If you don’t already recognize the name, Chloé Zhao, it’s about time you made the introduction.
As the writer, director, producer and editor of Nomadland, Chloé focused her camera on a lifestyle of freedom and a connection to community. Starring Frances McDormand, her character is a van-dwelling itinerant worker who’s houseless, not homeless. Fiercely independent, she deals with grief and loss in her own way. The sense of freedom she experiences, with nothing tying her down, is both scary and exhilarating, despite her ratty-looking van. It’s very emotional and powerful.
With the movie’s release, Zhao has received a flurry of award nominations. Having won the best director award by the Music City Film Critics’ Association, among other groups, she recently became the first Asian woman nominated for the award by the Golden Globes. I’ll definitely be rooting for the film during the upcoming awards season. And she’s got even bigger projects lined up for the near future.
Next up for the multi-hyphenate filmmaker is Marvel Studios’ Eternals, which is currently scheduled for wide release on November 5th as a part of MCU’s Phase 4. The film’s wiki underwhelms with its description, “The Eternals, who have hidden themselves for thousands of years, must re-unite to protect Earth from their enemies, the Deviants,” but its lack of hype during a worldwide pandemic might actually be a good thing. After the events of Avengers: Endgame shook up the lives of Earth’s mightiest heroes, the superheroes haven’t made any big-screen appearances outside of Spider-Man: Far From Home. Introducing an all-new group of characters by an indie filmmaker might make Eternals feel like a different entry to the MCU, but Zhao says she “got lucky in that Marvel wants to take risks and do something different.”
With Eternals wrapped and its release delayed for movie theaters to reopen, her next project seems to be her biggest gamble, yet. Zhao has signed on to reimagine Dracula as a futuristic sci-fi Western. Wait, what?
“I’ve always been fascinated by vampires and the concept of the Other they embody,” Zhao said in a release. “I’m very excited to work with Donna [Langley], Peter [Cramer] and the team at Universal to reimagine such a beloved character.”
“Chloé’s singular lens shines a light on stories of the overlooked and misunderstood,” said Universal Pictures President Peter Cramer. “We are thrilled to be working with her as she reimagines one of the most iconic outsider characters ever created.”
Well, the character of Dracula is definitely an outsider, but what’s going on with the Universal Monsters? While I have no doubt that Zhao will create something interesting, her version of the character will be totally separate from filmmaker Dexter Fletcher‘s, which will focus on the henchman, Renfield. And don’t confuse Leigh Whannell’s version of The Invisible Man with Elizabeth Banks’ upcoming release, The Invisible Woman.
I don’t quite understand why Universal is releasing multiple versions of their famous characters for the big screen within a relatively short time frame. While the Dark Universe didn’t quite work out with The Mummy‘s release in 2017, it’s possible the previously announced remakes (Blumhouse to Revive Universal’s Classic Monster Movies) could eventually take place within a shared universe, but will audience erosion divide fans of the classic characters before that can actually happen?
Franchise Syndrome is a reality, especially after the release of Dracula Untold. I hope I’m wrong, but it sure feels like Universal is throwing darts at its famous characters, anticipating one will be a bullseye for its fans. Hopefully, Zhao’s version of Dracula will be a hit.