Superhero movies, beware of The Toxic Avenger. The disfigured harbinger of justice is returning to the screen, and he will kick your butt hard. The long-gestating Legendary reboot of Troma’s contaminated crusader franchise is finally making progress, and it’s being helmed by one of the most exciting rising talents working in genre fare today.
According to Variety, Macon Blair, who is perhaps best known for his onscreen performances in Jeremy Saulnier’s thrillers Blue Ruin and Green Room, will write and direct the reboot of the trashy classic, which spawned three sequels, a children’s cartoon, and a brief Marvel comic book series. Lloyd Kaufman and Michel Herz, the co-directors the original film, are producing. Elsewhere, Alex Garcia and Jay Ashenfelter of Legendary are also overseeing the project.
The Toxic Avenger reboot has been in the works since 2010. At one point, Arnold Schwarzenegger was attached to play the chemically-mutated janitor-turned-hero, but it’s believed that he turned down the part because he found the original franchise too off-putting. Given that the first movie features a kid being mowed down by a speeding vehicle, that’s understandable. Steve Pink was on board to direct at one point, but that never materialized. Following his departure, Conrad Vernon and Kevin Smith were also linked with the gig. Hopefully, the studio’s latest appointment has more luck getting the movie made.
Despite being mostly known for his acting, Blair is no stranger to creating fresh stories and helming features. As a screenwriter, his credits include the impressive Small Crimes and Hold the Dark. Meanwhile, as a director, he’s responsible for Netflix’s excellent oddball crime caper I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore, which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 2017. Blair’s on the rise, and a big-budget Toxic Avenger will give him mainstream exposure while still allowing him to do what he does best.
On top of having a personal affinity for cult cinema and genre fare, Blair’s penchant for dark humor and bloodletting makes him a perfect choice to bring this movie to life. It remains unclear whether or not the reboot will retain the comedy-horror elements of the original saga, but if it does, then Blair is more than capable of making something weird, demented, and gross. However, given that this is a studio movie, I suspect Toxie’s Legendary adventures will be more accessible than his Troma ones. Don’t expect any mindless child slaughter played for laughs here, but don’t expect a generic superhero movie, either.
That said, I hope the reboot embraces some of Toxie’s humor and propensity for chaotic violence. In a superhero movie climate where the majority of crusader adventures are family-friendly and taken quite seriously, The Toxic Avenger could be a refreshing antithesis of contemporary superhero trends. The reboot will be more sophisticated than Troma’s movies, and probably less goofy in tone. But it’s still a perfect opportunity to bring some edge, bold experimentation, and punk rock sensibilities to a cinematic landscape that many feel has become oversaturated and predictable.
At the same time, the reboot has all the potential to expand upon the timeless themes introduced in the original, such as the dangers of pollution. While schlocky, the Troma movies do contain smart social commentary and hilarious satire, and they don’t always get the credit they deserve in that regard. It would be nice to see the new Toxic Avenger tap into some of these real-world fears and concerns. That, coupled with some villains being beaten to a bloody pulp, would make for a perfect Toxie movie.
More than anything, though, I’m just excited to see what Blair does with this concept. The rising star has no shortage of original ideas, so he’s more than capable of unleashing a superhero movie that stands out from the pack. The Toxic Avenger could benefit from some reinvention, and while Legendary’s incarnation will contain a mainstream sheen, at least it’s being made by a filmmaker whose imagination is wonderfully warped.