Deadline reported a few days ago that Guillermo Del Toro is working with HBO to concoct a show based on Monster, a manga written by one of the masters of suspense, Naoki Urasawa (2oth Century Boys, Billy Bat). This makes me a happy camper and if I was any happier, I’d be pitching a tent big enough for a summer camp. Guillermo (we’re bros) first took this project to New Line Cinema to adapt it as a movie, but the story proved to be too dense and complex to fit into a feature length film. Also, he’s working with Sherlock and Doctor Who scribe, Steven Thompson, in order to bring Urasawa’s vision to live action format.
So what is Monster and why should you care? Well, it chronicles the story of a young and talented Japanese brain surgeon who feels pressured by hospital politics. He is ordered to care for the upper crust high society types while second-rate surgeons are used to treat patients from lesser upbringings. He becomes riddled with guilt when a dead patient’s wife cries out to him and asks him why he wasn’t in charge of her husband’s surgery. Later, he’s faced with a similar choice when a boy with a gun shot wound in his head and an opera singer are both brought to his hospital. He decides at the last second to treat the boy because he came in first and demanded more of his attention because of the complexity of the surgery required.
Later, a ceiling was placed above his head so he could no longer advance in the medical world. He was also constantly being overworked by the hospital director who held a grudge against him for letting a VIP member of society die by treating someone else (the hospital’s reputation took a huge hit for the incident). While the young and talented doctor did not regret his decision, he could not prepare himself for what happens next: the boy he saved grows up to become a homicidal maniac who is planning a mass genocide. Faced with that reality, the doctor held himself accountable and decided that because he was the one who saved him, it was up to him to stop him.
Now this has the potential to become the best show on HBO, but there are some nagging problems I have that needs to be addressed right away.
First of all, most of the story takes place in Germany and it would be hard to recreate and rework the plot to fit any other setting. Germany is woven into the very fabric of this fiction so it’d be hard to homogenize it to fit American TV. IF they’re feeling especially ambitious, I’m sure they can pull it off, but I understand how off-putting it would be for most people to read subtitles because the story requires that most of the dialogue be in German. I guess they can always do that thing where people speak English, but with heavy German accent and we’re supposed to accept that in terms of the fiction, they’re speaking their native language. That kind of thing always rubs me the wrong way, but I’d understand if that’s the direction they decide to take. After all, no one ever questions why ancient Romans spoke English in British accents in movies or TV shows.
Secondly, Guillermo Del Toro has always been dropping project names left and right so I’m not sure what his commitment level is on this particular project. I know he had to court Naoki Urasawa for a while to make him comfortable with the idea of his work being adapted for Hollywood, but that’s a long and arduous chore that most creators go through for most adaptations. I know he talked about being interested in making a Justice League Dark movie recently as well, so I want to know where his priorities lie before being too excited. But if it does happen to be somewhere on the top ten on his list of things to do, then I will be absolutely stoked because Guillermo is a great fanboy and an even greater visionary director who can bring the unsettling atmosphere of the story to life better than most.
If this did happen though, HBO will truly become a monster channel that will run unopposed in terms of ratings, especially since Breaking Bad and Dexter are coming to an end this year.
Written by Daniel Lee