So is The Power of the Dark Crystal still happening… or not!?

Why’s it so damn hard to get a Muppet movie made!?

Late last year we contacted Aussie prodco and financer Omnilab to see whether a promised sequel to 2010′s “Tomorrow When The War Began” was still something they were willing to open up their wallets to do. Despite the Stuart Beattie written/directed teen thriller snagging bragging rights to the top grossing local film of its year, two sequels the filmmaker and company had planned swan-dove into a limbo pool when internationally the movie failed to attract any attention from buyers. According to Omnilab, they were still very much interested in making “Tomorrow 2″ (and ideally a third chapter) and it was still something they were “developing” – just not actively. Short answer? Not happening anytime soon, not unless Donald Trump emerges as a big-time fan of the film and book series.

Is it the same deal with another anticipated sequel, also at Omnilab, “Power of the Dark Crystal”? Nope, seems it’s more about the material, not so much money.

Upon reading over at Inside Film that the sequel to ’80s Henson fave “The Dark Crystal” had been put on hiatus, I dropped both a producer and an artist familiar with the film a line to see what the deal is – and whether or not I had to buy extra Kleenex tomorrow morning when we do the weekly shop.

In short, the film is still on but it might be starting from scratch again.

My questions were along the lines of : Did Omnilab and Henson have a falling out – maybe they weren’t on the same page creatively? maybe the Muppet factory weren’t confident leaving such a challenging film in the hands of the company who had just made a major loss on the De Niro blunder “The Killer Elite”? Are the Wachowski brother’s still attached to direct?

Didn’t get many answers, but I got enough to form a picture.

Despite Omnilab agreeing to finance the picture, we’re told the “may switch hands” and then a “little more time will be spent on getting it right”.

Neither contact would comment on whether or not the Spierig Brothers are still attached to direct the film, but a separate source says they departed the project last year.

Hmmm…

Needless to say, everyone’s probably vomiting edited versions of the truth but alas, film is still very much a go – just not in it’s current incarnation. Not surprising that everyone’s not on the same page when it comes to the film’s direction or tone – the Henson’s are especially picky with how their properties are handled, and rightly so. It’s possible that’s what’s happened with Omnilab – different ideas. But again, couldn’t confirm that. If I had to take a guess, based on the remarks about the film switching hands and staying in development longer, I’d say Henson is taking the film elsewhere – and with a new director.

If that’s true, bummer. Iloura, who also worked on the series my brother was involved in, “The Pacific”, were doing the exhausting effects on “Dark Crystal”. Stuff was amazing they were doing. The delicious design was of the highest, most delicious standard. It was at the 11th hour, when so much was completed, that Henson Co got cold feet on the latter – likely due to money woes. The effects company has been advised to work on other projects for the meantime, at least until Henson Co know what they’re going to do.

“Power of the Dark Crystal” was first announced in 2005. In fact, I remember at Comic-Con in 2006 attending a panel specifically for the upcoming sequel. It sounded terrific. The concept art looked divine. And those involved, including “Clone Wars” alum Genndy Tartakovsky, assured a quality production. Most of all, it was a sequel to one of the most beloved films of the ’80s – and it’s from Henson’s troupe! How could it go wrong?!

Nothing was heard of the project again until a couple of years later when it was revealed that that incarnation of the project lost it’s financing and consequently, most of the creative team. Shortly after, The Henson Company announced that they’d secured $40 million to bring the puppet party to life, tapping Aussie filmmakers the Spierig Brothers (“Daybreakers”) to develop and direct the movie. With Omnilab, “Dark Crystal” would be something the filmmaking duo could work on on home soil. In fact, from what one artist tells me natter had it that the film would be very Aussie-friendly, right down to the cast, crew, and scribe (Craig Pearce). Lending his lungs to the male lead? “Liam Hemsworth was mentioned at one point, some others.”

I hope that one of the reasons the film keeps getting delayed isn’t because, as Kermit and friends are constantly reminded in the latest “Muppets” film, Henson’s ‘Dark Crystal’ isn’t seen as a viable commodity anymore. I’d smack a marketer who said “The film and it’s potential sequels appeal, doesn’t even register on a chart”. And that’s sad. I think if someone with as much statue as a Nick Stoller or a Jason Segel, who got “The Muppets” up only after twisting Disney’s arm into letting them pull the felt gang out of storage, got behind “Dark Crystal”, it might happen sooner. Something needs to make the Henson’s feel more confident. And screw those who say Muppets aren’t valid anymore (since when did anyone beg for another round with those dancing penguins!?).

C’mon Henson troops, give Omnilab’s incarnation another look-see… I think they’re definitely on the right-track to crafting something special. And if the Spierig’s have indeed left the production, give Guillermo a call. Or Spike Jonze.

“Power of the Dark Crystal” Synopsis :

“Set hundreds of years after the events of the first movie when the world has once again fallen into darkness, Power of the Dark Crystal follows the adventures of a mysterious girl made of fire who, together with a Gelfling outcast, steals a shard of the legendary Crystal in an attempt to reignite the dying sun that exists at the center of the planet.”