‘The Toxic Avenger’ Remake Should Stay Weird

The long-gestating Toxic Avenger remake is one step closer to becoming a reality. According to Deadline, Peter Dinklage has been cast in Legendary Pictures’ upcoming big-budget take on Troma Entertainment’s cult-favourite contaminated superhero property. The film will also be helmed by Macon Blair, star of Blue Ruin and director of I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Toxic Avenger franchise, it began in 1984 and hasn’t gone anywhere. The general story revolves around a janitor who gets turned into a monstrous harbinger of justice after he’s exposed to toxic waste. He then proceeds to clean Tromaville of its villainous scum, and he has no problem disposing of them through hilariously violent means. However, over the course of various movies and other media, Toxie has explored everything from vigilante justice to politics.

While it seems like a strange property to apply a modern blockbuster sheen to, it shouldn’t be surprising. The franchise has spawned everything from kids’ cartoons (Toxie Crusaders) to stage musicals. The general premise is also simple enough to inspire a modern superhero-monster movie, provided that it isn’t just some generic offering. I don’t think it will be.

Little is known about the movie yet, but it seems that Legendary is out to make a different kind of superhero movie. When the project was first announced, fans of Troma’s ultra-violent and shlocky originals assumed Toxie would be cleaned up for the mainstream. While the remake will undoubtedly be more accessible than its predecessors, the cast and crew choices suggest it will remain unconventional.

Dinklage is certainly a mainstream name, but the actor has a tendency to oscillate between blockbusters and bizarre indie projects. Toxic Avenger is the type of movie that could allow him to experience the best of both worlds to an extent. Maybe the remake will be geared towards the masses, but Toxie is an icon of fringe pop culture and the people involved will embrace that as much as possible.

Blair isn’t a conventional filmmaker, and the fact he was chosen is probably because he’s an oddball visionary with crossover appeal. He’s drawn towards artistically-driven genre fare as an actor, and his films tend to be very critically acclaimed. His sole directorial effort is emblematic of those sensibilities as well. I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore is a delightfully dark comedy/crime-thriller that features plenty of surreal and violent moments. The director’s off-kilter style and humour will lend itself perfectly to a Toxie adaptation, even if it is reined in slightly

I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore is also an observant movie that boasts a dash of topical social commentary. Despite being unabashed shlock, the Toxic Avenger movies have always contained some biting satire and socially conscious ideas, especially when it comes to the environment. In an age where climate change debates continue to inspire a range of viewpoints, Toxie could prove to be a contemporary hero who addresses the big issues.

But the beauty of the Toxic Avenger movies is that they critique a variety of topics, from pop culture to politics and beyond. The remake should embrace this element and pack a punch in its own right. Maybe it won’t be as on-the-nose and pummeling as the original flicks, but it should embrace their punk rock attitude and stand out from the pack. The film doesn’t even need to be gory or feature evil goons committing hit-and-runs on children to exemplify these qualities. Just make it a bit cheeky and different from run-of-the-mill crusader fare.

The success of movies like Deadpool has shown that there’s an audience for edgier crusader fare out there. Toxic Avenger doesn’t need to break the bank, either. This can be a mid-budget action blockbuster that takes a few risks. Of course, it’s possible that they’ll make a PG version of the property, which could still be entertaining. It’s not like Toxie’s adventures haven’t tried to appeal to children in the past, after all.

While I don’t want the remake to be devoid of the weirdness, humour, and satire that makes the original films so endearing, I do hope it’s a slightly more serious reimagining of the Toxie lore. Troma’s movies are goofier than your dad dancing at a wedding after a few pints, and they work as a result. However, the redo has the opportunity to explore the inherent horror and tragedy of the character’s existence with more nuance and grit. Remakes should always aim to bring something new to the table, and this story could explore some interesting avenues.

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