By Robbie Graham Silver Screen Saucers
Not content to have two ‘secret underground base’ movies currently in production (Area 51 and Umbra), Hollywood is now planning a third – Area 52.
Summit Entertainment is to develop a live action adaptation of the four-issue comic book series Area 52, which was published in 2001. Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Mark Vahradian will produce the movie.
According to Deadline:
“The comic focused on a top secret warehouse in Antarctica called Area 52, a government storage dump for otherworldly discoveries, manned by a ragtag group of misfits who have been exiled to the middle of nowhere to staff it. When an alien killing machine is accidentally hatched in this repository, the group must band together and use the stored mythological weapons and artifacts to save themselves and the world. They are tying up the underlying rights to the Brian Haberlin comic, and will go out to writers shortly.”
This won’t be Hollywood’s first visit to Area 52, however: director Joe Dante took us there in 2003 in his movie Looney Tunes Back in Action, which mixed live action and animation to bring Warner Bros.’ Classic cartoon characters to new audiences in the 21st century. In a pivotal scene, the film’s human protagonists (played by Brendan Fraser and Jenna Elfman) along with Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck stumble across a Top Secret military base in the Nevada desert where they see live alien creatures sealed in giant glass jars; the self-reflexive twist here, though, is that all of these specimens are iconic ‘monsters’ or characters from science-fiction cinema and television: the eponymous Robot Monster and the Man from Planet X; Daleks from Doctor Who; a Mutant from This Island Earth; and Warner Bros.’ very own Marvin the Martian. The odd one out alongside these fantastical celluloid creations is a typical alien ‘Grey’ from UFO-lore stretched out on a medical table; this supposedly fact-based rendering effectively fictionalised by its association with the line-up of schlock Hollywood creatures that precedes it.
|Tonopah Test Range|
“So, this is Area 51, right, the secret military base where they keep the aliens?” asks Bugs Bunny, to which a scientist (played by Joan Cusack) replies: “No, Area 51 is actually a paranoid fantasy we concocted to hide the true identity of this facility.” Behind the characters, a bold red sign clearly reads: “AREA 52: KEEPING THINGS FROM THE AMERICAN PEOPLE SINCE 1947.”
In 2008, Joe Dante told me that the decision to call the base “Area 52” in his movie was purely a comedic one, apparently unaware that a site bearing this name really does exist. Located in the Nevada desert approximately 70 miles northwest of Area 51, the Tonopah Test Range is designated by the US Department of Energy as “Area 52,” and, like its infamous sister site, it has long been a testing ground for Top Secret military technologies, including the F-117A Nighthawk, more commonly known as the Stealth Fighter.
According to Dante, his film’s corporate overseers attempted to have the Area 52 scene removed in its entirety. Warner Bros.’ concerns were not political, Dante told me, but artistic: “There was pressure to take the scene out of the picture, but it was because the studio thought the monsters were stupid, it wasn’t because they had any issues with Area 51.”
When I told Dante that the Pentagon had denied its cooperation to Independence Day in 1996 due in part to the film’s Area 51 plotline, he replied: “Well the cat’s out of the bag, I’m afraid; I mean it’s a little late [for the Pentagon] to be worrying about that – this thing [Area 51] has entered folklore.” Indeed it has, and now Area 52 looks set to join its numerical neighbor as a permanent fixture in the folkloric realm.