I know this news is a bit old, but the longer I think about the director of Emily Rose being hired to helm the announced adaptaion of Paradise Lost, the less cynical I’m becoming.

My initial reaction six months ago was that it would be impossible for this to succeed in any artistic way that retains any integrity of the source. Since the poem is basically 10,565 lines of long theological speeches, this movie will make Troy (which I actually liked though most didn’t) look like a word-for-word transliteration, and its best hope is to be a fascinating disaster.


Perfectly healthy, perfectly normal: Francis Hayman’s illustration of Satan, his self-conceived daughter and lover Sin, and their offspring Death.

But nobody knows if Phil DiBlasi and Byron Willinger’s screenplay focuses primarily on Adam and Eve cavorting in Eden and the human Fall (bor-ing!), or on the sensational bits leading up to the Satanic Fall (potentially very hokey or very cool). In my opinion the only way to make it cinematically interesting is to make the human plot secondary and focus on the angels and the War in Heaven. It has to gung-ho be as over-the-top as Book VI really is. That part might be cool to see on screen, if done without crappy Dogma-style wings (however, the character Angel in X3 seems a good precedent for credible wings).

By the way, on a practical note, does anybody yet know if this is going to be live action or traditional animation or 3D animation or rotoscoping (a la A Scanner Darkly)? At the moment the closest thing to Paradise Lost on screen is the opening flashback in The Two Towers, when Gandalf is fighting the Balrog while both are falling, then there’s that very wide-angle shot of them falling into a giant cavern. It’s a perfect image of the opening lines of Paradise Lost which describe Satan “hurled headlong, flaming from th’ ethereal sky, with hideous ruin and combustion down to bottomless perdition, there to dwell in adamantine chains and penal fire”!


As for the news, the hiring of Derrickson suggests to me that this adaptation will have plenty of the cool supernatural elements, so that is a good thing. I haven’t seen Hellraiser: Inferno, but I assume it means Derrickson has experience with imaginative visuals of a supernatural and demonic nature (Emily Rose was fairly light on those counts).

More interestingly, the prospect of a Christian director means there is the possibility he actually understands the source material on its own terms and won’t be preoccupied trying to reinterpret the story for our times or something (e.g. Paradise Lost: Opera Electronica — yes, I saw it in 2004).

Also, his filmography of three horror-genre movies means Derrickson is unlikely to make Satan the “hero” of the story as the poem is often interpreted. That said, I’m sure he will make Satan at least sympathetic — as did Milton, who even gave him credible arguments against his various opponents — because otherwise Satan would be neither believable nor threatening.



  1. jeri says:

    Hmm. Looks like I’m going to have to buckle down and read Paradise Lost one of these days (since lit classes only read excerpts).

  2. […] a sentimentalist when it comes to screen adaptations of literature. Eleven months ago I suggested “the only way to make it cinematically interesting is to make the human plot secondary and foc… and it seems the producer agrees with me 100 percent: As with any Hollywood development project, […]

  3. John says:

    To make the film relevant for today’s audience we need
    an original screenplay inspired by Milton’s text.
    Scene 1. Hell
    Beelzebub comes to his senses and sees what he perceives to be Lucifer lying beside him.
    Beelzebub: ” Surely not! Is that you Lucifer?”
    Lucifer: “I’m afraid so. Who are you?”
    Beelzebub: “You’ve lost your shine. What’s happened?”
    Lucifer: “What’s happened?!” Look up there! That’s what happened!
    We lost. Who did you say you were?”
    Beelzebub: “Well, I’m Beelzebub, of course!”
    Lucifer: “If you’re Beelzebub, then you don’t look to bright
    Etc, etc.

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