Tom Cruise and Joseph Kosinski head to space for ‘Horizons’

It is interesting enough to simply report that it looks like Tom Cruise is going to star for Joseph Kosinski in the big-budget PG-13 science-fiction action film “Horizons” for Universal.

But when you look at the decisions surrounding this decision, it’s downright fascinating, and very revealing in terms of studio politics and the overall agendas for what is or isn’t getting made right now.

“Horizons” was originally titled “Oblivion,” and it was set-up while Kosinski was still in production on “TRON: Legacy.”  At the time, the buzz was high on Kosinski and his sequel to the 1982 cult hit, and he went around town with his Radical Comics presentation and, in the end, Disney decided that they wanted to be in the Kosinski business in a big way.  That appears to be a decision they have since reversed, but I think it says less about Kosinski than it does about Disney right now, and in a sort of off-handed way, I think it says a lot about what we can expect from “John Carter Of Mars”.

After all, when Disney says that they’re letting “Horizons” go in turn-around because they weren’t comfortable making a PG-13 action film, I don’t think that’s untrue.  They seem to be focused on making their films skew younger and younger right now, and while they’re certainly comfortable with adventure films like the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, those walk a fine line in how rough they’re willing to play.  And while “TRON: Legacy” did eventually break $400 million at the worldwide box-office, it was a preposterously expensive film for Disney, and I’m guessing that if the Disney team was asked to make that decision again now, knowing what they know, they wouldn’t do it again.  I’ve been hearing for a while that “John Carter” is being played much younger, more as an adventure, toning down many of the more extreme elements of the Burroughs series.

Meanwhile, Universal took a lot of heat for pulling the plug on Guillermo Del Toro’s “At The Mountains Of Madness,” and at the time they cited the R rating as a real problem for them.  They were excited at the prospect of making a Tom Cruise genre film, but they just couldn’t commit to doing it with the full R.  Now, with “Horizons,” they get to make a big Tom Cruise movie, they get the PG-13, and they get to see if Joseph Kosinski is the next David Fincher, making a debut with a disappointing franchise film before moving on to more interesting personal work.

These are interesting times for the industry, and we’re seeing all of the studios try to figure out what identity they want to have in these shifting, difficult moments, and how they’re going to try to serve their audiences.