'Masters of the Universe' Movie Loses Director, Adds 'Lone Ranger' Writer

By Charles Webb

Nearly a year and a half after coming on board as director for Columbia's long-in-development "Masters of the Universe" film, director Jon Chu is now off the project, according to THR. Chu's departure represents the loss of one of the film's biggest cheerleaders, even if the public reaction to Chu helming the project hasn't exactly been positive.

While Columbia hasn't yet announced a replacement, writer Terry Rossio is on board to work on the script. Rossio and screenwriting partner Ted Elliot have been around for a while, working on the first four "Pirates of the Caribbean" films together at Disney and being pretty much inseparable since they began working together on the Howie Mandel kid's movie "Little Monsters."

Their filmography has a couple of winners in it: "Little Monsters" was maybe a little too weird and dark for kids, but it was an interesting experiment, and I still have a lot of love for the first "Shrek." Beyond that, Rossio and Elliott have become pros at the big, sprawling summer action movie including four "Pirates of the Caribbean" films and a pair of "Mask of Zorro" films. Whatever you think of their work, the duo's scripts have brought in tons of money for their respective studios: the "Pirates" movies alone netting well over a billion dollars since Jack Sparrow first set sail.

This wouldn't be Rossio's first foray into fantasy, either: he and Elliott co-wrote the script for the sci-fi/fantasy take on "Treasure Planet" back in 2002, although it remains to be seen if Columbia is looking for as light a touch for their "Masters of the Universe."

It's interesting that Elliot wasn't brought on board along with Rossio, although the massive flop of "The Lone Ranger" for Disney over the summer had to have colored someone's thinking at Columbia. That film, from director Gore Verbinski, brought in a little under $90 million domestically against a $215 million production budget (it would end up making $255 million globally before home video). Critics weren't kind to it, either, with the film scoring a 31% on Rotten Tomatoes.

"Masters of the Universe" will be set on the Planet Eternia, according to THR, although at this time, no other story details are available. During Chu's time with the property, a script was in active development as he told MTV Geek during an interview last year:

We’re really early in the process… We’re working on the script, to make it better and stronger. We’re designing a bunch of stuff. I learned on Joe that to make it right, you have to do a lot of experimenting first, and you have to trust that during the process you’ll find where the tonal line is… It’s so delicate.

The biggest sin of "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" wasn't that it was silly, it was that by the final act, it couldn't maintain the off-the-wall craziness of the all of the face-swapping, mountainside ninja killing and RZA acting of the first two acts. It's not clear what Chu's "Masters of the Universe" would have looked like, but based on his previous dance-related projects, there's a good chance it would have been pretty, ambitious, and likely in 3D.