Remember Marvel’s speculative series What If? or DC’s Elseworlds? Imagine if you took those concepts and turned it to look at real historic events, looking for an alternative take on a historical moment. That’s just what Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra have done with The Manhattan Projects, their new ongoing series at Image. In it, they look at the project that dreamt up the U.S.’s nuclear weapons program and imagined if the A-bomb were just one of the projects they were working on.
Weaving real life individuals with far out concepts, it’s an imaginative powder keg and one I think potentially ripe for a big screen adaptation. Listen up, Hollywood … here’s how you make a movie.
Movies have a long history of adapting historical moments into two our spectacles, with everything from Patton to Apollo 13 — imagine if you took that same aesthetic and filmed an offshoot of actual history like The Manhattan Projects? It follows the disjointed life of J. Robert Oppenheimer (and his sinister brother) into the barely-restrained underground science complex that makes Syfy’s Eureka look like grade school. It’s part comedy, part history, and part awesome. Imagine something like The Right Stuff mixed with Big Trouble In Little China.
I can’t help but imagine one director as ideal to take on the visual demands and storytelling cartwheels of The Manhattan Projects better than Jason Reitman. Looking at his movies individually may not give you the trajectory to see it, but when you stack Juno, Young Adult, Up In The Air and Thank You For Smoking side-by-side I think you can see it. Sure he may have not done a heavy special-effects driven movie, but that doesn’t mean he can’t. I really see in Reitman someone who can handle the complexities of the script and keep his head above water when it comes to the special effects.
J. Robert Oppenheimer – Gary Oldman: Gary Oldman was one of the movie industry’s best kept secrets until Harry Potter and Christopher Nolan’s Batman films brought him into the spotlight, but for years before that he excelled for villainous roles in everything from JFK to The Fifth Element, The Professional, Bram Stoker’s Dracula and even opposite Harrison Ford in Air Force One. For The Manhattan Projects, I’d love to see him embrace the duality of Oppenheimer as imagined by Hickman and Pitarra.
Albert Einstein – Dustin Hoffman: Casting Albert Einstein is a tough one — I’m still twinging over Young Einstein – but I feel like I struck gold when I imagined Dustin Hoffman in the make-up chair to take on this iconic portrait. Hoffman can do historical as well as the zaniness, and The Manhattan Projects has heaping helpings of both.
General Groves – John Goodman: As one of television’s favorite dads, John Goodman has insinuated himself into modern culture and taking on a military, balls-out role like this would really catch people’s eyes. I cast this visually, but when I remembered his excellent role in The West Wing it really cemented in me that this would be a perfect choice.