Reborn has got the fun concept locked down.
Turning a journey through the afterlife into an epic fantasy land battle (with a good dose of blood-soaked weirdness alongside some self-discovery) is definitely exhilarating. Furthermore, as evidenced by Capullo’s artwork in the comics, the world of Adystria is truly gorgeous. Capullo’s stellar Reborn panels are varied and eye-catching, completely suitable for the utterly ridiculous mash-up of the comic’s storyline.
Unfortunately, Reborn does need some help in telling a truly fulfilling narrative. The aforementioned mash-up quality does elicit bursts of adrenaline and excitement upon every page turn, but Reborn‘s intriguing premise should really have more gradations.
Firstly, the impactful visuals and concise — if ultimately thin — narrative beats of the comic stamp out character depth. This is especially so for anyone who isn’t Bonnie, which is a shame when worldbuilding requires a closer examination of everyone involved in such a grand adventure.
Moreover, there are cursory discussions of faith that come up by virtue of Reborn‘s premise. These messages are sadly presented as stark dichotomies as opposed to more subtle and organic engagement with concepts of religion and the afterlife.
Of course, the six issues of Reborn that exist at the time of writing this piece make up a collection titled Book One. Its arc is somewhat neatly tied up by the end, but there is certainly room for more of this world to unfold on the page in the future. Regardless, for the purposes of Netflix’s adaptation, allowing characters and narrative themes to work more fluidly with Reborn‘s clear strengths wouldn’t cancel out the intensity and boisterousness of the source material by any means.
Hence, having an alum from The Lego Movie franchise tackle Reborn could be a good thing. Those films attempt to deliver some sense of subversion on what we love about popular culture while acknowledging their place in cultivating and portraying those same ideas. There can be thoughtfulness in the series that at least I never thought possible.
McKay’s work on the original Lego Movie as animation co-director, animation supervisor, and editor complements a crisply written screenplay by Phil Lord and Chris Miller with the infusion of punchy cinematic dynamism. McKay then took the reins of The Lego Batman Movie and, despite a looser script, still delivered an admirably quirky feature built off of that established vibrancy.
The general self-awareness found in many of Millar’s bold works thus feels tailor-made for McKay’s visually-driven directorial sensibilities. Even as we lay in wait for the right screenwriter to board the project, Netflix is already going all-in with star-making potential on this Millarverse project and that on its own is an ideal head start.