Legendary Entertainment, the studio that specializes in big budget, high concept fare like “Pacific Rim,” “300” and “Skyscraper,” have just acquired the rights to the low budget superhero franchise “The Toxic Avenger,” per Variety. Original producers Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz will executive produce this new, undoubtedly much more expensive version of the character.
“The Toxic Avenger” originated as a 1984 drive-in movie about a mild-mannered janitor at a health spa who, after being exposed to toxic materials, becomes a mutated superhero, standing up for the meek and powerless. Herz and Kaufman directed. The original film has a lot of left-handed charm and a nicely handmade quality, combining elements of superhero films with the more raucuous, B-movie fare that Kaufman specialized in (meaning geysers of gore and lots of bare breasts). The movie was followed by two sequels in 1989 (made up of footage originally intended for a single film), “The Toxic Avenger Part II” and “The Toxic Avenger Part III: The Last Temptation of Toxie,” as well as a fourth film, “Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV” (released in 2000). It also inspired an animated series, “Toxic Crusaders,” and a stage musical that is still touring the world (it was last staged in London in 2017). In its own way, “The Toxic Avenger” is its own multifaceted franchise.
Kaufman recounts in his book, which is equal parts memoir and how-to guide, “All I Needed to Know About Filmmaking I Learned from the Toxic Avenger” (written with his then-protégé James Gunn), that he was courted by New Line Cinema for the big screen remake rights to “The Toxic Avenger.” He thought negotiations were going well and he was excited about the character entering the mainstream until, whoops, New Line made a different deal for a very similar set of characters, both of them altered forever by toxic waste and turned into freaky superheroes and the deal with Kaufman was off. That other deal was, of course, for “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” which became a box office sensation while “The Toxic Avenger” was reduced to relative B-movie obscurity.
Now with the Legendary deal, it seems like Kaufman and Herz could get the big-screen Toxie adventure they’ve wanted since the late 1980s. Bring it on. The world needs him.